WASHINGTON — The two sides of the fashion industry squared off in Congress on Thursday over the issue of whether fashion designs should be protected by copyright law.
A bill that would put more teeth into copyright protection for fashion designs that is trumpeted by the Council of Fashion Designers of America has been stuck in committee because of industry infighting. On Thursday, the pro-and-con cases were presented before a House committee by Narciso Rodriguez and the owner of a California apparel firm, respectively.
The CFDA is trying to bridge the divide with the rest of the apparel industry and has held discussions with the American Apparel and Footwear Association for over a year, according to the designer and written testimony from Kevin Burke, the association's president and chief executive officer. The AAFA represents most of the industry's major brands and companies.
Rodriguez, who claimed knockoffs of his designs take away millions of dollars a year from his business, told lawmakers he is "hopeful" the two associations will reach an agreement within a month on the language of the bill regarding the scope and risk of litigation.
Rodriguez laid out a case to the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet and Intellectual Property on behalf of the CFDA in support of the Design Piracy Prohibition Act, which has been introduced in both the House and Senate but has not moved out of committee. The subcommittee is expected to wait to see if the CFDA and the AAFA can reach a compromise on the acceptable language in the bill before voting whether to move the legislation.
The bill would amend current law to allow companies and designers to register their fashion designs for three years of copyright protection. Apparel, handbags, footwear, belts and eyeglass frames would be covered. The measure also would establish penalties for designers or companies knocking off designs. The fine would be $250,000, or $5 for each copied item, whichever was more.
"The more acclaimed America's fashion designs become, the more they're copied," said Rodriguez in his testimony, citing a U.S. Chamber of Commerce estimate of $12 billion in lost revenues due to counterfeiting and piracy in the fashion and apparel industry in 2006.Rodriguez said he designs and puts together a 250-piece collection in one year over the course of six to 12 months for the fall and spring runway shows, which cost an average of $800,000 to stage. The fabric for samples costs another $800,000, pattern and design development costs $1.5 million, travel for design and fabric development reaches $350,000 and marketing rings up another $2.5 million.
"There are so many aspects of a fashion business that make it risky in the best of circumstances and the pirates are only making it riskier," he said.
The designer, whose firm sold a 50 percent stake to Liz Claiborne Inc. last year, told lawmakers about his passion and inspiration for design, singling out the dress he designed for Carolyn Bessette when she wed John F. Kennedy Jr. in 1996. Rodriguez later sold 40 of those dresses.
"The pirates sold 7 to 8 million copies," he said. "It was very personal. I've been pirated so much that my brand has been diffused."
Young designers will not survive in the face of knockoffs that dilute the value of the original design, he told lawmakers, urging them to pass the bill.
But the bill's opponents argue that inspiration will be stifled by such legal restrictions, leaving thousands of companies exposed to frivolous lawsuits that could drive them out of business.
Steve Maiman, co-owner of Stony Apparel Corp., a moderate women's and children's apparel manufacturer based in Los Angeles, carried the flag for those in the industry who oppose the bill.
"Extending the copyright laws to the fashion industry is thoroughly a bad idea,' said Maiman. "The bill is misguided and unnecessary, for several reasons."
Maiman told lawmakers the fashion industry has thrived without "help or interference" from this type of copyright law. He argued that it is "impossible to determine the originality of a design because all designs are inspired by existing designs and trends."
Maiman also said the bill would spark a steady stream of lawsuits and expose retailers to liability as well.
"We're in this business to make cute garments at a fair price for the average American, not to sit in depositions in copyright lawsuits, arguing with lawyers over who invented an original style...of a kid's top for $14.99 retail before it goes on sale," Maiman said in his testimony.
EXCLUSIVE: @tomford is opening its first-ever beauty store. The boutique, which opens November 20 in London’s Covent Gardens, was designed with the over-the-top glam Ford is known for. Read the full story on WWD.com, link in bio. #wwdbeauty #wwdnews (📷: Simon Wagner) #TomFordBeauty
New York-based DJ @harleyvnewton threw a party to celebrate the holiday collection of her dress and pajama line @hvn at the Ladurée Beverly Hills. It Girls @katebosworth, @rashidajones and more joined in on the fun, which included cocktails, croque monsieur sandwiches and a photo booth. #wwdfashion (📷: Owen Kolasinski/BFA.com)
For the holidays, @Burberry partnered with 20-year-old artist @blondeymccoy on a series of three outdoor murals in downtown Manhattan. The murals are McCoy’s interpretation of a Christmas eve party, the idea of charity and the spirit of family. His third mural, pictured here, is the most personal. The image depicts McCoy’s grandparents and father in London’s Trafalgar Square in the Seventies. “My work often features lots of sentimental objects.” #wwdeye
For spring 2018, designers applied bold colors and cartoonish motifs on everything from sneakers and belts to key chains. See all the top men’s accessories trends on WWD.com. #wwdtrends (📷: George Chinsee; Prop Styling by @rnasti; Market Editor: @luiscampuzano)
The @dior-sponsored @guggenheim international gala pre-party has a history of drawing cool-girl musical acts to serenade the crowd –– and last night was no exception. @haimtheband performed songs both new and old, and lured a star-studded audience with the likes of Rebecca Hall, Kate Mara, Mamoudou Athie and more. #wwdeye (📷: @lexieblacklock)
In a partnership between the @metopera and the @englishnationalopera, “Marnie” was born. The opera, with costumes sponsored by @mrporterlive, is an adaptation of the 1961 thriller by Winston Graham. Arianne Phillips, who created the costumes, is no rookie: She’s styled Madonna for her tours and created costumes for a myriad of films in the past. Read WWD’s interview with Phillips, where she talks about her inspiration for the opera’s costumes on WWD.com #wwdfashion
@barneysnyc took a different approach to their holiday windows this year. Instead of Christmas decor, Barneys tapped @thehaasbrothers to tell a story of positivity, gratitude and inclusivity via heartwarming silliness and humor. “It’s about kids and it’s about coming together and being family and loving each other,” said Simon Haas. #wwdfashion (📷: @joshuascottphoto)
Beauty influencer @kandeejohnson makes her foray into hair care with a collaboration with @ogx_beauty — making it the first time that OGX has teamed up for a product creation. The collab includes shampoos and conditioners in three scents. At 39 and a mom, Johnson is a different profile than the emerging social media stars, but is considered one of the pioneers of the digital beauty influencer world. Read WWD’s interview with her on wwd.com, including the strangest beauty product she’s ever tried #wwdbeauty