Copying after a fashion

Came across a TEDxUSC (University of Southern California) talk by Johanna Blakely (link). She discusses the differences in approach between the fashion industry, where there is very little intellectual property protection, no copyright protection, no patent protection and only trademark protection (the reason for logo chic).

She focuses on the statement often used by the music and video industry to justify copyright -

Without ownership there is no incentive to innovate

One has to only look at Lady Gaga’s latest outfit to see the absurdity of that statement. lady-gaga-queen Fashion designers can sample and remix to their hearts content without any fear that they are impinging on someone else’s copyrighted work. This freedom of action has led to a ‘culture of copying’ a.k.a. a trend and fuelled the rise and success of the fashion industry.

But this effect does not only apply to fashion. Jokes and recipes can not be copyrighted (good news to all those e-mail forwarders amongst us). For comedians, the result has been the rise of a new style of comic, when everyone can use (and reuse) the same one-liners, comedians with personas (Seinfeld for example) become the new norm.

The kicker in the talk is when she compares the revenue of low IP industries (food, automobiles, fashion, furniture) with that of high IP industries (film, books, music).

Blakely TEDxUSC Gross sales

Makes you think, doesn’t it?

A copy of her charts (with some awesome fashion statements) can be found at the following link.

Common Sense and Copyright (300 years and counting)

Last week’s Economist had a leader titled “Copyright and wrong” inspired by the signing of the three hundredth anniversary of the original act.  The leader discussed how the the concept of copyright has changed from its original concept of balancing  “incentive to create” with “society’s free access to knowledge and art”. It did this by protecting books from privacy (14 years plus another 14 years if the author was still alive).no to 95

As the Economist so eloquently states,  with the US now granting copyright holders 95 years of protection and other countries enacting similar legislation, it is time to restore the balance.

When you see a term of 95 years, it is clear that the benefit has very little to do with providing incentive to author’s to create works but much to do with heirs and companies created to monetarily exploit the works under the protection of very long copyright.

Don’t get me wrong, I am all for allowing an author to derive benefit by  controlling their work’s dissemination (and/or derivative works) during their lifetime or for even 5 years beyond.  I just think that allowing that protection to pass to heirs and/or corporations for such an inordinately long time is wrong. Accidents of happenstance that could benefit society and not the lucky few. Culture and knowledge should not be restricted.

The Economist suggests a return to 28 years. They are right on.

DRM – a very busy last few days

Digital Rights Management (DRM) has been very much in the news these past few days – from the Queen’s iPod and whether it violated copyright law, and Apple rolling out their no-DRM variable pricing. I am not sure that no-DRM and variable pricing should be linked together although the record companies would like everyone to readily accept no-DRM from Apple as meaning some songs cost more.

With regards to Apple’s, Amazon’s etc. new pricing, I wonder if it will work.From a consumer’s point of view – the cost of a song is all over the place. Taking Leonard Cohen’s and Lady GaGa’s new CDs as an example. Continue reading