When Copying is Positive

Copyright protection is not for an industry that makes innovation by inspiration, and by sharing intellectual property.

Fashion Industry, Copyrights, fast fashion, counterfeiting

  • Dolce & Gabbana S/S 2012 | Cathedral Notre-Dame de Reims, France.

    The fashion industry is a field of debates, perceptions, struggles, and misinterpretations.

    It has always been a business of luxury, creativity... and a way to establish differences between social classes.

    At the same time, it is considered before US law as an industry that covers basic needs, so, therefore, the protection of copyrights could mean harmful limits to the production of vitally useful garments.

    Since I was very little I thought that clothes go beyond covering basic needs. Our fashion represents us, tells our culture, and writes our history. And what seems to be more important, has substantial power in our moods, and in the confidence with which we project our image, which could be considered our most valuable presentation card.

    The situation that evokes the “fashion as a basic need” law protection, is that is allowing a dangerous industry division: fashion designers and fast fashion.

    Fast fashion, on one side, is the salvation of the middle and lower class who can’t buy designer clothes. On the other side, it is the condemnation of the designers since it steals the intellectual property of the creative heads that originate tendencies and encourage innovation. Also, as important information I need to mention, fast fashion is responsible for labor exploitation of thousands of children and adults; for pollution; for excessive use of water and toxic chemicals, and the increase in large-scale textile waste.

    Fashion Designers Houses, on one side, are creative motors that give shape to cultural imagination and aspirations. On the other, It is inaccessible to the masses.

    The lack of legal protection between the art of fashion has not only allowed an industry so unconscious to be legal and one of the most millionaire forces in the world. A counterfeiting industry has also been taking advantage, which produces millions of dollars at the expense of the intellectual property of those who study and create fashion.

    Even after the lack of legal protection in fashion has provoked unfair human behaviors, the ethical aspects in fashion are hard to establish. Setting a position in favor of the copyright protection of designers requires a deep understanding of the culture within the industry. In the world of fashion, as in art, the culture of sharing and seeking inspiration in the work of those with authority has been what has allowed constant innovation.

    Also, it is very difficult to identify plagiarism when comparing two pieces that are significantly similar but are not the same, which is what happens in the majority of cases.

    When the copycat designers arrive at the fast fashion companies, the first thing they are asking for is to get inspired as much as possible on the catwalks of fashion weeks. Very few times the designs are exact replicas.

    On the other hand, thanks to the lack of strict protection, the marked difference between social classes has diminished, a factor that combats discrimination and segregation.

    The European and Asian continents have copyright protection in fashion designs. Asia more than Europe. Even so, a thesis investigation establishes: “In Europe, the standards are seen as too weak and in Japan the standards are too high. As a result, few European and Japanese designers have registered their designs. Innovation in the European and Japanese fashion markets has not stalled with copyright protections (Elavia, 2014).”

    Throughout history, fashion has been copied, altered, and shared by the designers themselves. The "little black dress" by Chanel, the "new look" by Dior, the "miniskirt" by Mary Quant, the “leather jacket” by Yves Saint Laurent. The examples are infinite. The fashion that transcends time is because it has been a model of inspiration and has been reinvented by other designers.

    The copyright protection in fashion I think it would restrict creativity and innovation mainly among fashion designers. The designs that arrive at the seasonal catwalks should be open to interpretations, adaptations and studies.

    Professor Raustiala, in his book "The Knockoff Economy", argued: “Copying fails to deter innovation in the fashion industry because, counter-intuitively, copying is not very harmful to originators. Indeed, copying may actually promote innovation and benefit originators”