Culture

by Mike Masnick


Filed Under:
beyonce, bikini, copyright

Companies:
sony music



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)?

Reader Comments

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  • icon
    Pickle Monger (profile), 15 Feb 2010 @ 12:05pm

    Priorities!

    I've never been more greatful for copyright. Let's have Beoncé to take off the infringing bikini.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Dark Helmet (profile), 15 Feb 2010 @ 12:48pm

    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....)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Feb 2010 @ 12:57pm

    PAY ME!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    RD, 15 Feb 2010 @ 1:18pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      ethorad (profile), 16 Feb 2010 @ 4:43am

      Re: Not anymore

      I would have said ESPECIALLY those with deep pockets (or perhaps those with deep enough pockets to make it worthwhile suing but not so deep that they can afford a better legal team than yours)

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Feb 2010 @ 1:21pm

    Was that video designed to induce seizures? Seriously.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Karl (profile), 15 Feb 2010 @ 1:31pm

    Bikini madness

    Unlike the U.S. (and most of the world), Germany actually does allow copyrights/patents on design rather than expression. Right or wrong (I vote wrong), it is the law.

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Dark Helmet (profile), 15 Feb 2010 @ 1:43pm

      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?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Rasmus, 15 Feb 2010 @ 3:19pm

        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.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Karl (profile), 16 Feb 2010 @ 1:23pm

        Re: Re: Bikini madness

        The only issue is whether the similarities in design are found by a judge to be infringing.

        Of course, cases like these just highlight how much "design copyrights" are a bad idea.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      isthisthingon (profile), 15 Feb 2010 @ 3:48pm

      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

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Karl (profile), 16 Feb 2010 @ 4:17pm

        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.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      John Fenderson (profile), 16 Feb 2010 @ 6:37am

      Re: Bikini madness

      The US allows it as well -- it's called a "design patent".

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Matt (profile), 16 Feb 2010 @ 10:41am

        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.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Feb 2010 @ 1:34pm

    Personally I wouldnt claim copyright for either and call my already questionable good taste into further disrepute!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Cohen (profile), 15 Feb 2010 @ 1:41pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Feb 2010 @ 1:46pm

    Gawd, copyright is stupid.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Sneeje (profile), 15 Feb 2010 @ 1:49pm

    Could someone please remove that blonde haired troll from my beyonce video? She's infringing on my enjoyment.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    im a sue you, 15 Feb 2010 @ 1:57pm

    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

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Dark Helmet (profile), 15 Feb 2010 @ 2:15pm

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      The Mighty Buzzard, 15 Feb 2010 @ 3:34pm

      Re: wait a minute wasn't there an article about fashion not using copyrights?

      As holder of the copyright on the word 'there', I demand all occurrences of said word be removed and replaced with the word 'their' in the above post.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      isthisthingon (profile), 15 Feb 2010 @ 4:12pm

      Re: wait a minute wasn't there an article about fashion not using copyrights?

      Where kids? Where grand kids??

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    pink floyd, 15 Feb 2010 @ 2:01pm

    NOW apply this to hammers and pencils

    and ill sue road builders that DONT PAY ME for every use of drawing schematics and using hte hammers

    YES
    PAY ME NOW

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Dave, 15 Feb 2010 @ 2:08pm

    I am gaga over your ability to make good headlines!

    You guys should get an award for that.
    Beyonce + Bikini + Fringe = I'm There

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Todd, 15 Feb 2010 @ 2:15pm

    Bikini/Copyright issue aside, is that video designed to cause epileptic seizures?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    otb (profile), 15 Feb 2010 @ 4:02pm

    Bra(&panty)vo Dark Helmet!

    ::golf clap::

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Ryan Diederich, 15 Feb 2010 @ 7:06pm

    The Real Question...

    What happens if they win the lawsuit? Does sony pay the german folks because its against their law?

    Can mohammad stone my wife because she showed her face in public?

    Where does the reach of another country's laws end? Do they just block that video in Germany?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Bas Grasmayer, 16 Feb 2010 @ 4:25am

    Eh, not sure about this one. Noticed it ages ago, as did some blogs. I feel that she / her stylist kind of ripped off the designer by doing this... without proper attribution.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Spaceman Spiff (profile), 16 Feb 2010 @ 6:28am

    No such thing as a new idea...

    I think the Picasso family should sue the both of them for infringing on Pablo's art...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    jb, 16 Feb 2010 @ 8:04am

    design patents

    Actually, the US does allow for design patents. They are not often used for clothing, since the fashion market moves so fast relative to the USPTO. And it's a mess to enforce in court. After all, isn't copying the most sincere form of flattery?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Design_patent
    http://www.uspto.gov/web/offices/pac/design /desfaq.html

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    John85851 (profile), 16 Feb 2010 @ 12:14pm

    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!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    BentFranklin, 16 Feb 2010 @ 4:41pm

    I don't understand. Shouldn't the bikini designer be paying Beyonce? Nike pays Tiger.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    BIKINI TRUTH, 16 Feb 2010 @ 4:41pm

    beyonce's bikini was def ripped off but it looks WAY BETTER than the original. If I was the german designer I'd be jealous...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Andrew D. Todd, 16 Feb 2010 @ 11:10pm

    Stolen Folk Art.

    Take a look at:

    Leni Riefenstahl, People of Kau (Die Nuba von Kau), 1976

    The design in question is derived from traditional African folk costume, inclusive of body painting. The Nuba nation (South Sudan) can be considered collectively as the prior artist.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    crade (profile), 17 Feb 2010 @ 9:01am

    I don't understand how the fashion industry can talk about copyrighting design with straight faces when every single one of them has their remade levi's jeans and slapped their brand on it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Derek Kerton (profile), 22 Feb 2010 @ 3:22pm

    Beyonce is no waif model, either. I think her bikini looks much better than the original, and the difference between the four is huge.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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