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)?

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Companies: sony music

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Comments on “Beyonce's Bikini Infringing On Copyrights?”

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Dark Helmet (profile) says:

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….)

RD says:

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.

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

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?

Rasmus says:

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.

isthisthingon (profile) says:

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

Karl (profile) says:

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.

Matt (profile) says:

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.

Cohen (profile) says:

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.

im a sue you says:

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

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

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.

John85851 (profile) says:

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!

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