Copyright and patents in… fashion?

Ezra Klein has a pretty good column on intellectual property in Newsweek today, and it deserves attention.  The most interesting part is that, while it comes to many of the same conclusions we do in the software field, it’s about the fashion industry.

Here is one of my favorite bits:

At a certain point, copyrights [and patents] stop protecting innovation and begin protecting profits. They scare off future inventors who want to take a 60-year-old idea and use it as the foundation to build something new and interesting. That’s the difficulty of copyrights, patents, and other forms of intellectual protection. Too little, and the first innovation won’t happen. Too much, and the second innovation—the one relying on the first—will be stanched.

Stanched is such a good word choice. And:

“Intellectual property is legalized monopoly,” says James Boyle, a professor at Duke Law School. “And like any monopoly, its tendency is to raise prices and diminish availability.”

This, in the same article as one that mentions the Sonny Bono Act.  The direct connection isn’t pointed out, but that’s pretty much what the Sonny Bono Act was: anti-competitive behavior by monopolies via lobbying.

(For those who may be unaware, the Sonny Bono Act was passed in the late 90s to extend the length of copyright to well over a century.  A century.  You can’t technically legally copy and paste this post probably until after 2160 CE.  Crazy.)

On a completely random related note, I wrote about the Sonny Bono Act in a high school composition class 7(?) years ago.  Not only does picking an unusual and interesting topic possibly get you an easier A (do not underestimate the ability of 80 lazy students to all pick the same 6 topics, nor how annoying this is to the grader year after year), but it may come back and be useful later in life when you’re pretending to be a blogger!

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