Planet Money T-Shirt Plans Include Recognizing That Copying Works For Fashion

from the good-for-them dept

Earlier this year, we wrote about how the NPR podcast Planet Money was planning to go into the t-shirt business to better understand the whole process of creating a small clothing retail operation, top to bottom. The idea was to create high quality t-shirts that people would actually want (and pay a premium for), rather than the typical cheapo t-shirts. I had been wondering what happened to that plan, because the Planet Money team hadn’t mentioned it in a while, but they’re finally back to discussing it, and the latest podcast, amazingly, hits on another topic we talk about frequently: how copying helps the fashion industry.

Unfortunately, the Planet Money folks refer to it as “stealing,” even as they talk to a bunch of folks who explain how copying is what really helps the industry thrive. They discuss the awful new fashion copyright bill, and how it’s likely to have seriously bad consequences for the industry and for consumers, noting even, that many economists recognize that intellectual property is not a good solution in many markets. If a market can thrive and be competitive without intellectual property, adding such monopolies to the mix can be a disaster, leading to greater employment for lawyers, but harm to everyone else. They describe how having something like a fashion copyright will make it so that the industry needs to “clear” pretty much everything they do with the lawyers first. That means things will be a lot more expensive, and anything that can’t be “cleared” may never get made.

It may not be “new” to folks around here, who have known all this for years, but it’s nice to see these ideas spreading.

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Comments on “Planet Money T-Shirt Plans Include Recognizing That Copying Works For Fashion”

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Marcel de Jong (profile) says:

On the other hand

in an edition of On the Media a few weeks back, someone was proposing stronger copyright laws for fashion. Because apparently in France they have more protection on fashion and why shouldn’t America have similar protections against copying.
Because young fashion designers can’t exactly protect themselves from that type of copying.

f’r instance:

BOB GARFIELD: Now, there’s another way to attack the premise of the legislation that you’re supporting, that the ecosystem for fashion is doing actually very nicely and that to the extent that people knock off Paris runway designs very, very quickly, that the trends move more quickly and, therefore, constantly churning everybody’s closet, so that they are constantly in need of new fashions, that while individual designers may be harmed in the short run, the overall ecosystem actually builds their business over time.

SUSAN SCAFIDI: I would disagree with you on that, predictably. From 30,000 feet up, the ecosystem of fashion looks pretty good. The stores are filled with clothes, people are dressing fashionably.

However, if you come down to the level of walking the streets and talking to designers, you’ll see currently a lot of boarded-up boutiques and designers who are really struggling. If those people are driven out of business, in part because of the tough economy and in part because they can’t get return on investment, because the copies get in the stores even more quickly than the original, because of changes wrought by the Internet, then they can’t stay in business, they can’t keep creating over the long run; the ecosystem really breaks down.

In other words, they need laws to prop up old business models. They don’t need to change, the law and the people need to change. And if they can’t get protected, people will simply stop creating new things. *rolls eyes*

I guess, On the Media needs to get the Planet Money guys on?

Anonymous Coward says:

Exactly what we need.

I think we need more copyright acts. The faster we can bleed the US economy, the better we are. You see, when it’s copyrighted, a company can package the receipts as royalties on the product.

When the revenue is packaged as a royalty, the industry can use “Double Irish” and “Dutch Sandwich” tax evasion strategies as long as the money stays off-shore, thereby avoiding repatriation of the funds, making it ineligible to be taxed.

Yay American Businesses!

halley (profile) says:

When I was in middle school, there was a filmstrip that explored a group of kids who got into the t-shirt business. It showed all of the usual business startup issues: inventory, capital equipment, investment, wages, etc. Follow-on episodes covered different scenarios, such as where the plucky kids turned a batch of defective shirts into car seat covers.

Hearing of this Planet Money article sent me back to those middle school days. Those movies are one of the many ways I think our schools have lost ground in explaining basic economic and civic theories to this generation.

Androgynous Cowherd says:

Extraneous character in blog post.

The following text appears to need editing, as it contains a spurious extra letter “m” (italicized; right near the end):

They discuss the awful new fashion copyright bill, and how it’s likely to have seriously bad consequences for the industry and for consumers, noting even, that many economists recognize that intellectual property is not a good solution in many markets.


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