Fashion is danger

March 2, 2011 at 3:06 pm 2 comments

| Gabriel |

Dear Senator Feinstein,

I am writing to you both as a constituent and as an expert on creative industries. I want to thank you for your opposition to the IDPPPA (S. 3728) bill that would extend formal (and actionable) intellectual property rights to the fashion industry.

As you know, the Constitution authorizes Congress “to promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries.” That is to say, intellectual property rights are meant to correct a market failure of insufficient creativity. The idea that an industry that releases hundreds of creative designs every spring and fall has a shortage of creativity is frankly absurd.

Not only is it implausible to imagine that we would see more fashion in a world with the IDPPPA but to the contrary we should see less. Fashion is currently the only creative realm where one can create freely without worrying about concepts like infringement, clearance, or licensing. IDPPPA would end this and create a world where (much like biochemists or musicians) fashion designers would spend less of their time at the drafting table and more of their time with lawyers. This would both imply a deadweight loss and increase barriers to entry. One need only look at the decline in creativity in hip hop music following Grand Upright and Bridgeport to see how the extension of IP rights to fashion would create gridlock effects that would completely swamp whatever marginal incentive effects IP would provide.

Please have your staff contact me if I can be of any assistance on this issue.

Gabriel Rossman
Assistant Professor
Sociology, UCLA

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2 Comments

  • 1. joshmccabe  |  March 14, 2011 at 10:53 am

    Hear, hear!

    Who are the groups behind the push to expand IP into fashion?

    • 2. gabrielrossman  |  March 14, 2011 at 1:08 pm

      the fashion designer’s trade group is behind it. i’m not completely sure why, but my hunch is that it’s a mix of:

      a) a gut feeling of moral indignation against knock-offs and/or RIAA style logic of thinking that each knock-off equals a foregone sale at retail price
      b) an attempt by elite designers to create barriers to entry for second-tier designers.

      i don’t want to sneeze at moral indignation, but i also recognize that even when sincerely felt it is often an expression of underlying interest, as in “b.” note that Schumer (NY) is behind the bill whereas Feinstein (CA) is against it. it’s not as if Feinstein is an IP minimalist out of principle, if anything she’s generally in favor of IP, she initially supported IDPPPA and she was a co-sponsor of the Copyright Term Extension Act. rather in both IDPPPA and CTEA she is pursuing the interests of our state. California has a lot of incumbent copyright holders so CTEA is good for CA. California has more down-market fashion designers (who launched a successful letter-writing campaign to flip Feinstein) so IDPPPA is bad for CA. Conversely, top-tier designers are concentrated in NY so Schumer is for IDPPPA. If you look at Schumer’s press releases on this there is a lot more about NY jobs than there is about promoting the useful arts and sciences. Ironically, my prediction is that this will actually cost NY jobs by creating barriers to entry for small designers and reducing the incentives of top-tier to constantly innovate so as to stay ahead of the Simmelian cycle. It will on the other hand increase rents to top-tier NY design houses.


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