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Copyright Protection for Clothing Designs Unlikely to Pass in 2013

Posted in Copyrights, SoapBox

–Catlan McCurdy, Attorney

Copycat dress from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (left)
and Alexander McQueen dress (right)

Warner Brothers certainly could have afforded to buy
an authentic Alexander McQueen rather than copying.

As the year draws to an end and newly elected members of Congress celebrate over mimosas this morning, I thought we’d check back in on our old friend, the Innovative Design Protection and Piracy Prevention Act (“IDPPPA”) to see how it has fared. I’m going to make a political prediction of my own and predict that 2013 doesn’t look like it is going to be the year for protecting clothing designs.

Earlier this September, a companion bill, the Innovative Design Protection Act (“IDPA”) was introduced to the Senate by Senator Charles Schumer, a Democrat from New York. Critics of the IDPPPA argue that the bill would increase production costs in the fashion industry, which will result in higher prices for consumers. In what appears to be an attempt to quash some of those fears, the IDPA has a few key differences from the IDPPPA:

  • 21 day written notice is require before an action may be commenced under the IDPA;
  • Internet service providers and search tools are exempt from liability under the IDPA; and
  • Damages under the IDPA are limited to those accrued after the date on which the action for litigation is commenced.

The IDPA was approved by a Senate Committee, but to become law, it still must be approved by the full Senate and House of Representatives. With little more than a lame duck session before the new Congress starts, it does not seem likely that the IDPA will be able to make it through the final gauntlet. The bill’s supporters will have to start all over again in 2014, and maybe the fourth time will be the charm?

Frankly it seems ridiculous that opponents are concerned over rising costs being pushed to consumers. Sure, the consumers of knock off clothing include individual citizens, who, yes, will have to pay more for authentic goods. But the “consumers” catchall also includes production companies like Warner Brothers. The Harry Potter film series is the highest-grossing film series OF ALL TIME (in inflation unadjusted dollars) with $7.7 billion in worldwide receipts. Surely Warner Brothers could have afforded to purchase an authentic gown from Alexander McQueen rather than copying. The dress blunder is just one of many examples, but the bottom line is that originality and creativity cost money. The designers deserve to be compensated for their work, just like musicians and architects.