Several months after co-authoring a Stanford Law Review article advocating copyright protection for fashion designers, Harvard Law professor Julie Suk is now working on a bill with US Senator Charles Schumer of New York that would grant copyright protection to fashion designers. Currently, copyright protection does not extend to the fashion industry. As such, it is common to see cheaper “knock-offs” of a designer’s work shortly after the work comes to the market. (http://fashionista.com/shopping/adventures-in-copyright/ ).
The new law seeks to extend similar protection afforded those in the music, film and print industries to designers. Those supporting the bill say that allowing a company to wholeheartedly copy another’s design is simply unfair, as is granting protection to other creative industries but none to the fashion industry.
While few argue that designers are any less creative than musicians or filmmakers, some feel that such protection is at best unnecessary in the fashion industry, and at worst a way for larger players to stifle creative innovation by asserting monopolies over designs. Those who find such a law unnecessary, argue that the fashion industry functions well without copyright protection by pointing to studies that suggest that consumers who can afford to purchase more expensive original goods do so, even where less expensive copies exist. Further, the prime reason cited for granting copyright protection is to promote creativity. Opponents of the bill point out that the lack of copyright protection has not slowed innovation or prevented designers from creating and releasing new works into the market.
Similar bills were unsuccessfully introduced to Congress in each of the last three years. While this bill’s prospect for success is unclear, the cause appears to be gaining momentum with each successive year. In general, creative industries have been successful when it comes to lobbying efforts designed to protect their livelihood.