May 13, 2009

“Protecting” Fashion Designers [11:57 am]

Slate gives a platform to apologists for the latest push to give copyright protection to (clothing) designs: Protecting fashion designers from copycats

Currently, both the knockoff and the inspired-by approaches to fashion are entirely legal. U.S. copyright law considers items of apparel “useful articles,” which are not legally protected the way books, music, and movies are. But all this could change if Diane von Furstenberg and the Council of Fashion Designers of America get their way. During the last session of Congress, a House committee heard testimony on legislation that would treat fashion design like other protected areas of intellectual property, protecting original designs against copies that are “substantially similar”—the ordinary standard for other kinds of creative works protected by copyright. Last time around, the fashion design bill didnt pass. But its supporters are now bringing before Congress a new and improved version, and it stands a better chance.

[...] [T]his doesn’t mean that fashion designs are completely unsuited to copyright protection. The solution, practically speaking, is to enable the inspired-bys to keep at it while shooing away the knockoffs, which are the ones that reduce the incentives of fashion designers at all levels to come up with new designs. Some people will buy a new Jason Wu design. But if essentially the same dress is soon available at a fraction of the price, some will go for the knockoff, especially when cash gets tight, or simply decide not to buy the design at all, because the knockoff has made the design seem less distinctive.

Copyright for useful articles — one more way to stifle through “protection” - ‘cuz, of course, as we all know, hardly *anyone* is developing new designs because of the threat of these copycats. Why, we have to create innovative programs in order to get people to enter the field!

There may be better arguments in their Stanford Law Review paper: The Law, Culture, and Economics of Fashion

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