Fashion Designers Realizing New Fashion Copyright Would Cause Serious Harm To Business

from the waking-up dept

For many, many years, we've pointed out how the fashion industry is an example of a highly creative industry that has thrived without the use of copyright. The industry itself is massively successful, incredibly innovative, and involves plenty of competition. This should be seen as a good thing. Yet, some big name designers, who were annoyed that they had to keep competing by releasing new designs all the time have been lobbying Congress to pass a new law that would institute a special copyright for fashion design. This makes little sense. The entire purpose of copyright is to encourage innovation. Yet, if the industry is thriving, competitive and innovative, why would you ever want to introduce new copyright?

Yet, as expected, there has been a big push to get the law passed this year. People have been submitting stories on a near weekly basis about how one or another celebrity designer trekked up to Capitol Hill to push starstruck Congress Critters to support the bill.

It's reached the point that many expect the bill to finally pass this year, but suddenly many in the industry are realizing what a disaster this would be. Boing Boing points us to a plea from industry insiders who are realizing how such a law would destroy the industry and force many small businesses and designers to shut down. Yet, when they talked to their Congressional reps, they were told that Congress hadn't heard anyone complain about this yet, so now they're trying to get out the word.

It might help them to present some of the economic research on this, including the studies that have shown how much the lack of copyright has helped the industry to thrive, and how much harm the addition of copyright would do to the overall industry. This research has been out there for years, but apparently the folks writing the laws would rather hang out with celebrities like Tim Gunn than actually do some research around what such a law would really mean for the industry.


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  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 8th, 2009 @ 12:36pm

    "The entire purpose of copyright is to encourage innovation"

    You forget the important second part:

    "the entire purpose of copyright is to discourage duplication".

    If nobody duplicates, what is the issue?

     

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      ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Jun 8th, 2009 @ 12:49pm

      Re:

      "If nobody duplicates, what is the issue?"

      Look at the history of fashion. Everyone 'steals' from each other. Are skirts short or long this year? Fashion hasn't had copyright, and you know what? They still do OK. Better than OK, actally, they're forced to innovate. Which, y'know, is supposedly the point of copyright.

      Duplication forces innovation far more than sitting on one's laurels.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Jun 8th, 2009 @ 12:49pm

      Re:

      There has always been duplication of designs. Even from one major designer to another. For those obsessed with fashion wearing a "cheap knock off" from another brand name is sometimes worse than not wearing the latest fashion.

      The primary fashion designer can charge more for their product than what others have (even though they may be direct copies of near similar or great quality) advertising that they were the original and all others are bourgeois knock offs.

      The design proliferates, customers with little money can wear the clothes from lesser known names and the rich people can pay top dollar for clothes from the original designer. As the knockoffs become more popular, the design becomes more popular, they essentially make the original more sought after. Everyone wins.

       

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      Valkor, Jun 8th, 2009 @ 1:22pm

      Re:

      You're making up that "important" second part, right? That is a side effect. It's a means to an end, implemented in varying degrees.

      Besides, just imagine *lawyers* trying to argue if two clothing designs are the same (or similar) or not. "... Your Honor, my client's capri pants are linen whereas the plantiff's pants are clearly khaki..."

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Jun 8th, 2009 @ 1:35pm

        Re: Re:

        The second part is only a restating of the first part - a restating that Mike often seems to forget. Being against certain types of patents and copyrights is like saying "everyone should just copy everyone else".

        If you want to profit from the work of others (by duplication) copyright law says you need their permission. This means that copyright actually encourages innovation, because it is often cheaper to innovate than duplicate.

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Jun 8th, 2009 @ 2:29pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          The logistics of enforcing this would be insane. How similiar would two designs have to be for infrigement to occur and how would this be decided?

           

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          Eclecticdave (profile), Jun 8th, 2009 @ 3:51pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Let me explain to you why you are misguided.

          Suppose I'm a fashion designer and I suddenly have a fantastic new design idea ... Puff skirts ... in TARTAN!!!

          (OK so it's good job I'm not really a fashion designer, but work with me here ;-)

          In today's industry this is a perfectly legitimate new design and might even make me a fortune if I'm lucky.

          If this new law is passed however I could be blocked from producing such a product by a big designer who already produces a puff skirt. They will argue that my design is too similar to their own product. Not only that they will probably argue something along the lines of their existing product line "naturally encapsulates" tartan designs. This will effectively allow them to actually steal my design under the guise of them preventing me from stealing theirs!

          My point is this isn't a law that says "you can't copy my exact design". This is (or will likely become) a law purely designed to allow the big boys to trample all over the small designers.

           

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          DanC (profile), Jun 8th, 2009 @ 4:18pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          The second part is only a restating of the first part - a restating that Mike often seems to forget.

          Sorry, but you're incorrect. You want to equate encouraging innovation with discouraging duplication, and they aren't the same thing. It isn't a restatement at all; it's a completely different statement.

          Being against certain types of patents and copyrights is like saying "everyone should just copy everyone else".

          Again, you're wrong. It means that some things should not be capable of being restricted to a single company or person. In particular, business method patents seem to be increasingly used to attack competitors rather than compete with them.

          This means that copyright actually encourages innovation, because it is often cheaper to innovate than duplicate.

          To a certain extent, perhaps. However, locking up content for life of the creator plus 70 years does not. Get rid of the ridiculous copyright term and scale it back to something reasonable (and life of the author isn't reasonable either), and you'll also encourage innovation because people won't be able to rest on their laurels, J.D. Salinger being a prime example.

           

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      Mike Masnick (profile), Jun 8th, 2009 @ 7:37pm

      Re:

      "the entire purpose of copyright is to discourage duplication".

      Actually, that's not even close to true.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 8th, 2009 @ 12:44pm

    Awesome... with fashion copy rights our class system will have longer lasting uniforms. Instead of all the poor people wearing the generic clothing styles, middle class wearing mass produced stuff, and the rich wearing inovative designs... we can have all the poor people wearing UNCHANGING generic clothes, middle class wearing UNCHANGING mass produced stuff, and the rich wearing inovative designs. It will be much easier to discriminate against.

     

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    Paul Brinker (profile), Jun 8th, 2009 @ 12:46pm

    can I point out that as soon as this law passes someone will copyright womens shirts and paints and it will be illegial to walk around in unapproved shirts and pants?

    O yes, all shirts and pants from before the act are not approved.

    Of corse all the naked women walking around would be a fun side effect.

     

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      Lou, Jun 8th, 2009 @ 1:36pm

      Re: Naked people

      I don't know about you, but I don't think that I would enjoy watching middle age, fat and obese woman naked walking down the street. Then, just think about all those fat men with their belly hanging over what used to be their belts, with hairy back and but cheeks and I don't want to go more into the subject than that. :)

       

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    Debunked, Jun 8th, 2009 @ 1:09pm

    Not Thriving

    Mike quote:
    "Yet, if the industry is thriving, competitive and innovative, why would you ever want to introduce new copyright? "


    I'll grant you the competitive and innovative but the fashion industry is not currently thriving- sales are way off. The fashion component of the industry is off way more than the general GDP drop for any number of reasons including that fashion is seen as a bonus in life and not a staple like food.

     

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      hegemon13, Jun 8th, 2009 @ 1:35pm

      Re: Not Thriving

      "The fashion component of the industry is off way more than the general GDP drop for any number of reasons including that fashion is seen as a bonus in life and not a staple like food."

      Two things:

      First, are you suggesting that copyright will change this, somehow? If so, how does that work?

      Second, a t hard emporary drop in sales due toeconomic times does not provide a prognosis for the industry as a whole. Sales may be down right now, but they will be right back up when the economy rebounds.

       

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      Recession Much?, Jun 10th, 2009 @ 8:48pm

      Re: Not Thriving

      Perhaps the industry isn't what it was a few years ago, but then again the same can be said for pretty much any business. These are tough times (in case you haven't noticed), and while a few years ago everyone could put aside some cash to afford a designer item, these days fashion is less of a priority for those who are not above the economic slump.

      Creating a design protection law would completely debilitate designers' creative rights. Designers tend to use each others' ideas and innovations in order to progress. Take that away, and suddenly we're left with boring boring boring.

       

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    Asmodeus, Jun 8th, 2009 @ 1:29pm

    Just show how much people don't realize that this government does not care about the people or inovation, and just what ever the lobbist give them money for.

     

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    Overcast (profile), Jun 8th, 2009 @ 2:00pm

    That's because... like other industries - but maybe more apparent in the apparel industry: It's about QUALITY not patents.

    In clothes - a lot of people aren't really too picky and lean on quality before anything. I would be one of those.

    I can find 200 different designs on jeans, same with shirts, shoes, etc..

    And while the design does play a bit of a part, I'm not too picky - but I do want it to last a while. There are some name brands I avoid due directly to that.

     

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    Nick, Jun 8th, 2009 @ 4:51pm

    Sci-fi

    I bet this is why they always depict everyone in the future wearing silver jumpsuits.

     

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    Ben, Jun 8th, 2009 @ 6:58pm

    The Devil Wears Prada

    I thought Meryl Streep pretty much summed up the entire industry very succinctly in The Devil Wears Prada. Seems to me that everything keeps working:
    You go to your closet and you select out, oh I don't know, that lumpy blue sweater, for instance, because you're trying to tell the world that you take yourself too seriously to care about what you put on your back. But what you don't know is that that sweater is not just blue, it's not turquoise, it's not lapis, it's actually cerulean. You're also blithely unaware of the fact that in 2002, Oscar De La Renta did a collection of cerulean gowns. And then I think it was Yves St Laurent, wasn't it, who showed cerulean military jackets? I think we need a jacket here. And then cerulean quickly showed up in the collections of 8 different designers. Then it filtered down through the department stores and then trickled on down into some tragic casual corner where you, no doubt, fished it out of some clearance bin. However, that blue represents millions of dollars and countless jobs and so it's sort of comical how you think that you've made a choice that exempts you from the fashion industry when, in fact, you're wearing the sweater that was selected for you by the people in this room.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 9th, 2009 @ 9:10am

    There are a couple of things about this article that I find fascinating because they stand in stark contrast to many others at techdirt.

    First, the vote results are surprising. Usually poll votes for proposed legislation are a very small percentage for such legislation and an overwhelming against. While against leads for, this is the first time the for has been in significant double digits. I wonder why this is?

    Second, the garment industry operates at many different levels, from the high end designer houses to the lowly "big box stores" suppliers. I am not aware of what companies are backing the legislation, but would indeed be curious to see a breakdown by where such companies fall within the industry's levels.

    BTW, while not the fashion industry, the most accurate watches I own are two cheap knockoffs from China that try and look like Rolexes (they are more reliable and run longer than my $$$ Omega). Of course even a casual inspection immediately reveals they are bogus (what do you expect for a $10 "Rolex" sold by a street vendor in Manhattan?). To this day I marvel at the fact that a watch, which if sold on the street for $10 obviously was purchased for much, much less, can even be manufactured at such an incredibly small cost.

     

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      Mike Masnick (profile), Jun 9th, 2009 @ 10:46am

      Re:

      First, the vote results are surprising. Usually poll votes for proposed legislation are a very small percentage for such legislation and an overwhelming against. While against leads for, this is the first time the for has been in significant double digits. I wonder why this is?

      That's easy. Two weeks ago, a group that supported the legislation pointed people to the WW vote. So when we added it here, the vote was about 80/20 in favor. Normally the WW polls we put up have no or very few votes to start.

       

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    bikey (profile), Jun 9th, 2009 @ 10:10am

    fashion

    Yes, at this stage it would be a disaster. But some points to understand: this is not necessarily a copyright issue, but a design protection issue. One important difference: the term is not 70 years, but (if the US follows Europe) 5 years with a potential 4 renewals. I am not a great fan of exaggerated IP, BUT, one reason we have no designers in this country (and why we are terminally addicted to 'classics' (i.e. what my grandmother wore is good enough for me) as opposed to new designs) is that designers flee. All I'm saying is, there is a debate there.

     

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      usdesigner, Jun 18th, 2009 @ 1:23pm

      Re: fashion

      I happen to be a US designer that didn't "flee". There are a lot of great designers here. And any US bread designer that does leave, doesn't do so because they want copyright protection, that is just preposterous.

      The reason why you think that we are addicted to "classics" (which I don't agree with by the way) is because we have a puritan foundation. There is nothing copyright laws can do about that.

      This is a bad bill pushed through by the elite!!

       

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    bikey (profile), Jun 9th, 2009 @ 10:10am

    fashion

    Yes, at this stage it would be a disaster. But some points to understand: this is not necessarily a copyright issue, but a design protection issue. One important difference: the term is not 70 years, but (if the US follows Europe) 5 years with a potential 4 renewals. I am not a great fan of exaggerated IP, BUT, one reason we have no designers in this country (and why we are terminally addicted to 'classics' (i.e. what my grandmother wore is good enough for me) as opposed to new designs) is that designers flee. All I'm saying is, there is a debate there.

     

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 22nd, 2010 @ 7:31pm

    If you look at the text of the bill you will see that the copyright "would and should" only apply to designs that retail for 4-figures. It also states that designers will have to register their claim 3-months before the design is available to the public and that the copyright ONLY LASTS FOR 3 YEARS.

     

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