Supporter Of Fashion Copyright Accused Of Plagiarizing Other Supporter Of Fashion Copyright

from the copying-is-okay-for-some-people... dept

This is pretty funny. When it comes to the ridiculous and totally unnecessary idea for a fashion copyright, we’ve discussed three different academics who support the bill, and are often held up as the leading voices behind getting fashion copyright passed. We’ve talked a few times about Susan Scafidi, who is probably the most vocal supporter of the law. However, last year, we also wrote about Jeannie Suk and Scott Hemphill, based on a Boston Globe article, mainly playing up Suk’s (a Harvard professor) role in writing the actual law for Senator Chuck Schumer. Our article mainly focused on the paper that Suk and Hemphill wrote about fashion copyrights, which we found to be chock full of some of the most ridiculously bad economics around, including the positively laughable claim that competition is bad because it reduces profits and hinders innovation.

Either way, Schumer clearly liked being able to use a “Harvard law professor’s” research as cover for this ridiculously bad bill, and it was no surprise that both Suk and Scafidi were apparently among those recently called to testify before Congress about the bill. However, we received a note from someone going by the pseudonym “Untenured Colleague,” who has put up an entire blog that appears to be dedicated to the claim that Suk and Hemphill “plagiarized” significant parts of their paper from Scafidi. The “Untenured Colleague,” notes the irony of someone pushing for laws against copying allegedly copying others.

To be honest, I tend to find calls of “plagiarism” pretty silly, most of the time. If people are building on each other’s ideas, is that really so bad? Though within academic circles, it’s certainly quite a charge. But I do find some irony in someone in favor of stricter anti-copying laws even being accused of copying, because those in favor of the laws often underestimate just how quick people are to accuse others of copying. I have no idea if Suk and Hemphill plagiarized from Scafidi at all. You can look at the chart this “colleague” put together or a more detailed explanation and make your own decision as to the legitimacy of the claims.

Frankly, I’m not at all sure that the actions rise to the level of plagiarism. It certainly appears that Suk uses similar phrases, terminology and ideas as Scafidi has, but it’s not uncommon for those advocating the same thing to do exactly that. I regularly see people advocating the same position I’ve taken, using nearly identical phrases and arguments that I’ve used (and even coined!), and I have no doubt that I’ve done the same to others without realizing it. But, really, what strikes me about this whole thing is that it demonstrates one of the serious problems with expanding copyright, especially into highly innovative areas like fashion design. People see “copies” in all sorts of things, and are quick to accuse others of copying, whether it’s legit or not. Adding such a law in a highly competitive, thriving and innovative industry is just going to create a rash of unnecessary lawsuits, as different designers accuse one another of “copying.” That may be good for lawyers, but it’s not good for the industry and it’s certainly not good for the public.

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Comments on “Supporter Of Fashion Copyright Accused Of Plagiarizing Other Supporter Of Fashion Copyright”

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John William Nelson (profile) says:


The biggest problem here is that Suk and Hemphill do not do a good job of citing and references Scafidi’s work. You can agree with someone and use their ideas, but you have to cite to them.

What boggles my mind is that no one at Stanford Law Review found Scafidi’s work and the need to add more citations to it. That’s a black mark on Stanford Law Review.

Zot-Sindi says:

Re: Only 1 comment so far?

I suspect

1. Their copypasta list got lost
2. They haven’t read this article yet
3. They are on their day off from “work” (AKA trolling)
4. They have nothing to say because this topic involves copyright supporters being…. copytards, you know, the opposite of angels like they usually are being preached as.

Tom Pritchard (profile) says:


Slightly unrelated to the actual subject of the post…

“the positively laughable claim that competition is bad because it reduces profits and hinders innovation”

This isn’t exactly a new concept, didn’t Schumpeter believe this? Obviously not applicable in every situation, but there are instances where this would be the case, eg Google.

Draco T Bastard says:

“including the positively laughable claim that competition is bad because it reduces profits and hinders innovation.”

It does reduce profits but that’s not bad as profits are a dead weight loss (Steve Keen, Debunking Economics). Competition, in theory, increases innovation by doing so making it so that to maintain profits means that you have to do something cheaper than the competition.

Of course, competition itself isn’t cheap and having it can increase the costs to the community rather than making them better off. Such “products” are natural monopolies and include telecommunications, power generation/distribution and water.

“If people are building on each other’s ideas, is that really so bad?”

Building on someone else’s ideas isn’t – claiming them as your own when you know that you got the idea from someone else is.

“Frankly, I’m not at all sure that the actions rise to the level of plagiarism.”

Probably not. People have the same ideas at the same time around the world (which is why I’m against patents). Some get published and talked about, most don’t.

chris says:

I think fashion copyright is the last thing we need. In fact, we should be providing a disincentive to create new fashion designs. Who on earth wants to buy a whole new wardrobe every year because the current one is “out of fashion”? The whole fashion industry is the biggest waste of effort/energy/material that exists in modern society.

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