Mardis Gras Indians Claim Copyright Protection Over Outfits

from the copyright-this dept

A bunch of folks have sent over the recent NY Times article about the "Mardis Gras Indians" -- a group of folks in New Orleans who create elaborate costumes that they wear to a few events each year (with Mardis Gras being a big one, obviously). With the costumes being so elaborate, they're often photographed, and the Indians are so pissed off that these photographs are then sold that they're trying to claim copyright over their costumes, in order to threaten any photographer who does anything with such a photograph.

As the article notes, this is a pretty questionable copyright claim. As we've discussed at length, there is no copyright protection on clothing, but the lawyer who's been pushing this copyright plan is claiming that these outfits aren't really clothing, but sculptures -- which can be covered by copyright.

Of course, the whole thing is pretty ridiculous. These costumes are designed to be worn in public and shown off. At some point you have to simply expect people to photograph them. The costumes were created to be noticed, and it's pretty obnoxious to then get upset that they actually did get noticed. Furthermore, let's look at this from the perspective of what copyright law is here for: it's to create an incentive to create. Being able to copyright these outfits doesn't change the incentives to create. Already there are strong cultural and community incentives for this group of folks to create these outfits (apparently, each year they create a new one). What becomes clear in reading the article is that they're not using copyright law as an incentive, but simply as a way to prevent others from doing things with the photographs. This seems to go against the very purpose of copyright law.
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Filed Under: copyright, costumes, indians, mardis gras

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  1. identicon
    Tom black, 27 Mar 2010 @ 3:32pm

    Why are you writing about this on TechDirt?

    How is this tech related? I'm a little tired of all the copyright talk here that has absolutely nothing to do with tech. You should rename the blog copyrightdirt.

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