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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/7052/who-owns-the-copyright-to-cut-up-jeans-or-low-rise-pants/

Who owns the copyright to cut-up jeans or low-rise pants?

August 30, 2007 by

Or better yet, what do the fashion and dining industries have in common?

Neither has traditionally been protected via IP laws.

Yet while conventional wisdom suggests that IP regimes are a necessary condition for both invention and innovation, the fashion and dining industries thrive and expand each year.

At least, that is until the political class has its way.

Recently Senator Schumer of New York has proposed legislation that would “extend copyright protection to the fashion industry.”

And as argued by Kal Raustiala, the unintended consequence of this legislation could ironically stifle and ultimately destroy the “trendiness” that propels the industry.

See more: 1 2 3 4

As a side tangent, the discussion on IP rights of using specific ingredients, clothing materials and designs is reminiscent to the debate on open-source software. There is nothing un-libertarian about trade secrets, as libertarianism is agnostic on these matters. However, libertarianism would object to the use of coercion to ban the sale of reverse-engineered products. After all, who can own the concept of a pepperoni pizza, bell-bottom jeans, or for that matter, a calculator?


Yumi August 30, 2007 at 8:19 am

IP laws for fashion designs exist in Europe. According to the Daily Telegraph:

“The new Community Unregistered Design Right came into force across Europe in 2002, giving designers automatic protection for their unregistered designs for three years.

Previous copyright law only protected designs that could claim “artistic craftsmanship”, which only applied to haute couture frocks or highly crafted pieces”


George Gaskell August 30, 2007 at 8:28 am

Recently Senator Schumer of New York has proposed legislation that would “extend copyright protection to the fashion industry.”

Cue the decline of the fashion industry in 5 .. 4 .. 3 .. 2 …

Jaq Phule August 30, 2007 at 9:26 am

Speaking as one who used to very profitably “import” faux brand-name fashion accessories from China, I can assure you that there are IP issues in fashion. I eventually quit that particular biz, when it was increasingly clear that purses, wallets and the like are considered akin to controlled substances.
Call me a chicken, but it got way beyond my nervousness threshhold.

Manuel Lora August 30, 2007 at 10:08 am

Albert and I wrote an article about fashion IP:


DickF August 30, 2007 at 1:34 pm

IP protection contrary to the common wisdom actually stiffles innovation. The food and fashion business is the best example. Any industry that does not allow government intervention and government monopoly always thrives and overwhelms those with government ties. Consider how quickly one can receive plastic surgery versus government controled life threatening surgery.

The examples of increased innovation due to lack of government intervention but I have never seen an example of where government intervention or monopoly was better than the market.

Alex Peak August 30, 2007 at 5:53 pm

I’m on the fence about IP, but I lean toward believing it a valid theory of property rights, especially when it comes to such things as copyrights on literature.

If I write a book, should I not be able to control where the profits go? After all, I’ve mixed my labour with the paper and ink, have I not? At the risk of counding like an Objectivist, the substance of that book is a product of my mind.

For those that believe that IP is a natural right, it can be argued that the lack of IP for such things as food and fashion constitute an intervention by government. I’m not positive I agree with this arguement, or with IP, but these arguments ought to be considered.

To look at it from the other side, is it practical to enforce IP in all fields? And if it’s not, how can one establish, without being arbitrary, the limits to IP? It seems to be this reason that people tend to jump to the conclusion that there is no natural right to IP, since anything inbetween complete IP and no IP appears arbitrary. But again, this is something worth considering. Can there be a stance between those two above-mentioned which isn’t by its very nature arbitrary?

Currently, it seems there are three approaches to IP, one which is arbitrary and two which are impractical, or relatively impractical.

Hopefully a clear answer will present itself to me one of these days.


Kristian Joensen August 30, 2007 at 8:27 pm

Yes you have mixed your labor with the paper and ink, but if someone using his own pen/pencil/computer and his own paper where to make an exact copy of your Novell, BOTH of these would be statements would be true at the same time:

A)You would NOT have mixed your labor with the ink and paper of the copy.
B)The one making the copy WOULD have mixed his labor with the ink and paper of the copy.

Yet under an IP regime these two facts would(and are) both be true:

A)You WOULD have ownership rights in that copy.
B)The one actually MAKING the copy and doing the mixing of his labor with the copy would NOT have any ownership rights in the copy and would in fact be held to be in violation with your ownership rights.

That seems to be the opposite of the just way of doing think and patently absurd.

Indeed under that scenario even do it was the copier’s mind, body, ink and paper at work a 3rd party got to be the owner.

Like I believe Stephan Kinsella has argued, in that case the author of the novell would then become at least a partial co-owner of the copiers mind, body, ink and paper.

How absurd and unjust.

Reb September 1, 2007 at 11:25 am

This type of issue is cropping up all over the place,one of the most insidious is in agriculture.

Seed companies,like Monsanto,are really pushing this patent on life issue world wide,patenting native varieties and forbidding farmers from saving seed for next season.

Check out the latest article on grain.org to find out more.

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