WASHINGTON — A deal is in the works between two powerful industry groups over Congressional legislation that would provide copyright protection for fashion designs for three years.
The Council of Fashion Designers of America, which has trumpeted the bill, and the American Apparel & Footwear Association, which raised concerns about the scope and risk of litigation for some of the industry's largest vendors, will each vote in the next two weeks on proposed changes to the legislation, which has been stuck in Congressional committee because of industry infighting.
The AAFA's 60-member board has until Friday to vote on the proposed changes to the bill agreed to by both associations' staffs, according to Kevin Burke, president and chief executive officer of the association, which represents most major brands and companies in the industry. Burke said he will sort through the responses and votes from his board next week when the AAFA convenes March 5 for its three-day annual meeting in Tucson, Ariz.
"If we are close, we have a deal," Burke said. "But if not, we will go back to the CFDA to discuss the [unresolved] issues."
The CFDA's 27-member board will vote on March 10 on the staff-level agreement, according to Steven Kolb, executive director of the group, which represents most of Seventh Avenue's leading designers.
Much hangs in the balance for designers, who are seeking copyright protection for their designs, as well as for many apparel vendors and brands, which are concerned such restrictions would stifle their ability to pick up on trends and lead to an escalation in expensive litigation. Finding common ground has been a struggle, but the two associations appear hopeful about approval of the compromise agreement. A third group, the California Fashion Association, which opposes the legislation, has not been involved in the negotiations.
At the center of the debate is the Design Piracy Prohibition Act, which was introduced in the House and Senate last year. As written, the bill would 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, but designs that are already part of the public domain would not. The measure would also establish penalties for designers or companies knocking off designs. The fine would be $250,000, or $5 for each copied item, whichever is greater.
The bill will still face many hurdles in Congress this year even if the associations' boards approve their staffs' proposals. Lawmakers will have to confer on the proposed changes and decide whether to incorporate any of the industry's recommendations into the legislation.
Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R., Va.) who sits on the House committee considering the legislation and cosponsored the bill, said of a committee hearing this month on the bill, "I thought that those who are concerned about fashion design piracy made their case very well."
"We are looking for a good outcome from [the industry] negotiations, which will give us some guidance as to ways we can address some of the concerns that have been raised," said Goodlatte, adding that he believes the "underlying case for doing something about fashion design piracy" is strong and that a consensus would "improve the opportunity for moving legislation forward" this year.
Although the two groups have not released the compromise agreement, they outlined several areas where they are trying to find common ground. Burke said the standard for liability and definition of original design needs to be improved and strengthened. In addition, he said the new legislation should provide "clear and transparent rules," including a "fully searchable electronic database of registered original designs."
Kolb said the CFDA wants a bill "that the entire industry is comfortable with."
"We really appreciate and have taken to heart the concerns or suggestions they had for this bill and we have really integrated into new language," he said.
From the AAFA's view, Burke said, "One thing we don't want is our clothing being designed by lawyers, but we certainly understand the concerns with copyright violations and counterfeiting. The way the bill is currently written, it was our concern that, all along, this would open a Pandora's box for every company that would have to worry that the creativity of their designers would essentially make them a party to or victim of frivolous litigation."
Kolb added: "From our side, it has been a dialogue that has created a tremendous amount of awareness about piracy that may not have existed in our industry two years ago. I think there is a lot of genuine concern from designers and others in the industry and just those voices alone are impactful."
@tradesy is turning the concept of a showroom upside down with its new space in Santa Monica. Here, the company plans to hold events, art exhibits and a showcase rare fashion pieces like this Louis Vuitton boxing set. Get all the details on Tradesy’s first showroom on WWD.com. #wwdnews
Spotted last night at the @erdem x @hm launch event: Kate Bosworth, Rashida Jones, Kirsten Dunst and Selma Blair. The party, which took place in LA, also marked the opening of their pop-up shop. “I was interested in creating a collection that wasn’t in any way disposable. It was about pieces you’d create and keep forever, things that have a permanence to it,” designer Erdem Moralioglu said. #wwdeye (📷: Katie Jones)
Renee Zellweger in yellow in 2001 and again in 2017. Chosen as one of the 12 @pantone Leading Spring Colors (and dubbed “Meadowlark”), it only makes sense that the bright hue stands the test of time and is making a resurgence this season, seen already on stars like @blakelively and @gigihadid. (📷: Donato Sardello & @rexfeatures) #wwdfashion #tbt
Dior’s 70th anniversary celebration continues with a new exhibition at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. “Christian Dior,” which is scheduled to run through March 18, takes a look at the founders tenure from 1947 to 1057 and feature 40 designs. Pictured here is an evening gown from the Ailée, fall 1948-49 haute couture collection. #wwdfashion (📷: Brian Boyle)
As one of the most recognizable models in the world, Christy Turlington Burns has an insider’s view of the fashion industry and the allegations of sexual harassment swirling around it. “I can say that harassment and mistreatment have always been widely known and tolerated in the industry. The industry is surrounded by predators who thrive on the constant rejection and loneliness so many of us have experiences at some point in our careers,” Turlington told WWD, along with her suggestions for how the modeling world should protect younger women and men. Read more on WWD.com. Link in bio. (📷: Tony Palmieri) #wwdnews
@asics America has tapped a new brand ambassador: famed DJ/record producer @steveaoki. This initiative is intended to set the tone for the new brand identity and philosophy and will include partnerships with influencers and in-store and off-line activations that will continue into next year. This is Asics’ most significant marketing effort in two decades, and is expected to attract younger consumers to the brand. #wwdfashion
24-year-old Jean Prounis is redefining the rules of jewelry. Formerly a studio assistant to Jemima Kirke and a design apprentice at Ghuran, she focuses on handcrafted subtleties and ancient goldsmithing techniques. “There was a really sterile feel in the environment and I wanted to have jewelry with character that shapes how you wear it everyday,” Prounis said. Each piece is hand made in New York, either by Prounis or three other jewelers in the district. #wwdfashion
“These collections continue to build on that vision, empowering differently abled adults to express themselves through fashion,” said @tommyhilfiger of his line of adaptive apparel, which launches today. The line consists of 37 men’s and 34 women’s styles based upon the pieces from the spring Tommy Hilfiger sportswear collection. #wwdnews