I chose this fashion web site blog, for the simple reason that the website itself has a unique twinge to it. It addresses various issues affecting the fashion world, mainly from a retail business point of view. It is the brain child of Harvard MBA and former consultant, Imran Amed and was started in 2006. In this particular article, the author is talking about fashion copyright and is giving us direct examples of fashion design items that seem to have been copied. The author has two main points, the first one being that sometimes it is very easy to see who is copying whom and to actually identify that piracy is taking place. The blog states an example of Steve Madden copying a particular show by Fashion House Balenciaga. In this case, it is fairly evident that Madden copied Balenciaga's shoe although they did incorporate some minor changes. Steve Madden is much lower prices than the luxury fashion house Balenciaga. Madden is known to imitate high end style at more affordable prices. The second case that is pointed out in the blog is that of a higher end brand copying another item of clothing by another designer. The blog shows images of the two shirts from both the designers. One of the designers has been identified as top luxury fashion designer Diane Von Furstenburg. The item on show is form her Spring Summer 2008 collection. According to the blog the other shirt (which Von Furstenburg is believed to have imitated) was in stores a whole year and a half before the Spring Summer collection 2008. This example brings up the issue of the public domain. All designers are inspired by something, be it nature, art or other style around. The blog asks whether Gucci came out with their flat shoes with big medallions before or after the very successful Tory Burch did? The blog goes onto to question whether these happenings are copying or coincidence? What really lies in the public domain and who really came up with what first?
This source is useful to my paper as it clearly depicts two examples of copying. I will use the second example to further my argument in my paper and say even the most reputed of fashion designers can be accused of copying. Are they really copying or is this a mere coincidence of creativity?
Barnett, Jonathan, Grolleau, Gilles and Harbi, Sana El. "The Fashion Lottery: Cooperative Innovation in Stochastic Markets." USC CLEO Research Paper No. C08-17; USC Law Legal Studies Paper No. 08-21. http://ssrn.com/abstract=1241005
This article puts an economic spin or an economist's viewpoint on the fashion copyright debate. In other words, it applies economic principles to the fashion industry to show why an incomplete property regime, not complete copyright protection, is the most sensible situation for the fashion industry. To build this argument, the author first explains the concept of "fashion risk," the main economic problem in fashion. Due to demand uncertainty in the fashion industry, it is difficult to forsee if a new design will be successful. So, designers need a system of collective insurance to balance the losses from seasonal product failure and the risk of firm bankruptcy. This collective insurance comes from designers allowing limited imitation which maximizes earnings in the long run. Basically, how this economic idea works is that the designer that produces the "winning" design for that season earns a larger prize, keeping the incentive for innovation alive. However, the incomplete property regime also gives smaller profits to the "losing" designers as a kind of insurance against the "fashion risk." This method is termed the "winner take most" approach. The article then transitions into three different types of imitation: mark perfection, design perfection, and quality perfection. These are then related to three different methods of imitation: horizontal imitation, legitimate vertical imitation (knockoffs), and illegitimate vertical imitation (counterfeits). Basically, horizontal imitation is copying among high end designers while vertical imitation is copying of elite designs by lower end fashion designers in a trickle down effect. As stated previously, the fundamental economic problem for designers is demand uncertainty and the associated risk of bankruptcy. By allowing horizontal imitation and legitimate vertical imitation, this risk is greatly reduced. An obvious way to success for the majority of the market is to wait until the winning design is determined for the season by the consumers and then release imitation products as this eliminates risk and increases success. However, this would kill innovation. So, the best solution is incomplete protection-positive yet constrained imitation. The economics equations show that to maximize final wealth and minimize the variance of final wealth incomplete, not complete, property regimes are required. This can be explained by the idea that at one extreme the winner does not make enough and so incentive is low. At the other extreme, insurance is too low and risk is too high. Both of these cases lead to underinnovation. In short, some imitation supports design innovation while too much or too little undermines it. Therefore, only the very few elite firms can afford the complete copyright protection suggested by bills such as the Design Piracy Prohibition Act.
This article is a very unique way to approach this fashion copyright war. It is an invaluable asset to my argument against enacting fashion design protection laws. This article basically utilizes economical principles to build mathematical equations proving that incomplete copyright protection or rejection of recently proposed copyright laws is more beneficial to society than enacting complete protection for fashion designs. The organization of this paper with alternating pieces of mathematical equations and textual analysis creates an extremely convincing and almost indisputable argument due to the logical thought process this method of presentation creates. This article greatly enhances my argument in that it provides an alternative viewpoint, particularly an economist's angle, which still points towards the same conclusion: fashion copyright laws should not be enacted.
Hedrick, Lisa J. "Tearing Fashion Design Protection Apart at the Seams." Washington and Lee Law Review, Vol. 65, No. 1, pp. 215-273, 2008. http://ssrn.com/abstract=1127190
This article presents both side of the copyright debate more in terms of the pieces of legislation proposed for fashion copyright. It goes through the pros and cons of either side of the fashion copyright argument and then argues against the enactment of these laws. Fashion design falls within the negative space of copyright protection. Therefore, designers cannot prevent knockoffs of their original designs. This paper acknowledges that these knockoffs are harmful as they hurt the designer's profits and reputation due to the low quality of imitation products. Piracy causes almost $12 billion of loss in the fashion year annually. The paper is set up this way and the author then skillfully uses all these facts that seem to support fashion copyright to show why copyright laws are ineffective in stopping any of these problems. First of all, terms such as fashion design, apparel, and design are extremely ambiguous but are used within the Design Piracy Bills. This is simply because fashion is hard to define and consequently very difficult to protect. The author also explains that fashion also cannot effectively use patents, trademark, trade dress, or copyright (due to its utilitarian function) for protection purposes. In addition to the vagueness of fashion lingo, the Design Piracy Bills would simply cause congestion of the courts with senseless cases due to the extreme subjectivity that would be involved in fashion court cases. Even if the bills went through, there are so many loopholes that pirates can find within these bills to basically render any protection useless. Finally, Hedrick looks at the fashion laws in the European Union and shows that even with laws hardly any cases come to court regarding piracy. However, she points out the cultural differences in that America is much more litigious and these laws could force designers to pay large amounts of money for lawyers to protect clothing that has a short shelf life. In addition, there is no guarantee that courts will even be able to punish pirates. It is also very possible that the laws enacted in the US would be much stronger than those in the European Union, which could lead to monopolies that would stifle creativity. Although Hedrick is opposed to these laws, she does make some suggestions on how to improve fashion copyright dealings if these laws go through. Overall though, her basic argument is that effective protection by Congress for fashion design is impossible. So, no protection is better than minimal protection. Any benefits that might arise from design protection would diminish rapidly with the cost and time of court decisions on piracy.
This source is obviously beneficial to my argument since it supports my thesis. However, the importance of this source is due to the rational and legal method used by the author to argue against fashion copyright. The author basically looks at the problems with the fashion industry at present and then shows the correlating proposed laws. However, she then analyses these legal proposals to show that they are extremely ineffective at solving the issues surrounding the fashion industry. If anything, these "solutions" might actually make things worse. The argument basically concludes that the fashion industry is inherently incapable of useful intellectual property protection. Therefore, time and energy should not be wasted on implementing laws that will most likely not benefit the industry.
Call#: Fine Arts Library Reserve N72 .G68 1984
"Avant-Garde and Kitsch" 1939. "avant-garde culture is the imitation of imitating"