Copyright 2003 The Christian Science Publishing Society
Christian Science Monitor (Boston, MA)
September 9, 2003, Tuesday
Control of creativity? Fashion's secret
By David Bollier and Laurie Racine
Film and music industries might heed the wisdom
Why do fashion, film, and music - the sultans of cool in our culture, the shapers of our
consciousness - take such radically different approaches to the control of creativity?
The music and film industries continue to battle over the need to expand copyright
protection, and to limit sharing and reuse of prior work. The fashion industry, driven by
similar market interests, employs a modus operandi that accepts rather than rejects
derivation and appropriation as creative tools.
The contrast is particularly fascinating, given the dependence of each of these industries
on our shared cultural heritage, which we call the "commons." The music and film
industries' resources are being sapped in ongoing battles about the scope of legal
protection that their CDs and DVDs should enjoy and whether prior works may be freely
reused. These industries are unusually possessive: Their attorneys have gone after
consumers who played DVDs on non-Windows software ("piracy"), Girl Scouts who
sang copyrighted songs around the campfire ("no performance license"), and kids who set
up their own Harry Potter fan websites ("trademark violation").
By contrast, the fashion industry long has accepted that creativity is too large and fugitive
an essence to be owned outright as property. Fashion is a massive industry that thrives in
a competitive global environment despite minimal legal protections for its creative
design. While many people dismiss fashion as trivial and ephemeral, its economic
importance and cultural influence are enormous. US apparel sales alone were $ 180
billion a few years ago, supporting an estimated 80,000 garment factories, and fashion is
a major force in music, entertainment, and other creative sectors.
It is precisely because fashion