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."
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