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March 30, 2006

Goodlatte's war on style

Rep. Bob Goodlatte, a Virginia Republican may sponsor legislation to ban style as we know it.

You see, Goodlatte wants to outlaw what he calls "fashion piracy":

Designers like Diane Von Furstenberg, Narciso Rodriguez and Zac Posen have been journeying there to lobby for copyright protections like those governing books, music and other creative arts. Mr. Posen was in Washington on Tuesday with Steven Kolb, the executive director of the council, who said a bill could be introduced in Congress as early as today by Representative Bob Goodlatte, a Virginia Republican.

Mr. Rodriguez designed the white slip wedding gown worn by Caroline Bessette Kennedy in 1996, a style that inspired innumerable brides to don copies, and Ms. Von Furstenberg's signature wrap dresses have been copied so many times that she may no longer wish to be associated with them. They are asking lawmakers to support a proposed fashion design anti-piracy act.

If passed, it could change the retail landscape in ways merchants and designers are only beginning to absorb. Major department stores with private labels, which often include close copies of designer looks, are divided on the proposed law because they also do business with the offended designers.


Note that we're not talking about the fake Louis Vuitton bags that you find on Canal Street in Manhattan. Those are already illegal.

Goodlatte is trying to prevent designers from The Gap from spotting argyle socks on the runway and coming out with argyles of their own. So-called fashion piracy is just fashion: Designers set the trends, and mass marketers adapt them.


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» Goodlatte in Fashion from The Stakeholder
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Of all the trends in economics that I watch, the one that concerns me most is intellectual property law. What passes for intellectual property these days is an attempt to fence off all of the commons as private property, and... [Read More]

» The Breathtaking Madness of Rep. Bob Goodlatte from The Agonist
Of all the trends in economics that I watch, the one that concerns me most is intellectual property law. What passes for intellectual property these days is an attempt to fence off all of the commons as private property, and then charge for it. It inclu [Read More]


How could you possibly set rational guidelines that a judge or jury could use to determine infringement? Isn't it about the most completely subjective thing you could ask for an opinion on? These legislators who enable corporate protectionism must be stopped before all intellectual property laws become completely Disneyfied.

You'd be surprised, Mike. My father's firm does copyright work for Payless Shoes. He doesn't work on that account anymore (which he is very happy about), but he described the work to me as follows. They set the name brand shoe and the Payless shoe side by side, and they compare them and decide whether the Payless shoe has been altered enough from the original to fit within the bounds of copyright law. That's right, it's lawyers who decide this stuff, just using their well-trained(?) fashion sense. (If you knew my dad, that last sentiment would be hilarious.)

I love Narciso Rodriguez, but even if no one else is allowed to copy his designs I'm still not going to spend $1000+ for a simple dress with his name on it. I assume what this is really about is getting paid a "ransom" so to speak when someone "copies" your design. This is really, really silly.

At long last I will be justly compensated for my DISCO SUCKS! shirt design.

This is the greatest thing that could possiby happen to me.


Any Given Girlfriend: Why can't you dress better? You're not in highschool anymore, jeans and tshirt won't cut it.

Me: This is what I like. Who are you to judge me? Fuck off, you elitist hipster wannabe.

And then they break up with me.

After -

AGG: Why can't you dress better? You're not in highschool anymore, jeans and tshirt won't cut it.

Me: Because it's illegal! Do you want me to go to jail?! You don't really love me!

And then they break up with me.

I've been wondering how we could get the copyright system as hopelessly messed up as the patent system. I'm glad to see someone is addressing this important issue. Kudos Rep. Goodlatte! Although I can't help but wonder if he's trying to change copyright law as part of a long-term plan to file a trumped-up suit against Starbucks.

1. The first thing I get when I click that link is a full-page H&M ad with a girl touching her crotch. Who ever said that targeted advertising doesn't work?

2. The guy is really called Goodlatte?

Umm... We're supposed to be for "the people," and not the big corporations, I thought?
So why is it that we automatically think that allowing designers of anything to protect their intellectual property from ripoff is a Bad Thing?
Why shouldn't someone who comes up with a new style be able to get proper compensation for the fruits of their creativity, and protect it from exploitation by other, larger corporations with deeper pockets to pay for lawyers?
And if it is some big corporation that comes up with a given look, why should they not be permitted to have the sole rights to that? I don't see anyone holding guns to fashion-forward purchasers' heads, forcing them to buy any given look.
It's not so clear to me that this is an obvious call here.
Though at least you may be pleased to hear that I see the same "everything should be free" rhetoric at Free Republic, when the issue of copyright protection shows up there. I guess both the left and the right can agree that "I want what I want and should not have to pay for its creation" is a proper market ethic. Maybe I've been misunderstanding what the term "free market" means all these years....

I don't think all copyright is a bad thing. Certain aspects of design are already protected--e.g. the stripes on Adidas tracksuit or the Louis Vuitton "LV" print.

However, the big chains don't make line for line copies of runway outfits. They identify trends and adapt them for the mass market. You can't copyright the idea of blue suede shoes or pastel argyle socks or mid-length skirts with pleats.

You know, a while back, people used to think you needed to work to get paid. Actors would act, musicians would play music and storytellers.... well...all would get up in front of people and do their thing and people would pay them for it. If they were very good and/or very lucky someone with money would sponsor their art. Most needed to do other work to survive.

Then people got smarter, or rather we discovered a new technology, first it was the printing press, then audio/visual recording. The result of these fabulous advances in technology was that actors, musicians and storytellers no longer needed to work for a living, like everyone else. They could make a recording and sell that.

Still, making a recording wasn't easy, it involved expensive machines, highly trained people to run the machines, factories with workers to manufacture the recordings, transport systems for distribution and advertising campaigns for letting customers know about the recordings. Recording compnanies made lots of money, and a very select group of artists got very wealthy in the process.

It was an expensive time consuming process. Some artists were rewarded handsomely though to produce more recordings. Most needed to do other work to survive.

Then people got smarter, or rather we discovered a new technology, which made recording words/audio/video something most everyone could do on a machine most people could afford and indeed had anyway; which made distribution fast and easy on networks most people could afford and indeed had anyway; which made advertising simple on webpages most any chimp could create themslves without much bother.

By this time however, actors, musicians and storytellers were used to the idea that they should get rich simply 'recording' their art... instead of actually performing it. It was all very sad, especially considering, most needed to do other work to survive.

In the end, artists didn't stop being artists, the world didn't come to a halt, but some people made less money off art and some had to start working like they did before technology changed the first time. It was all very tragic and comic...

I'm filing this under "no conceivable reasonable policy rationale," and I pride myself on not being a knee-jerk anti-IP zealot. Is there any reasonable argument that we're insufficiently incentivizing haute couture? That there'd be a large social benefit from making it more lucrative to produce? No? Then there's no reason for this bill.

Joe, when was this time when musicians stopped performing live and just released records?

Maybe it was around when writing and recording music somehow stopped qualifying as "work?"

I'm more than happy to pay a musician for their work by paying for their stuff -- via CD, paid download, what you will.

I'm more than happy to pay an author for their writing or an actor for their craft.

But I, like Barbara, will not be wantonly bollocksed into paying 1,900 bucks for a badly made chiffon garment that's been made by underpaid teenagers in China, all because it's been produced under the auspices of a factory that paid a licensing fee to Narciso Rodriguez. Or DVF. Or fill in the blank.

I love clothes: I've been buying high-end suits and such second-hand for years (grad school = poverty) and the manufacturing base for the designer bridge lines and now even the main lines have slowly moved from France or the USA or Italy to China and Taiwan and Madagascar. Expensive ready to wear used to be better made than the knockoffs, and so it made sense to pay more money for it: now, it's largely the same, and I think that's why the companies behind the designers want to force people to pay their stupid prices.

I'm sorry: if they want women to pay the premium, MAKE THE FREAKIN' CLOTHES WORTH IT.

Fortunately, this will come to the same end as all sumputary laws: it'll fail in practice, even if passes into law.

Well, if we're going to have fashion police...

a lot of those "designers" are gonna end up in jail, I think.

Going on the road... is about 'promoting an album' or band. Strangely, thats not where they make their money. Its mostly just advertising. Bands can go into large amounts of debt on a 'tour', hoping to recoup it in recording sales.

Otherwise coverbands would be sued left, right, and center.

But the 'work' is really in the performance, the act of creating, not in the mp3 file. The mp3 file is just a 'record' of work done, in the past. Artists don't have to perform every time an mp3 is played. Yet most other people have to actually 'work' ie perform their job, to get paid. Is playing an mp3 file work?

For a very long time we have paid big for 'recordings', mainly because the recording process itself was so very 'work' intensive. Now, that is no longer the case. All things become cheaper when technology makes them easier to make. But the recording industry doesn't want to lose their money making machine. So they try and sabotage technology with 'copy protection'. Not that they have been very successful.

Live shows are great, performing them is hard work, if I implied something different that was not my intent. In fact, that was my point, that IS what people should be compensated for, not for something they did 6 months ago, which cost them very little to make and nothing to distribute. Working for 6 months is not the same as having a fulltime permanent job. Sorry, it ain't.

Not going to get much sympathy from me for recording industry millionaires or millionaire-wannabes. I'm happy to pay for a live show or a 'well produced' original vinyl, or CD or DVD. The latter has real worth, just not as much as it used to. Boohoo.

You can't copyright the idea of blue suede shoes or pastel argyle socks or mid-length skirts with pleats.

You seem to have forgotten to put a yet at the end of that:)

You have it backwards. Recording sales were not that profitable for musicians. The profits historically went to the record companies. Musicians made money from touring. Records were essentially advertising for the band, so people would go to concerts. They were also proof that the band would be able to fill a certain size hall. This is why it is record companies who overwhelmingly opposed Napster, not musicians. There were exceptions of course. The most successful bands made loads of money selling records, but it was not the norm.

You are also missing a vital aspect of the effects of recording music. It makes fewer musicians necessary. Before, an aspiring musician was only in competion with other local musicians. Those musicians were limited in their output. They could only work so many hours. After recording became common, a musician was put into competion with all musicians. Competition became dramatically fiercer. The risk of being a complete failure increased many fold. Implicitly, the capabilities of the successful musician are dramatically better now. It is only reasonable that the reward also be significantly more.


What you are saying is misleading. I am comparing 'touring' profits directly with recording; merchandizing/sponsorship helps making touring more profitable, but you don't generally make a lot of money there unless you have a label or existing, large following. In and of itself its a highcost venture that is difficult to maintain long term, musicians burn out on the road.

Its a complicated business, no doubt, but I would say the one's who profit most from 'recording' are not the talented artists, rather its the execs and the overproduced artists. Pop vs good music. Studios can make anyone sound good. THey sell a package, not talent, a la Britney, boybands.. etc.

The fashion industry, humorously, has bought into the recording industry propaganda and now wants its cut. Once again its only those with money to spend on top lawyers who will benefit, rarely that is the 'artist'.
"The top 10% of artists make money selling records. The rest go on tour," says Scott Welch, who manages singers Alanis Morissette and LeAnn Rimes."

"But a top concert draw can take home 35% of the night's gate and up to 50% of the dollar flow from merchandise sold at the show. "
"While touring is a great way for bands to raise their profile, make fans and generate press, it is very rarely a big money maker in its own right. For the most part, only the most successful smaller scale indie acts and the huge major label acts make money on tour."

Great. Is Vivian Westwood planning to reimburse the heirs of whoever invented the bustle? Is Yves St Laurent paying royalties to the Lorillards, or maybe starting a fund for Russian peasants? Those ridiculous falling-down-loose pants that seem to finally be going out of vogue for young men--is there some reparation in the works to the prisoners who invented the style?

These businesses are in no position to complain that their inspirations were ripped off by other people.

For the record, Bob Goodlatte is my congressman (no, I'm not happy about that), and I want to correct some misunderstanding about how his name is pronounced.

It is not, as you might think, 'Good Latte.' It is actually pronounced 'Good lat' ('lat' rhymes with 'bat').

But that doesn't take away from the fact that it's a bad bill and he has a lot of other things to do, like explain to the voters why he voted for NAFTA and most favored nation trading status for China even though more than 20 factories have closed in his district in the last 10 years.

But no, he's going to protect fashion design instead ...

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