If The Fashion Industry Doesn't Get Special Copyrights, The Terrorists Will Win

from the who-else-can-we-help? dept

Having seen the Senate create a special patent exemption for banks, it should come as no surprise that plenty of other industries are looking for special intellectual property treatment as well. Take, for example, the fashion industry. Years back, we noted that the fashion industry was a near perfect example of a creative industry that thrived despite no copyright protection on clothing designs. It showed what a myth it was that creation and innovation would stop in the absence of copyright law. In fact, studies began to show that it was that exact lack of copyright that drove the industry to be so innovative. That was for two reasons. First, designers had to constantly be innovating. An old design is an old design and they couldn't rest on their laurels, but had to keep creating newer and better designs. Second, by allowing knockoffs to hit the market, it actually helped promote the designer versions, and make those legitimate versions even more valuable.

Given all that, it's pretty difficult to understand why Congress decided to introduce new legislation specifically extending copyright to the fashion industry. Research suggested that such a copyright would effectively kill the fashion industry. It's about as backwards a law as you can get. The purpose of copyright is to create an incentive for new and innovative content -- and here's an industry where a ton of new and innovative content is created all the time without it. To any right thinking person, it should be clear that no copyright is needed. And, yet, Congress moves forward with the effort.

As the bill is being discussed, Congress has apparently held a hearing entitled: "Are Special Provisions Needed to Protect Unique Industries?" The answer should be a pretty clear "no," but instead, people were treated to an explanation of how a lack of copyright in the fashion industry would mean that the terrorists, organized criminals and child pornographers would win:
"Most people think that buying an imitation handbag or wallet is harmless, a victimless crime. But the counterfeiting rackets are run by crime syndicates that also deal in narcotics, weapons, child prostitution, human trafficking and terrorism. Ronald K. Noble, the secretary general of Interpol, told the House of Representatives Committee on International Relations that profits from the sale of counterfeit goods have gone to groups associated with Hezbollah, the Shiite terrorist group, paramilitary organizations in Northern Ireland and FARC, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia."
Note, of course, that where the proceeds of such sales go has no bearing, whatsoever, on the the issue of copyright. But don't think that won't stop the fashion industry from setting this up as an emotional issue. And, of course, it's not just the fashion industry. The report also notes that the automobile makers showed up at the hearing as well, claiming that they need special copyright protections on car part designs. Who else wants to step up and ask for special protections?
Hide this

Thank you for reading this Techdirt post. With so many things competing for everyone’s attention these days, we really appreciate you giving us your time. We work hard every day to put quality content out there for our community.

Techdirt is one of the few remaining truly independent media outlets. We do not have a giant corporation behind us, and we rely heavily on our community to support us, in an age when advertisers are increasingly uninterested in sponsoring small, independent sites — especially a site like ours that is unwilling to pull punches in its reporting and analysis.

While other websites have resorted to paywalls, registration requirements, and increasingly annoying/intrusive advertising, we have always kept Techdirt open and available to anyone. But in order to continue doing so, we need your support. We offer a variety of ways for our readers to support us, from direct donations to special subscriptions and cool merchandise — and every little bit helps. Thank you.

–The Techdirt Team

Filed Under: congress, copyright, fashion industry

Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread

  1. identicon
    Shirley Willett, 16 Feb 2008 @ 2:54pm

    Validation that fashion design copyrights are redi

    I can validate how silly this all is, with facts from my 60 years in the fashion industry. I learned by working in the garment factories in Boston in the 1940s, where the apparel industry started at the turn of the 20th century by Jewish tailors who created “production pattern engineering” – and there is no copyright or patent protection on patterns to this day. In the first half of the 20th century, every manufacturer in America copied Paris, just as the dressmakers in the 18th and 19th centuries did before them. In fact, Europeans copied us on production pattern engineering, which I validated when teaching in Italy for a few months in the 1960s. Creativity came out of the fashion schools about mid-century, and with pathetically poor pattern engineering and production knowledge – and we have now come to losing this technology to the world.

    In New York in the 1950s, there was always an advertisement for “designer/copyists” every day. Creative designers were worthless, only those that could engineer a decent pattern are valuable – to this day. I was extremely creative, being named Boston’s number one designer in the 1960s by Women’s Wear Daily, but am also a master pattern engineer. In my high fashion design and manufacturing business for 20 years, Shirley Willett, Inc. I would sometimes be given a style to copy by a top store like Bloomingdales – from the respect for my technical knowledge.

    Today, since all this “brand label” stuff, creativity has become important, and most brand label designers actually have teams of designers doing the creating. America has created the great technologies for the world, and this is what is important. Fashion has been a continued copying from its fashion history, over and over again, and the very few really great fashion designers were those who created new 3D shapes, like Balenciaga – which everyone was allowed to copy. Norman Norell, a famous American designer in the 1960s, actually offered his pattern to copyists, so that they would copy it right. Diane von Furstenburg, (the head of CFDA) and the big name designer behind this copyright stuff, is famous for her “wrap dress’ in the 1970s. I did some in the 1960s! – which goes to show you the repetitions of styles.

    Regarding Rashmi Rangnath’s excellent blog: In my mfg. business, many tried to copy me for less money but could not, because they could not copy my production system! As example I was the first to do an evening gown in suede, and designed a very creative production system, which is far more thrilling to me than the gown - very creative and sold fabulously. My stitchers could make the shell of the gown in 15 minutes, and I could not sell it so cheap! You can see more on this on my web site. http://www.shirleywillett.com You will also see more on my engineering design grants from the National Science Foundation and my recent workshop at MIT, representing the American Fashion Industry in comparing design practices between industries.

    All the commentators were right on. I have not gone further with writing to Congress because I never thought it would get this far.

    Thanks “Techdirt” for a great blog.

Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter

Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Make this the First Word or Last Word. No thanks. (get credits or sign in to see balance)    
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt

Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Discord

The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...

Recent Stories

This site, like most other sites on the web, uses cookies. For more information, see our privacy policy. Got it

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.