Beyonce's Bikini Infringing On Copyrights?

from the oh-please dept

Michael Scott points us to a story over at IPKat about how singer Beyonce (or, rather, her label, Sony) is in trouble in Germany for infringing on the copyright of a designer due to a bikini she wore in a video. Seriously. In the US, we (for the time being, at least) still don't allow copyrights on clothing design, but apparently in Germany they feel differently about that sort of thing. Still, there are two disturbing aspects to this case. First, after ruling that the bikini infringed, the judge put an injunction on the entire video in Germany, though, since we're not in Germany, here it is:
But what's more troubling is the fact that the two bikinis really are not the same. Remember, copyright is supposed to be about the specific expression and not the idea. But that doesn't seem to be the case here. The two bikinis are obvious inspired by similar ideas -- or one was inspired by the other -- but the actual expressions of those ideas are quite different:
Finally, even if the bikini is infringing, shouldn't the problem be with whoever made the infringing bikini, not who wore it (or who paid for the video including someone wearing it)?


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    icon
    Pickle Monger (profile), Feb 15th, 2010 @ 12:05pm

    Priorities!

    I've never been more greatful for copyright. Let's have Beoncé to take off the infringing bikini.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Feb 15th, 2010 @ 12:48pm

    Yay for puns...

    1. If Beyonce in that bikini is wrong, then I don't want to be copyright....

    2. In a filing of copyright case over a bikini, do you charge the plaintiff for indecent exposure if they drop the suit?

    3. It seems to me that a lawsuit over a bikini is ridiculous from top to bottom....

    4. Insert your creative pun here (or at least it would be creative, if only you had an expectation to be paid for it....)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    identicon
    Innocent Bystander, Feb 15th, 2010 @ 12:51pm

    Re: Yay for puns...

    My clever pun was removed due to a DMCA takedown notice.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 15th, 2010 @ 12:57pm

    PAY ME!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    identicon
    RD, Feb 15th, 2010 @ 1:18pm

    Not anymore

    "Finally, even if the bikini is infringing, shouldn't the problem be with whoever made the infringing bikini, not who wore it (or who paid for the video including someone wearing it)?"

    Not anymore. Much like the previous article on site links being infringing, copyright has become so unbalanced that now, ANYONE in the food chain gets sued, and ESPECIALLY the last person in the chain. So, the video poster gets it first, because they had the temerity to dare to take a picture of copyrighted material.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 15th, 2010 @ 1:21pm

    Was that video designed to induce seizures? Seriously.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 15th, 2010 @ 1:22pm

    Re: Yay for puns...

    "2. In a filing of copyright case over a bikini, do you charge the plaintiff for indecent exposure if they drop the suit?"

    That was awesome!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    identicon
    AC, Feb 15th, 2010 @ 1:25pm

    Re: Yay for puns...

    The bikini is infringing on my copyright and will need to be taken down immediately.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
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    Karl (profile), Feb 15th, 2010 @ 1:31pm

    Bikini madness

    Unlike the U.S. (and most of the world), Germany actually does allow copyrights/patents on design rather than expression. Right or wrong (I vote wrong), it is the law.

    The question is who actually made the garment. Did Sony buy it, or was it a one-off created for the video? There might be a case if it's the latter.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 15th, 2010 @ 1:34pm

    Personally I wouldnt claim copyright for either and call my already questionable good taste into further disrepute!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
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    Cohen (profile), Feb 15th, 2010 @ 1:41pm

    The bikini Beyoncé wears looks very much like something someone put together after they saw the German one.

    But it also looks like someone specifically put together to be similar to the German one but with enough changes as to make it different enough to pass a test in court.

    This is very similar to what we used to do in advertising when we wrote a song that sounded very much like a popular song but was just different enough so that we didn't get killed in court.

    However, our lawyers always warned us never to contact the original song's publisher for the rights to the pop song. They told us the courts might construe it was if we did contact the publisher and they quoted a high price to use the song, we created a knockoff to get away without paying the fees.

    So Beyoncé's video staff might have contacted the German designer. Then, when they said no or wanted too much money, the video staff decided to go for a knockoff.

    That's the kind of situation that starts to look bad for the video staff.

    But Beyoncé has little to do with it.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Feb 15th, 2010 @ 1:43pm

    Re: Bikini madness

    "The question is who actually made the garment. Did Sony buy it, or was it a one-off created for the video? There might be a case if it's the latter."

    Why? They're both black/white and they both make use of seemingly random geometrical shapes, but that appears to be where the similarities end. There are, relative to bikini design as a whole, marked differences in general design and makeup of the fabric, and from what I can tell there are no repeated shapes.

    So what's the issue here?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 15th, 2010 @ 1:46pm

    Gawd, copyright is stupid.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
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    Sneeje (profile), Feb 15th, 2010 @ 1:49pm

    Could someone please remove that blonde haired troll from my beyonce video? She's infringing on my enjoyment.

     

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  15.  
    identicon
    im a sue you, Feb 15th, 2010 @ 1:57pm

    wait a minute wasn't there an article about fashion not using copyrights?

    OH so now they too are
    so now we can :

    pay the person who designs the cloths
    there kids
    and there grand kids

    pay the persons putting them together
    there kids
    and there grand kids

    and every time you want to wear said clothing YOU MUST PAY
    there kids
    and there grand kids

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
    identicon
    pink floyd, Feb 15th, 2010 @ 2:01pm

    NOW apply this to hammers and pencils

    and ill sue road builders that DONT PAY ME for every use of drawing schematics and using hte hammers

    YES
    PAY ME NOW

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    identicon
    Dave, Feb 15th, 2010 @ 2:08pm

    I am gaga over your ability to make good headlines!

    You guys should get an award for that.
    Beyonce + Bikini + Fringe = I'm There

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    identicon
    Todd, Feb 15th, 2010 @ 2:15pm

    Bikini/Copyright issue aside, is that video designed to cause epileptic seizures?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Feb 15th, 2010 @ 2:15pm

    Re: wait a minute wasn't there an article about fashion not using copyrights?

    Can I make a request? Just a small favor at my behest?

    If you're going to make your comment look like a poem,
    Think up some rhymes and show 'em!

    I won't comment on the spelling or grammar,
    Though were it a crime, you'd get the slammer,

    And yes, my own rhymes are lacking,
    They're merely for ironic attacking,

    But your comment looked like stanzas, it's true,
    So you could have at least made them a haiku,

    So in closing, I'll simply say this,
    And I'll say it slowly, so it won't be missed,
    Even for those that write poems like noobs,
    Please do so in rhyme, when discussing Beyonce's boobs.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
    icon
    Mike Masnick (profile), Feb 15th, 2010 @ 2:27pm

    Re: Re: wait a minute wasn't there an article about fashion not using copyrights?

    Hmm. I was originally going to nominate your pun comment as comment of the day, but you may have just topped it.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
    icon
    nasch (profile), Feb 15th, 2010 @ 2:27pm

    Re: Re: wait a minute wasn't there an article about fashion not using copyrights?

    Well done sir, I award you 9.7 internets out of 10.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
    icon
    Dark Helmet (profile), Feb 15th, 2010 @ 2:30pm

    Re: Re: Re: wait a minute wasn't there an article about fashion not using copyrights?

    In the interest of brotherhood, I will gladly share the award with myself....

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
    icon
    Dementia (profile), Feb 15th, 2010 @ 3:04pm

    Re:

    Somehow I doubt epileptic seizures was what they had in mind....

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
    identicon
    Rasmus, Feb 15th, 2010 @ 3:19pm

    Re: Re: Bikini madness

    In Sweden we have something called a protected pattern and is something you register for. It is very similar to a registered trademark in how it works legally. Things don't have to be an exact copy, just very similar, to be infringing.

    I guess they have almost the same system in Germany.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
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    TW Burger (profile), Feb 15th, 2010 @ 3:27pm

    Re: Yay for puns...

    Letterman's writing team could not do better (and may steal these - better copyright them).

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
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    TW Burger (profile), Feb 15th, 2010 @ 3:30pm

    Re: Re: wait a minute wasn't there an article about fashion not using copyrights?

    Helmet is in the zone! The Schwartz is with him.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
    identicon
    The Mighty Buzzard, Feb 15th, 2010 @ 3:34pm

    Re: wait a minute wasn't there an article about fashion not using copyrights?

    As holder of the copyright on the word 'there', I demand all occurrences of said word be removed and replaced with the word 'their' in the above post.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
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    isthisthingon (profile), Feb 15th, 2010 @ 3:48pm

    Re: Bikini madness

    >Right or wrong, it is the law.

    Regardless of how you "vote" on this, just because something is the law doesn't make it good in any way. The law needs more correction in most countries than it claims to provide to the people within.

    IP extremists have one thing that matters to them most: their hopes of having their turn amassing large amounts of money riding on an artificially imposed mini-monopoly that this corrupt system of elitist laws would provide them.

    The term "intellectual property" is ridiculous on all levels and is supported by two kinds of people:

    1. Those who don't realize what it does to the world
    2. Those who do but care more about personal gain than the welfare of others

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
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    isthisthingon (profile), Feb 15th, 2010 @ 3:52pm

    Re: Re: wait a minute wasn't there an article about fashion not using copyrights?

    LOL!!!!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
    icon
    otb (profile), Feb 15th, 2010 @ 4:02pm

    Bra(&panty)vo Dark Helmet!

    ::golf clap::

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31.  
    icon
    isthisthingon (profile), Feb 15th, 2010 @ 4:12pm

    Re: wait a minute wasn't there an article about fashion not using copyrights?

    Where kids? Where grand kids??

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32.  
    identicon
    Ryan Diederich, Feb 15th, 2010 @ 7:06pm

    The Real Question...

    What happens if they win the lawsuit? Does sony pay the german folks because its against their law?

    Can mohammad stone my wife because she showed her face in public?

    Where does the reach of another country's laws end? Do they just block that video in Germany?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33.  
    icon
    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Feb 15th, 2010 @ 7:09pm

    Re: Re: Re: Bikini madness

    STOP DRESSING LIKE ME!!!

    What is it with Nordics acting like twelve year old girls?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  34.  
    identicon
    Bas Grasmayer, Feb 16th, 2010 @ 4:25am

    Eh, not sure about this one. Noticed it ages ago, as did some blogs. I feel that she / her stylist kind of ripped off the designer by doing this... without proper attribution.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  35.  
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    ethorad (profile), Feb 16th, 2010 @ 4:43am

    Re: Not anymore

    I would have said ESPECIALLY those with deep pockets (or perhaps those with deep enough pockets to make it worthwhile suing but not so deep that they can afford a better legal team than yours)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  36.  
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    Spaceman Spiff (profile), Feb 16th, 2010 @ 6:28am

    No such thing as a new idea...

    I think the Picasso family should sue the both of them for infringing on Pablo's art...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  37.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Feb 16th, 2010 @ 6:37am

    Re: Bikini madness

    The US allows it as well -- it's called a "design patent".

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  38.  
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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Feb 16th, 2010 @ 7:16am

    Re:

    Did the German give attribution to the originator of the bikini?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  39.  
    identicon
    jb, Feb 16th, 2010 @ 8:04am

    design patents

    Actually, the US does allow for design patents. They are not often used for clothing, since the fashion market moves so fast relative to the USPTO. And it's a mess to enforce in court. After all, isn't copying the most sincere form of flattery?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Design_patent
    http://www.uspto.gov/web/offices/pac/design /desfaq.html

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  40.  
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    Matt (profile), Feb 16th, 2010 @ 10:41am

    Re: Re: Bikini madness

    This wouldn't even pass the sniff test for a US design patent infringement claim. Among other things, design patents do not protect against derivative works - as long as you are not practicing the protected design itself, you can be inspired by it to create a new design.

    But I'm not sure I understand the claim that in the US we do not permit copyright on clothing design. What's at issue in this case cannot be the shape of the bikinis, because the shapes are totally different. So it must be the fabric design - the patterns and color choices. And fabrics most definitely _are_ protected in the US. And clothing design is typically also protected by trademark, if it acquires secondary meaning (surely a design as distinctive as this one has secondary meaning, at least to clothing insiders that form the primary market). Different penalties, same C&D.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  41.  
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    John85851 (profile), Feb 16th, 2010 @ 12:14pm

    Why sue Beyonce and Sony?

    The answer should be obvious: because they have the deepest pockets and/ or suing them would make the biggest statement.
    Sure, the people who designed and make the bikini are the real infringers, but there's no story in suing a swimwear-maker.
    What does Sony have to do with Beyonce's video other than being the label? Did Sony execs approve the wardrobe or specifically tell her to wear a black and white bikini? Since when do record execs tell musicians what to wear in their videos?

    Plus, to me, those two bikinis don't even look alike. They look similar, as if someone got the idea from the other one, but is that really enough to justify a lawsuit?

    And does this mean that the original company can sue anyone who makes a similar black and white bikini? What's more troubling is that they feel they can sue anyone who wears the bikini as well!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  42.  
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    Karl (profile), Feb 16th, 2010 @ 1:23pm

    Re: Re: Bikini madness

    The only issue is whether the similarities in design are found by a judge to be infringing.

    Of course, cases like these just highlight how much "design copyrights" are a bad idea.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  43.  
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    Karl (profile), Feb 16th, 2010 @ 4:17pm

    Re: Re: Bikini madness

    The term "intellectual property" is ridiculous on all levels and is supported by two kinds of people

    Not necessarily. I'll give you two examples:

    Say I recorded a song, and (by some miracle) hold the copyright to it. Now, a car company comes along and wants to use that song in an advertisement. But I don't want them to, for whatever reason (say they make weapons and I don't want to support that). Without copyright, how could I prevent them from using my song in their commercial?

    The other example is "copyleft" licenses. Legally speaking, these are all copyrights. Without copyrights, the FSF (and others) would have no recourse to people who take free software and redistribute it as proprietary.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  44.  
    identicon
    BentFranklin, Feb 16th, 2010 @ 4:41pm

    I don't understand. Shouldn't the bikini designer be paying Beyonce? Nike pays Tiger.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  45.  
    identicon
    BIKINI TRUTH, Feb 16th, 2010 @ 4:41pm

    beyonce's bikini was def ripped off but it looks WAY BETTER than the original. If I was the german designer I'd be jealous...

     

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  46.  
    identicon
    Andrew D. Todd, Feb 16th, 2010 @ 11:10pm

    Stolen Folk Art.

    Take a look at:

    Leni Riefenstahl, People of Kau (Die Nuba von Kau), 1976

    The design in question is derived from traditional African folk costume, inclusive of body painting. The Nuba nation (South Sudan) can be considered collectively as the prior artist.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  47.  
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    crade (profile), Feb 17th, 2010 @ 9:01am

    I don't understand how the fashion industry can talk about copyrighting design with straight faces when every single one of them has their remade levi's jeans and slapped their brand on it.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  48.  
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    Derek Kerton (profile), Feb 22nd, 2010 @ 3:15pm

    Re:

    Induced something. Wasn't a seizure.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  49.  
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    Derek Kerton (profile), Feb 22nd, 2010 @ 3:20pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: wait a minute wasn't there an article about fashion not using copyrights?

    Perhaps Techdirt can just offer you too of there awards. Their always saying copies are free! They're, I said it.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  50.  
    icon
    Derek Kerton (profile), Feb 22nd, 2010 @ 3:22pm

    Beyonce is no waif model, either. I think her bikini looks much better than the original, and the difference between the four is huge.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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