Monday, September 17, 2007

Does copying help the fashion industry?

Update: Rahul's comment that the use of the word 'piracy' for copying music, fashion designs, etc. is inappropriate. I agree, and the title has been changed.

James Surowiecki offers some evidence for 'yes':

... [F]or the industry to keep growing, customers must like this year’s designs, but they must also become dissatisfied with them, so that they’ll buy next year’s. Many other consumer businesses face a similar problem, but fashion—unlike, say, the technology industry—can’t rely on improvements in power and performance to make old products obsolete. Raustiala and Sprigman argue persuasively that, in fashion, it’s copying that serves this function, bringing about what they call “induced obsolescence.” Copying enables designs and styles to move quickly from early adopters to the masses. And since no one cool wants to keep wearing something after everybody else is wearing it, the copying of designs helps fuel the incessant demand for something new.


  1. Rahul Siddharthan said...

    Many object to the word "piracy" relating to copying of music and so on. Though it is illegal, conflating it with a barbaric crime of the high seas makes it seem more important than it is, which is the intention of the music industry. The use of "piracy" for copying fashion designs is then doubly objectionable: copying fashion designs is not illegal.

    Jessica Litman in her book "Digital Copyright" makes this point. She says (mimicking usual arguments) what if fashion designers could have their designs copied by any tailor down the street, or a cordon bleu restaurant could have its menu reproduced cheaply by the local diner? They'd quickly go out of business, according to the content industry. In fact, these things are not copyright protected and these industries are doing very nicely, thank you.