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.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), Aug 30th, 2011 @ 11:40pm

    Because pirate shirts have ruffles, and someone needs to get paid a fee for that.

     

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

  2.  
    icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), Aug 30th, 2011 @ 11:54pm

    "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.

     

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

  3.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 31st, 2011 @ 12:16am

    Fashion industry sees the amazing racket that the Film and Music industry have set up and just want in on the action.

    After all, it's only fair.

     

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

  4.  
    icon
    Jeffrey Nonken (profile), Aug 31st, 2011 @ 12:32am

    Re:

    Fashion industry lawyers see the amazing racket that the Film and Music industry have set up and just want in on the action.

     

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

  5.  
    icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), Aug 31st, 2011 @ 12:48am

    Re:

    We have detected unauthorized wardrobe additions in your closet. You could face penalties of up to $150,000 for each infringing item. To save you from the public embarrassment, for a small payment of $3000 we are willing to settle this matter.

    Dunlap, Grubb and Weaver

     

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

  6.  
    identicon
    Zot-Sindi, Aug 31st, 2011 @ 1:01am

    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.

    V V V
    because designers would like to be lazier


    also, control freaks

     

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

  7.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 31st, 2011 @ 2:10am

    I've got the impression that before the start of every seasons, the head of leading fashion design houses come together for agreement of what is the key elements of fashion trend for the season, then design with these key elements.

    I'll agree that even these leading design houses don't have independent design at all.

     

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

  8.  
    icon
    Richard (profile), Aug 31st, 2011 @ 2:27am

    Without the Knockoffs

    Without the knockoffs no one would be interested in the high end fashion. Why should the mass media cover fashion if less than 1% of the population can afford the orignals and the man or woman in the street can't even get hold of a knockoff?

     

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

  9.  
    icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), Aug 31st, 2011 @ 2:48am

    Re: Without the Knockoffs

    to give us serfs something to desire and aspire to.

    to put in long hours so the top 1% can get richer and buy more designer duds.

    to keep us sedated, worrying about who wore what where and when, rather than looking at the handbasket ride we are all taking right now.

     

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

  10.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 31st, 2011 @ 2:56am

    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?

     

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

  11.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 31st, 2011 @ 3:04am

    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.

     

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

  12.  
    icon
    Richard (profile), Aug 31st, 2011 @ 3:55am

    Re: Re: Without the Knockoffs

    How much better off are the fashion houses of today compared to the 19th century - when there were no knockoffs and they had to rely on selling to the rich elite?

     

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

  13.  
    icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), Aug 31st, 2011 @ 4:37am

    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.

     

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

  14.  
    icon
    Richard (profile), Aug 31st, 2011 @ 5:01am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Without the Knockoffs

    as to the 19th century my vast knowledge does not include 19th century fashion houses and how they worked.
    That's the point - if they were doing as well as the present ones then you would have heard of them ... Beau Brummel OH *****)

     

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

  15.  
    icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), Aug 31st, 2011 @ 5:18am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: 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 Fürstenberg leaps right to mind - screaming for these copyrights while having to settle several times after stealing "unknown" designers work.

     

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

  16.  
    icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), Aug 31st, 2011 @ 5:40am

    I'm a little worried...
    the morning shift of trolls is not here.
    Maybe they had an accident during the car pool.
    I hope they are ok.

     

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

  17.  
    icon
    Richard (profile), Aug 31st, 2011 @ 5:57am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: 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.

     

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

  18.  
    identicon
    Ken, Aug 31st, 2011 @ 6:06am

    Some would love to go back to the days where ones social status was immediately apparent by the way they dressed. Those with money will be able to wear the latest styles but those who don't will only afford rags.

     

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

  19.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 31st, 2011 @ 6:13am

    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.

     

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

  20.  
    icon
    Greevar (profile), Aug 31st, 2011 @ 6:21am

    Re:

    BWAHAHAHAHA! Ahem. Excuse me. Carry on.

     

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

  21.  
    icon
    Greevar (profile), Aug 31st, 2011 @ 6:24am

    Re:

    What would America be without its social status culture? How can you tell the plebes from the elites if they can buy the high end fashion for bargain prices? We might actually have to treat everyone equally (which those stupid plebes don't deserve) just to avoid insulting an "elite". How terrible!

     

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

  22.  
    identicon
    Guy, Aug 31st, 2011 @ 6:30am

    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.

     

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

  23.  
    icon
    Joe Publius (profile), Aug 31st, 2011 @ 6:34am

    Re: Re: Without the Knockoffs

    In short, we would all buy clothes like older men.

    Black socks and sandals never go out of style.

     

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

  24.  
    icon
    Joe Publius (profile), Aug 31st, 2011 @ 6:43am

    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.

     

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

  25.  
    icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), Aug 31st, 2011 @ 6:45am

    Re: Re: Re: Without the Knockoffs

    "Black socks and sandals never go out of style."

    because they were never in style.

     

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

  26.  
    icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), Aug 31st, 2011 @ 6:47am

    Re: Re: Re: Without the Knockoffs

    "Black socks and sandals never go out of style."

    because they were never in style.

     

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

  27.  
    icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), Aug 31st, 2011 @ 6:54am

    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?

     

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

  28.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 31st, 2011 @ 7:09am

    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.

     

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

  29.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 31st, 2011 @ 7:10am

    Re: Re: Re: Because...

    Oops, click fail, replying to Guy.

     

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

  30.  
    icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), Aug 31st, 2011 @ 7:30am

    Re: Re:

    well I was a little concerned, they might be like wild animals who run before the big disaster hits....

    Lack of trolls is a bad sign...

     

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

  31.  
    icon
    Richard (profile), Aug 31st, 2011 @ 7:30am

    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.

     

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

  32.  
    identicon
    Steph, Aug 31st, 2011 @ 8:29am

    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.

     

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

  33.  
    icon
    Greevar (profile), Aug 31st, 2011 @ 9:02am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Hey, if bad things are coming, it's at least a relief that the trolls aren't around when it comes.

     

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

  34.  
    icon
    CommonSense (profile), Aug 31st, 2011 @ 9:09am

    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.

     

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

  35.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 31st, 2011 @ 11:12am

    Re: Because...

    [Citation Needed]

     

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

  36.  
    identicon
    Bob Warfield, Aug 31st, 2011 @ 1:00pm

    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?

     

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

  37.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 31st, 2011 @ 2:26pm

    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.

     

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

  38.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 31st, 2011 @ 2:29pm

    Re: Because...

    The best protection the little guy has is the ability to work in peace.

    So it fallows that no protections is better then protections that will most probably hurt him.

     

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

  39.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 31st, 2011 @ 2:31pm

    Re: My Take on Fashion Copyright

    We all know you didn't wrote it so you are just a farce.

    See no need for government granted monopolies the market will take care of the facts.

     

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

  40.  
    icon
    John Fenderson (profile), Aug 31st, 2011 @ 4:18pm

    Re: Re:

    Correct. On the other hand, you also can't have capitalism without effective regulation to keep it going because it will always devolve into a predatory monopoly.

     

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

  41.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 31st, 2011 @ 8:43pm

    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.

     

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

  42.  
    identicon
    chris, Sep 1st, 2011 @ 9:20am

    Re: Re: Without the Knockoffs

    Few realize that "older man clothing" doesn't just "lack fashion" but is actually much better made than fashionable clothes. Ask the fashion followers if they know what canvassed vs fused or the phrase goodyear welted means.

     

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

  43.  
    identicon
    chris, Sep 1st, 2011 @ 9:29am

    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.

     

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

  44.  
    identicon
    chris, Sep 1st, 2011 @ 9:33am

    Re:

    I have to wonder how many people supporting this proposal work as copyright lawyers. I would guess very few if any. It's easy to support something you know nothing about.

     

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

  45.  
    identicon
    chris, Sep 1st, 2011 @ 9:50am

    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.

     

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

  46.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 1st, 2011 @ 2:36pm

    Re:

    I have to wonder how insecure you are in your argument that all you manage to present is that poor logic.

     

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


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Save me a cookie
  • Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
  • Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>
Follow Techdirt
A word from our sponsors...
Essential Reading
Techdirt Reading List
Techdirt Insider Chat
A word from our sponsors...
Recent Stories
A word from our sponsors...

Close

Email This