Extending Copyright to Fashion Designs

Lynne Kiesling

Jacob Sullum has a choice post on intellectual property, copyright, and fashion designs, one of my pet issues. Technological change is behind the pressure that fashion designers are creating to bring their work under copyright:

Now that photographs of Fashion Week models are available immediately for analysis by software that allows overseas factories to produce simulations of designer clothing within a couple of months, the knockoffs can get to stores before the originals do. You might think this development would lead designers to rethink the practice of unveiling their latest creations in early September and delivering them to stores in February, nearly half a year later. Or to consider reducing the huge price gap between their clothing and the stuff that looks just like it. Instead they are whining about the theft of their intellectual property and citing their competitors’ efficiency as yet another reason to establish a copyright in clothing design.

He confronts some of the inherent contradictions in the application of copyright; lots of people argue that the application of copyright to written work, photos, etc., but Jacob correctly turns that argument on its head:

The fact that it is legal, of course, does not necessarily mean that it should be, and the designers are right when they say their creations are in many ways similar to such copyright-protected works as books, music, and movies. But to me this is a reason to question the legal treatment of those works rather than a reason to give clothing designers copyright protection as well.

Jacob makes some other valuable observations on the constitutional grounding of copyright, the objectives and intent of the founding fathers, and the extent to which copyright protection is unnecessary, or even anathema, to achieving those objectives. A worthy read.

One thought on “Extending Copyright to Fashion Designs

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