The House Intellectual Property Subcommittee in July held a hearing on a bill (HR 5055) to copyright fashion. At the time, we and University of Va. law professor Chris Sprigman (a fine guest blogger here) argued that such a law would produce a steady stream of lawsuits.
While we all value Chris' sage counsel, we now have that same point coming from someone within the fashion world — Tim Gunn. He is the chair of Fashion Design at the Parsons New School for Design. More importantly, and publicly, he is the fashion mentor on the Bravo cable network's “Project Runway,” a reality show in which designers compete by making clothing to be judged by professional designers and fashion editors.
Gunn was the guest at a Washingtonpost.com online chat this morning (Sept. 25), and had this exchange:
Philadelphia, Pa.: Tim, in light of the multitude of knockoffs available today, do you think that fashion should be copyrighted?
Tim Gunn: This is the quesiton of the century! As of now, clothing cannot be copyrighted. I speculate that we'll see some industry advocating in Congress. But if copyrighting is enacted, then I shudder at the prospect of zillions of cases of litigation!
His exhortation to those contestants who designs he doesn't like is that they have to “make it work.” And for this copyright bill, “making it work” means not opening the industry to waves of lawsuits. So far there's no sign that the Subcommittee is going to proceed with the copyright bill this year, but there's always the threat it come back next year.
You can find one of Chris' posts on fashion here. There's lots more on our site.
The bill, HR 5055, is here.
You can read the testimony of David Wolfe, creative director of the Doneger Group,here.