Time Inc. "Dress War." Time Magazine, 23 March 1936.
This newspaper article from the 1930s presents a more in depth view of the Fashion Originators' Guild of America. This article was written when retailers began noticing the guild was abusing its powers. This article gives examples of the guilds' abuse of power. The guild basically believed it had the power to decide which pieces of apparel were copies and which were not. If a retailer did not agree to remove whatever the guild instructed them to, the store would be "red-carded." In other words, the guild would inform all designers and manufacturers to boycott this retailer. So, Filene's Department store uses this abuse of power to accuse the guild of attempting to monopolize the fashion industry by blacklisting disobedient retailers and creating heavy penalities for anyone who broke the guild's rules. This particular battle between Filene's and the guild is the core of this newspaper article. However, the author takes the reader through the history of the guild and why it began in 1933. The guild began as a way to pick up the fashion industry during its low point in the Great Depression. The members of the guild agreed not to purchase anything known to be a copy of original designs by guild members. The members agreed to these terms for apparel in the higher priced range. This protection did indeed decrease business mortality and increase original design creation in the high end market. However, once the guild's power began to increase, they starting imposing these protection rules on lower priced apparel as well. The retailers were not happy with this power abuse since they could not compete with chains who were selling these lower priced pieces with no restrictions. In addition, customers buying clothing in this range do not care if their purchases are imitations. So, the guild was basically just abusing their power rather than creating rules to benefit the industry.
Although this article does not necessarily provide direct support for either side of the fashion copyright debate, it is an extremely important resource since it provides the history of a previous attempt at fashion design protection. Therefore, this article will provide a way for me to demonstrate why copyright laws should not be enacted in the present. Although current proposed laws will likely learn from the mistakes of the guilds, this article shows that even in the 1930s, only high end designers wanted protection. For the rest of the industry, copyright laws would cause more harm than good. This article is structured to show the many different and conflicting desires of the various players in the fashion industry. This makes any effective and lasting protection very difficult in this industry. Therefore, this article provides a historical example as support to why effective copyright laws for fashion are not only nearly impossible, but also somewhat harmful.
Sprigman, Christopher. "Fashion Copyright, 'Corruption,' and the Unheard Consumer." Public Knowledge Blog. http://www.publicknowledge.org/node/1404. February 20, 2008.
This blog provides some very useful insight into how the fashion industry works and the corruption plauging the industry. The fashion industry's success can be attributed to the cyclical nature of consumption. Basically, copying helps to set trends, trends lead to consumption, more copying destroys that same trend due to overexposure, and the industry moves on to new trends. Therefore, copying does not harm the process; it is the process that creates profits in fashion. Why then would anyone want to destroy the process that generates money? Sprigman answers this question by accusing the Council for Fashion Designers of America of corruption and selfishness. The CFDA is the group that is promoting copyright laws for fashion design. However, the CFDA only represents a small fraction of the industry, the elite designers. The needs of the thousands of non-elite designers, manufacturers, retailers, distributors, and consumers are completely overlooked by the CFDA. These elite designers, who sell clothes for ridiculous prices, are the only ones who can afford to compete and prosper in a revised industry where every design is subject to infrigement suits. This is because these elite groups are the only ones who can afford lawyers. Just to increase profit a little for the small group of elite designers, the CFDA is going to raise prices and reduce consumer choices in an industry that has been incredibly successful for a very long time. These laws hurt consumers. However, consumer needs are ignored because of corrupt politics. These elite corporations can afford to pay Congressmen to sponsor the passing of bills they support. Therefore, intellectual property laws are badly warped due to elite desires and political corruption.
Although blogs are not necessarily the most reliable sources, the author of this blog is Chris Sprigman, the author of the Piracy Paradox. This blog is so interesting because it provides a completely different take on the fashion copyright war: a political angle. Rather than having an equal amount of people of either side of the debate, Sprigman argues that only a very few elite designers actually support these laws. The other supporters, such as those in Congress, are just a result of corruption. The argument here is the decision made regarding this issue should benefit the majority or the "public good." Since the CFDA is a small fraction of the fashion industry, passing these laws would harm the majority simply because this elite group is able to buy support. Therefore, this article is structured around attacking the CFDA and Congress and their reasons for supporting design protection. This will be very beneficial to my paper and argument since I can use these claims to counterargue declarations that fashion copyright will benefit the industry, consumers, and the fashion cycle.