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.
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.