As Kate Middleton walked down the aisle of Westminster Abbey, firms throughout the nation immediately began developing knockoffs of her wedding dress. Within 48 hours one had even debuted a version on “Good Morning America.” None of this activity was illegal. Yet American copyright law is grounded in the belief that we need legal protection to promote creativity. Without it, unrestrained piracy supposedly will rob creators of any ability to profit from their works, destroying the incentive to create. Yet as the fashion industry shows, many creative industries survive and even thrive despite rampant—and legal—copying.
This seminar will explore law’s role in incentivizing and structuring creativity. There are many interesting and unusual examples of creativity without copyright aside from fashion design: cuisine, football plays, magic tricks, fonts, and comedy all feature some degree of innovation without intellectual property. In some of these industries, social norms and other forms of “order without law” substitute for IP rules. But in others, copying becomes part of the creative ecosystem, and may—as in fashion—even lead to more creativity rather than less.
We will explore these fascinating industries and ask a few big questions. How do these varied industries react to copying, and what keeps creativity levels high? What lessons can we learn, if any, for more traditional copyright-dependent industries such as music and film? And what does this all tell us about the limits of the law and the capacity of private actors to self-regulate?