Fashion Copyrights: Still a Terrible Idea

When I wrote about intellectual property law ruining Star Trek’s utopian scenario of plenty some people responded by noting that recipes aren’t copyrightable and patent terms expire. All true, but the point is that the entire framework of intellectual property is a social creation that’s changed over time and can change again anytime politically powerful actors want to create some new rents for themselves. For example, “[n]ow five years into a campaign by the Council of Fashion Designers of America to enact some sort of protection for original designs, the proponents of such legislation say they have their best chance yet at seeing a bill become law.”

This was a terrible idea when I first heard of it, and it remains a terrible idea today. The issue, as ever with Americans run-amok IP politics, is that nobody can point to the problem here. The article is full of examples of alleged copying which provide the motive for people to want to make said copying illegal. But the question, again, isn’t whether a lack of prohibitions on copying will allow for copying. The question is what’s the problem? If the problem is that there’s no innovation in fashion design, then perhaps time-limited monopoly grants to fashion designers is the answer. But is that a problem? Have high-end fashion houses stopped doing new lines? Do people just not bother to buy new clothes anymore? I’ve never heard anything like that just as PROTECT IP proponents can’t point to any national crisis whereby nobody’s recording songs or TV shows.