Friday, August 27, 2010

Should Clothes Be Copyrighted?

Posted By on 08.27.10 at 10:30 AM

A Chanel jacket, one iconic item endlessly copied throughout the years
  • chanel.com
  • A Chanel jacket, one iconic item endlessly copied throughout the years
Copying in fashion is nothing new. But innovations in technology have helped copyists get inexpensive knockoffs of designer pieces in stores a lot faster than ever before. Some designers—including, most notably, Diane von Furstenberg, whose wrap dresses have become a basic wardrobe staple for many women—have called for copyright protection of their designs, arguing that knockoffs hurt their business. But copyright protection, this thoughtful article on DesignObserver.com argues, might end up hurting the industry more than it helps:

Historically, fashion designers have been denied copyright protection because the courts decided long ago that utilitarian articles should not be protected by copyright. Otherwise, a handful of designers would own the seminal building blocks of our clothing. Every time a new blouse would be made, licensing fees would need to be paid to the supposed originator of that particular sleeve or collar.

It's a complex legal argument with good points on both sides. The idea of having to prove that a design is completely original, in this day and age, seems daunting—designers regularly look to the past and the street for inspiration. Those who don't are quite rare. Additionally, the process of creation can be a messy and confusing one that is not easy to trace. On the other hand, anyone who has worked hard to create something unique can sympathize with how it must feel to see someone else profiting off close copies that are a lot cheaper.

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