I'm Just a Bill
For those who have asked, here's the text of the Design Piracy Prohibition Act, which Rep. Bob Goodlatte introduced in Congress last week. The gist? Fashion designs would receive 3 years of protection under the Copyright Act, provided they were registered within 3 months of being made public, after which they would enter the public domain.
What's all of the business about "vessel hulls"? In 1989, the Supreme Court struck down a Florida state law protecting boat hull designs on the grounds that it was preempted by federal law. The boat design armada invaded Congress, claiming that without protection, there would be hull to pay -- and in 1998, they received a 10-year term of protection. H.R. 5055 would amend the Copyright Act to strengthen protection for vessel hulls and add fashion designs. (Sounds like an inspiration for a new collection -- navy and white nautical stripes, espadrilles, red tape....)
While most IP law paints with broad brush strokes, an industry-by-industry approach to design protection may strike the right balance between creativity and copying. (See e.g. Dan Burk & Mark Lemley on how patent law has developed de facto distinctions among areas of technology.) The standard copyright term is now life of the author plus 70 years -- but who wears century-old fashion? Even I clean out my closet more often than that.