U.S. Congress. House. Design Piracy Prohibition Act. 110th Cong., 1st sess., H.R. 2033. (25 April 2007).
This is one piece of legislation proposed to protect fashion designs from piracy. This Design Piracy Prohibition Act would basically give fashion designs protection for three years after the application for registration is submitted. Within this act, the terms fashion design, design, and apparel are defined so as to create a definition of what can actually be protected under this bill. The reason these are defined within this bill is the ambiguous nature of these words. Without a clear definition, there would be way too many interpretations of the clauses of the Design Piracy Prohibition Act. The bill also states the terms for submitting a design for copyright protection. Basically, any rights to protection are lost if the design is not submitted within three months after the design is made public. The bill also briefly lists the monetary penalties for any pirates if found guilty of copyright infringement.
This bill is an important source for any paper on fashion copyright since it provides an example of the types of legislation that would supply design protection. Even though this bill has not gone through, many of the Design Piracy Bills follow this basic structure for fashion copyright. Therefore, this source provides an example of how effective bills can be in providing protection. In addition, many sources reference this bill and its contents. So, it is useful to have the actual bill and its wording to look back upon and analyze as a primary source. The bill basically amends title 17 in the United States Code to provide for fashion design protection. By looking at how proponents of fashion copyright will protect fashion designs, I can decide, within my paper, whether these laws are beneficial or effective enough to even bother enacting. Thomas, the site where this bill is located, also provides a list of sponsors for this bill. There are only fourteen sponsors, which creates suspicion as to how effective or plausible this bill may actually be. Information like this surrounding pieces of legislation make bills useful sources.
U.S. House of Representatives, Committee on the Judiciary, Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet, and Intellectual Property. Testimony of Steve Maiman in Opposition to H.R. 2033. 14 February 2008.
This source is the testimony of Steve Maiman, co-owner of Stony Apparel, against the Design Piracy Prohibition Act. Maiman is completely opposed to extending copyright protection to fashion design. According to Maiman, fashion has grown into a huge, thriving, competitive industry without any help from copyright protection. Nothing has changed recently within the fashion industry to suddenly need copyright protection now. He claims that enacting bill H.R. 2033 will be detrimental to the fashion industry and economy, reduce creativity, and hurt the consumers. He speaks against fashion design protection proponents by stating that customers in fancy boutiques are willing to pay more for apparel despite pirates creating imitation designs. He then addresses the negative consequences this bill will have on the fashion industry, especially firms like Stony Apparel. This bill will make financing firms extremely difficult since retailers will immediately return anything claimed, even falsely claimed, to be infringing. Invoices would become meaningless. Since retailers would also be held liable with this bill, retailers would refuse to do business unless the manufacturing firm can provide compensation for any possible loss. This new demand for compensation will create an even larger finanacial risk for manufacturers and retailers. The fashion industry is already an area filled with risk and this bill will simply add another layer of risk since everyone will have to now deal with the possibility of frivolous law suits. This fear of infringement will lead to an increase in the prices of apparel since designers will need to hire lawyers to interpret their every design out of fear of suit. In addition to price inflations, the innovation rate would slow down. However, the biggest consequence of this bill would be the effect on designers interpreting a trend. If designers are too scared to work with a trend, one of the biggest methods the industry uses to attract consumers will be cut off. This bill will only aid rich, established designers who can afford lawyers. However, the young generation of rising designers with fresh, new ideas will disappear. Fashion copyright will hurt designers, consumers, manufacturers, and retailers. Only lawyers will benefit. Benefitting lawyers is not worth splitting America into a class that can purchase copyrighted clothes and a class who cannot afford to anymore.
This is a very crucial source since it provides a primary account of a fashion manufacturer. Since it is a primary source, it provides real concerns plauging manufacturers and store owners within the fashion industry. Maiman actually has to deal with the consequences of the bill. So, what he has to say comes from experience and is very reliable. Although he is obviously biased since he has a stake in the outcome of this war, his arguments arise from legitimate concerns he would have to deal with if this bill passed. Secondary sources are just opinions of people outside of the industry looking in. He basically structures his argument around the negative consequences of enancting the Design Piracy Prohibition Act. He also addresses the concerns brought up by the other side and then explains why these are unreasonable. By showing the possible consequences of going through with fashion copyright for players in the industry besides himself, such as consumers, designers, and retailers, he effectively makes his position against protection appear to be beneficial for the majority of the industry.
Picker, Randal C. "Of Pirates and Puffy Shirts: A Comment on the Piracy Paradox: Innovation and Intellectual Property in Fashion Design." Virginia Law Review, Forthcoming; University of Chicago Law & Economics, Olin Working Paper No. 328. http://ssrn.com/abstract=959727
This article takes the side of those individuals supporting the enactment of fashion copyright. This argument is made using past attempts at employing fashion copyright laws to protect designs and the results of these attempts. One major example used to support this claim of positive effects resulting from design protection is the Fashion Originators' Guild of America. This guild basically organized registration and monitoring for apparel with a threat of boycott of any retailer who sold knockoffs. The claim here is that this increased intellectual property protection resulted in greater innovation efforts. Although the Federal Trade Commission took down this organization, the article argues that the fact that it formed demonstrates that high end designers do want greater protection. This argument is made against other claims that the members of the industry do not even want increased protection. The argument then continues into the present time and the benefits these laws would endow on the fashion industry. With fashion design protection, high end designers can make credible promises to their consumers, which is impossible with the current amount of knockoffs in the market. With the ability to make credible commitments, high end designers could raise their prices and make more money off their original designs. Therefore, there is clearly a benefit to high end designers that accompanies increased protection. Also, the author argues that imitation in the industry is only one sided with the high end designers having to deal with the rapid imitation of their original designs. With copyright, these designers could promise their consumers that this rapid copying of the apparel they are buying would not occur. Basically, the author here argues that the rampant copying in the fashion industry is detrimental to the high end designers and their customers. Therefore, copyright protection is necessary to protect their rights and keep low end designers from exploiting the low protection regime of the fashion industry.
Although this source complicates my thesis by working against my claims that fashion copyright laws should not be enacted, sources like these are absolutely necessary to develop a strong paper. These claims will provide something for me to argue against and prove incorrect in my argument. Without addressing opposing opinions, the argument and paper would be weak. This article clearly utilizes an analysis of the high end or elite designers to support the claim for increased fashion design protection. However, it avoids looking at the effect of copyright laws on the rest of the fashion industry. However, it is still a useful source as it provides the perspective of a high end designer, the biggest victim of piracy or imitation.
Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet, and Intellectual Property, Committe on the Judiciary, U.S. House of Representatives. Design Law: Are Special Provisions Needed to Protect Unique Industries-Testimony of Fashion Designer Narciso Rodriguez. 14 February 2008.
This source is a testimony by Narciso Rodriguez, a fashion designer and board member of the Council of Fashion Designers of America. This testimony is in favor of HR 2033, the Design Piracy Prohibition Act. He first presents some astounding figures such as the annual loss of at least $12 billion in the fashion industry due to piracy. He then takes the audience or reader through an almost emotional trip by explaining all the training, hard work, and money that goes into becoming a designer. With all the time and money invested within the fashion industry, pirates are just making a risky business riskier. He then constructs an argument for fashion copyright using a sad, personal anecdote. In other words, he plays on emotions and moral rights to make his point. He basically recounts a story about an original design he made that was copied and sold by pirates millions of times. Without protection for fashion design, US companies arise with piracy as their business model. These companies can afford to make large quantities at low prices, causing more sales for the pirating companies than for the original designer. Rodriguez then suggests the positive results of enacting copyright. Pirate companies would be forced to hire real designers, increasing the job market for designers and creating a great choice of original designs for consumers. He admits that in the past clothing was a functional object and therefore did not require protection. However, he believes that fashion has now become an art that is no longer just utilitarian. He then addresses the other side's concerns by claiming that only truly unique designs will be copyrighted, not all designs. He also states that the three year protection period will simply allow designers to reach the market before the pirates. After these three years and with a large public domain still in existence, previous designs can still be used for inspiration. He also addresses the concern that this will increase apparel prices by claiming that accessibly priced clothing will still exist, but the creation of these derivative lines will be through the original designer. Through explanation like these, Rodriguez attempts to passify the concerns on the scope of the legislation of copyright opponents.
This testimony by Narciso Rodriguez is very beneficial since it is a primary source coming from an elite fashion designer. It provides the viewpoint of someone within the fashion industry. Rodriguez begins his argument with a very emotional approach regarding his personal experiences and losses due to piracy. After getting the audience's sympathy, he provides some positive benefits of enacting copyright. He concludes his argument by addressing the concerns of the skeptics of fashion copyright. Rodriguez is a biased source since he obviously can benefit if the copyright laws are enacted. However, his testimony provides some real insight into the minds of fashion designers and the actual issues they face due to piracy. Therefore, this article provides a better sense of the real problems plauging the industry and if these laws can actually address these issues. So, although this testimony may not support my thesis, it provides better issues to address and counterargue than secondary sources would.
Rangnath, Rashmi. "Design Protection for Fashion Design and Autoparts: A Bad Idea Times Two." Public Knowledge Blog. http://www.publicknowledge.org/node/1399. February 16, 2008.
This blog considers the design protection for fashion designs and autoparts in terms of markets and niches. In terms of fashion design, the author argues that knockoffs do not damage the market for original designs much at all. Obviously there is some effect on the original designer, but the author argues that this effect is negligible due to the different markets that original designs and knockoffs compete within. Customers who can afford to buy runway designs are going to buy these original designs regardless of how many imitation versions are circulating. This is because the people who are willing to pay so much for clothing want to be able to tell others they are wearing an original. For them, only the original can give them the status they desire. On the other hand, people who cannot afford these original designs do not care if their clothing gives them status. In actuality, these customers still would not purchase the original design if the knockoffs were not present in the industry. These consumers are fine with the lower quality imitation once the trend trickles down. For this reason, elite and original fashion designers have no need to lower their prices to compete with knockoffs and imitations. This is because these two versions are marketing and selling to two different groups of people. They are operating within two different markets. Finally, the blog ends with an attack on elite designers who claim pirates end up selling more imitation versions than the designers can even imagine to sell of their original. The author argues here that in the elite market, the designer can sell very few items at a incredibly high price while pirates may sell thousands of products, but at virtually nothing compared to the original's price. Therefore, the elite designers probably come out ahead in terms of profit. The author makes a correlating argument against autopart design protection, which does not apply to the topic of interest.
This blog was chosen as a source for my paper because it has a very unique approach in looking at fashion designs and their imitations. Rather than looking at the logistics of the fashion industry or as someone from within the fashion industry, this blog arrives at this issue from the viewpoint of a consumer. In other words, the blog looks at the various classes of consumers and their different markets in order to suggest that imitation is not really harming anyone to an extent where copyright laws need to be enacted. By looking at the fashion copyright debate from a consumer and market viewpoint, this blog provides incredible support for my thesis by showing that a lack of copyright laws in fashion actually helps the industry thrive in all consumer markets. With design protection, the market for low end customers may very well be knocked out since a majority of consumers do not shop around in both low and high end markets.