For nearly a decade, the fashion industry has been a wonderful example of how a creative industry thrives without copyright law
. Multiple studies have demonstrated this. Not only have the studies found that the US fashion industry is a thriving industry, with lots of competition, plenty of players, and tons of innovation, some research has made it clear that it's the very lack of copyright that has made all of this possible
. That's because the lack of copyright does a few incredibly useful things in the industry. First, it pushes designers to keep coming up with the "next big thing," since they can't just rest on their laurels. Second, it's actually helped create trends
that have increased the value of key brands. That is, the fact that anyone can copy a hot new design from a top designer means that ideas permeate faster, and each year's big trend gets established by the overall market. It also helps to segment the market, as copycat providers cover the low end, which actually makes the high end "designer" products more valuable. Buyers of the copies aspire to eventually be able to get the brand names.
It's difficult to think of an industry that needs copyright less
than the fashion industry. After all, the purpose of copyright is to create incentives for greater innovation, such that the public benefits. And here we have a highly competitive, highly innovative market that addresses what the public wants through market segmentation.
And yet... as always happens with intellectual property, it's after
such benefits accrue that the leaders in the market seek to put in place stricter intellectual property laws. They always claim it's to "protect" intellectual property, but the reality is that it's to restrict competition, slow down innovation and allow the top designers greater monopoly rents on their offerings, such that they don't have to compete as much, nor innovate as much. It's pure rent seeking.
So, of course, some politicians are pushing it. Senator Chuck Schumer has been the main backer of such a law, egged on by law professor Susan Scafidi, who seems to have made it her life's cause to get in place such a protectionist, anti-innovation, anti-competition, anti-new fashion designer law. She's not above falsely implying that this is an issue about counterfeiting
. It's not. We're talking about perfectly legitimate copies. When people are pushed on this issue, the best they seem to be able to come up with is the idea that when designers have their work copied, it makes people sad
Scafidi is happily talking up that Congress is going to once again try to pass this unnecessary, economically dangerous and innovation-hindering law
. Every year it gets introduced it ends up dying on the vine, but in the last few years, it's definitely gotten much closer. Unfortunately, it seems like Congress only seems to want to hear from those who support the law, and pays little attention to the tons of evidence that it's not needed at all.