Sunday, September 23, 2007

Awesome Article: The Piracy Paradox

It seems that the opinion of many fashion bloggers is that knockoffs are evil, horrible, and companies that produce them should go to hell (note: I'm not talking about actual counterfeits like fake designer bags, but about items that resemble one another, like Forever 21 dress that is similar to a DVF one, but is not pretending to actually be a Diane Von Furstenberg dress. No one with an eye for style is ever going to mistake a Forever 21 polyester sack for a DVF silk jersey frock). This excellent article from by James Surowiecki in the New Yorker discusses how knockoffs are actually a positive thing for the fashion industry.

And I quote:

"Designers’ frustration at seeing their ideas mimicked is understandable. But this is a classic case where the cure may be worse than the disease. There’s little evidence that knockoffs are damaging the business. Fashion sales have remained more than healthy—estimates value the global luxury-fashion sector at a hundred and thirty billion dollars— and the high-end firms that so often see their designs copied have become stronger. More striking, a recent paper by the law professors Kal Raustiala and Christopher Sprigman suggests that weak intellectual-property rules, far from hurting the fashion industry, have instead been integral to its success. The professors call this effect “the piracy paradox.”"

Think of how tech companies, among others, used planned obsolescence to keep consumers purchasing and upgrading. The ever-so-fickle fashion industry and the constant appearance of new trends and "it" items isn't that different. Also, the speed at which knockoffs can be produced is actually a good thing - it drives innovation and competition.

More evidence that knockoffs are actually good?

"If copying were putting a serious dent in designers’ profits, it might slow the pace of innovation, since designers would have less incentive to produce good work. But while knockoffs undoubtedly do steal some sales from originals, they are, for the most part, targeted at an entirely different market segment—people who appreciate high style but can’t afford high prices. That limits the damage knockoffs do, as does the fact that fashion is one of the few industries in the world where people are still willing to pay a considerable premium to own original brands instead of imitations. (That’s why counterfeits, which pretend to be original products, are illegal.) The best evidence of this is the fact that luxury-goods makers, far from cutting their prices in response to the knockoff boom, have instead been able to raise prices consistently."

For more, go read the article.

1 comment:

Julie said...

I've often thought about this, about how the idea that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. It's nice to see some legal eagles are making the same case now.