New York, NY, United States (AHN) – With Forever 21, H&M and other less expensive retailers “copying” (or being “inspired by” at the very least) other well-known and more expensive designers’ clothing and accessories, it’s been discussed whether or not fashion designers need to be protected by copyright laws.
Designers have sued retailers that sell items that look almost identical to the more expensive, real thing. Diane Von Furstenberg filed a copyright infringement suit Forever 21 back in March 2007 because Forever 21’s cheap “Sabrina” dress looked eerily similar to Von Furstenberg’s $325 “Cerisier” dress.
Fashion designers took things up with the government back in July 2006, and with the plethora of copycat designers selling knockoffs and angering luxury designers, a bill to protect fashion designers and copyright their designs seemed to pick up steam. This year, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is back again with another attempt at extending copyright to fashion, and he’s been able to sign up a large number of co-sponsors. In the past, similar proposals haven’t gotten this far, but there may be some momentum behind it this year.
However, is this bill really necessary? This is a question Newsweek is wondering. Ezra Klein, a writer for Newsweek, wrote a column which asks the question of why the U.S. needs this bill.
“But perhaps the strongest argument is that America’s apparel industry doesn’t seem broken–so why try and fix it?” Klein wrote. “‘America is the world fashion leader,’ said Steven Kolb, director of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, the lead trade group in support of the Schumer bill, ‘and yet it is basically the only industrialized country that does not provide protection for fashion design.'”
“Run that by me one more time? We’re the world leader in fashion, so we should change our policy to mimic our lagging competitors?”
While fashion designers argue they need to protect their designs to prevent them from being knocked off, supporters of the bill seem to be confusing what copyright’s purpose is: copyrights should promote progress of, not protect, an industry. Fashion designers feel entitled to extra protection, however, this can harm the public; there should be a high burden of proof to show that any such expansion of copyright law is necessary, and the evidence (as even Kolb implicitly admits) is totally lacking.
Klein quoted James Boyle, professor at Duke Law School, in his column, too: “Intellectual property is legalized monopoly. And like any monopoly, its tendency is to raise prices and diminish availability. We should have a high burden of proof for whether it’s necessary.”