Yet Again, Evidence Of The Need For Fashion Copyright Is Totally And Completely Missing

from the a-complete-joke dept

For nearly a decade, we’ve been quite critical of the claim by some in the fashion industry (and a few law professors) that we somehow need a special “fashion copyright.” We’ve covered in great detail why this is false. The whole point of copyright is to encourage greater innovation and output of creative works, and the fashion industry has that. It’s highly competitive, with many players and new creative works coming out all the time. In fact, studies have shown it’s this very lack of fashion copyright that makes the industry so innovative. That’s because of two key factors. First, without copyright, the copycat companies help make the real designers’ more valuable. By copying key designs and making cheap knockoffs, these copycats create the fashion trend, which creates an aspirational situation where more people want to buy the real version. Second, because of the lack of copyright, designers have to keep innovating and keep pushing out new designs, to stay ahead of the pack. It’s a perfect example of where the lack of copyright leads to greater output and greater creativity.

The only real argument for a fashion copyright, then, is because designers would like to be lazier. They don’t want competition and they don’t want to have to innovate at the same pace. But the point of copyright is not to make the lives of designers easier. It’s to benefit the public.

Yet, every year or so, a small group of law professors and designers, with the help of a few politicians (mainly Chuck Schumer, trying to help out some New York fashion designers) push forward with another attempt to pass the law. Lately, they’ve been focusing on the “evils” of “fast fashion” companies like Forever 21, who quickly push out knockoff fashions of famous designers at a much cheaper price. They talk about how this is making those famous designers “suffer.”

It turns out, that’s simply not true. In fact, the luxury sector, including high end fashion is experiencing a massive boom, with revenues up 13 to 23%. But you know who’s not doing so well? Low end retailers, who are having trouble in the recession. Supporters of the bill keep assuming that people buying the knockoffs are substituting them for the high end stuff, but there’s little evidence to support that at all. In fact, these numbers suggest the exact opposite. People who can afford the high end are happy to pay for it. People buying the knockoffs these days are having trouble affording even that, let alone the original designs.

So again, we’re wondering if anyone can explain what the reason is for any form of fashion copyright? It seems to make absolutely no sense at all.

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Comments on “Yet Again, Evidence Of The Need For Fashion Copyright Is Totally And Completely Missing”

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46 Comments
That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

“Yet, every year or so, a small group of law professors and designers, with the help of a few politicians (mainly Chuck Schumer, trying to help out some New York fashion designers) push forward with another attempt to pass the law. Lately, they’ve been focusing on the “evils” of “fast fashion” companies like Forever 21, who quickly push out knockoff fashions of famous designers at a much cheaper price. They talk about how this is making those famous designers “suffer.” “

If you really want to suffer….
http://wtforever21.com/

Take a good long look at what they are copying, and then wonder if there aren’t bigger problems facing our country than is your leopard print sling backs are knock offs of a famous designers design.

I drag wtforver21 out early, before the mornings troll patrol… because once you see whats there… yeah you can’t make any good arguments for fashion copyrights.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Without the Knockoffs

by what metric?

Today they all copy each other on different things, and all follow the same trend. They make outlandish things to get attention, that no one will ever actually wear. They show pieces of the new hot trend for the season. The items will be cloned for the mass market, but they will never be as “special”.

as to the 19th century my vast knowledge does not include 19th century fashion houses and how they worked.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Without the Knockoffs

Somehow the industry survived.

And I don’t care much about labels, I know some of the names because they do stupid things… Diane von F?rstenberg leaps right to mind – screaming for these copyrights while having to settle several times after stealing “unknown” designers work.

Richard (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Without the Knockoffs

Ok my serious point was that – in a world without knockoffs the top fashion designers were (and would be in the future), at best flunkeys to the rich and famous – whereas in the present world – where their names are known throughout the population – even by people who could not afford the originals – they ARE the rich and famous.

The reason for this is that they have the leverage of their fanbase – even that part of it that doesn’t pay them – to establish their status on a par with those who buy their top end stuff.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Without the Knockoffs

Correct. Ordinary people would just buy simple functional clothes and forget about fashion. In short, we would all buy clothes like older men. Ask the fashion industry how much they sell to older men (hint: close to nothing). More importantly, aspirational buyers would have nowhere to go. They cannot afford the expensive stuff, and due to foolish legislators, the suppliers of cheaper stuff would be forced out. A large chunk of the clothing industry would go broke. Fashion accessories would follow. Does Congress really think all that is a good idea?

Anonymous Coward says:

So again, we’re wondering if anyone can explain what the reason is for any form of fashion copyright? It seems to make absolutely no sense at all.

Capitalism for Pointy-Haired Bosses:
1. Bribe politicians.
2. Watch as bribed politicians write laws that make your competitors go out of business.
3. Enjoy artificial monopoly.

Again, this has been going on for over a century.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

You can’t have bribed politicians write laws that make your competitors go out of business and capitalism at the same time. As soon as you have that the economy is, by definition, no longer capitalist.

The phenomena you describe is one found exclusively in planned or mixed economies where the government actually has the power and the social mandate to interfere in market affairs via law writing. Corruption such as this is, arguably, a natural result of having government regulation strong enough to affect real change for any purpose even if the original intention when granting the government said power was to benefit other groups. See: the FCC, FDA, FTC, ect.

Guy says:

Because...

even though the CFDA (which primarily represents the interests of large design houses) is the bill’s biggest champion, there is a genuine need for copyright-like protection among small, up-and-coming designers. These designers’ ability to make a living hinges on their ability to produce something new and unique. They will rarely be able to mount a trade dress case against companies like Forever 21, because the public will quickly come to associate the product at issue with the “knockoff” artist rather than the designer. Concerns about abuse of a new form of IP are always warranted, but that doesn’t mean small designers don’t need the proposed protection; there’s just no way to measure the number of designers in this category who never “make it” because they are knocked off.

Joe Publius (profile) says:

Re: This argument holds no water

there is a genuine need for copyright-like protection among small, up-and-coming designers.

I disagree. No one ever said that starting a business is easy. It takes some courage to put yourself out that way, and for all of the patents and copyrights in the world, new businesses of all kinds fail every day.

What I do know is what’s more important is coming in with a well thought-out plan, and executing on it. Insisting that without artificial monopolies a business will fail is a false dilemma.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: This argument holds no water

You forgot that the increase risk of litigation and the severe penalties that people seek in those cases just make it harder for the little guys who probably be better being able to sell anything then to try to hire a lawyer to try to sue some big name that would drag that case for up to decades into court.

If any thing it vanquish the small competitors from the scene that is what it is designed to do, to stop others and the others means the little guys.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Because...

Ummm DVF is just as likely to poach the ideas of a young up and coming designer.
So singling out F21 as an example of a bad actor is a little disingenuous.
As DVF is pushing for this and has for years I doubt there is a single word in it that would stop her from poaching again.

And it doesn’t matter if F21 copies an idea, if that young up and coming designer gets their product on the right face in Hollywood, they gain fame. See its not how many of your rainbow soled shoes you can sell, its about getting people to know that designer x did those awesome rainbow soled shoes… who else wore something they did. They are not trying to market the rags, they are marketing the mystique and allure of be like a star. Getting a potato sack on someone who can say to the camera I’m wearing Bagolot will do more than anything else they can do.

“there’s just no way to measure the number of designers in this category who never “make it” because they are knocked off.”

And we need a law to make sure that everyone can make it, and stunt an entire market to make sure that no one else can ever make a wrap dress because DVF has that on lockdown?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Because...

If you look at the hoops that musicians using small samples of others’ works have to go through, I think that might scare the pants off of new designers. There would be so many tripwires laid by copyright claims (likely from already established fashion houses), that new designers would have an even harder time succeeding than they do now.

Richard (profile) says:

Re: Because...

there’s just no way to measure the number of designers in this category who never “make it” because they are knocked off.

Therefore we can conclude that that number might be zero.

In fact I guess (and that is about all anyone can do by your argument) that it is zero – because I very much doubt that a designer small enough to fail in this way (ie not benefit from the publicity derived from the knockoff) would bebig enough for their work to be noticed by the knockoff trade in the first place.

This is fashion remember it is not based on either utility or aesthetic value – its only value lies in publicity and anyone who isn’t smart enough to use the publicity that comes from a successfully knockoff shouldn’t be in the business.

Steph says:

Here's why...

If just anyone is allowed to put shiny red lacquer on the bottom of their shoes, how am I supposed to know which women I should be jealous of? I’m not about to waste that emotion on someone who bought a knock-off at Payless. Show me the red and I’ll know you’ve got the benjamins for some real Christian Louboutins.

There. I said it and I’m glad.

CommonSense (profile) says:

You explained it perfectly.

And it’s “because designers would like to be lazier. They don’t want competition and they don’t want to have to innovate at the same pace.”

They’ve made their money the hard way, now they want to sit back Scrooge McDuck style and watch the money keep coming in while they swim in it. Normal people, when they reach that point, they retire and do the things in life that they had been too busy working to do. Rich, greedy assholes though, the only thing they want to do is make money, and once they have some, they want to keep making it by doing even less to deserve it.

Bob Warfield (profile) says:

My Take on Fashion Copyright

Here is my Innovative article on Fashion Copyright (hope I get it published)

For many years, I’ve been quite critical of the claim by some people in the fashion industry (and a few professors of law) that we somehow need a special “fashion copyright.” I’ve covered in some detail why that is false. The whole point of copyright is to encourage greater innovation and output of creative works, and the fashion industry has that. It’s highly competitive, with many players and new creative works coming out all the time. Indeed, studies have shown it’s this very lack of fashion copyright that makes the industry so innovative. That’s because of two key factors: a) without copyright, the copycat companies help make the real designers’ more valuable. By copying key designs and making cheap knockoffs, these copycats create the fashion trend, which creates an aspirational situation where more people want to buy the real version; and b) because of the lack of copyright, designers have to keep innovating and keep creating new designs, to stay ahead of the rest. It’s a perfect example of where the lack of copyright leads to greater output and greater creativity.

Innovative, huh?

Anonymous Coward says:

I have to wonder how many people “slamming” this proposed legislation actually work within the garment industry (which is far broader than just fashion designers, including, for example, garment retailers)? My hunch is very, very few, if any.

It is always so easy to criticize something you generally know nothing about.

chris says:

Don’t they realize that if fashion copyright existed there would be no more new designs since all current designs are derivatives of previous designs, making them infringing in copyright terminology. Or are we just supposed to forget about everything that came before so a few people can make money now and let future generations get screwed over.

chris says:

When I can download a suit for free over the internet, then come talk to me about the need for fashion copyright. So while digital clothing distribution hasn’t quite been worked out yet, designers already have a perfectly good framework for getting reimbursed for their clothing. You need to buy it. There’s really no way to get around that fact.

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