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February 22, 2009

Laughter Makes Wrinkles, But Burns Calories

The fashion world is notoriously difficult to parody -- just ask Robert Altman.  Every now and then, however, someone makes the stylish set burst its seams laughing.  Check out WWWD, the spot-on spoof of WWD (with New York Magazine-style party pics), available for download here. With headlines like "Shoes are Back!" and "This Just In:  Alexander McQueen/Bjork collaboration for H&M suspected in Dutch salmonella outbreak," it's the perfect chaser for this year's high-anxiety New York Fashion Week.

The best part?  One of its "Fashion Scraps" even pays tribute to the counterfeit trade:

 

Actually, that might not be a bad marketing stunt for Escada -- although the rents on those Canal Street cubbyholes are more than you'd think.  At least if the behind-the-wall secret closets are included.  

January 29, 2009

Or was that schadenfreude chic?

This week FT columnist Robert Shrimsley paints a prose portrait of the financial district's newfound enthusiasm for shabby chic, concluding with this memorable image:

Vanity’s Fair’s renowned photographer Annie Leibovitz will organise a group photo of the Wall Street giants all sporting knock-off Rolex watches and wearing their favourite Wal-Mart suits. 

John Bunyan and William Thackeray are no doubt looking down and toasting the idea at this very moment.  

P.S. What is it about fallen idols and fake Rolexes?

October 02, 2008

Parallel Lines

If adidas were a gambler, the federal district court in Portland would be its favorite slot machine.  After winning a USD $305 million award against Payless for infringement of the famous three-stripe trademark back in May, adidas carried on with a lawsuit against Wal-Mart.  The parties settled in late August, and now WWD's Matthew Lynch reports that adidas is back again, this time with another chapter in its long-running battle against Target

While adidas' complaint against Target is not yet publicly available, several of the athletic shoes on the chain's website incorporate parallel stripes into the designs.

 Target's bold stripes

 _________________________________________________________________

Meanwhile, Asics has claimed that its curved and criss-crossed stripes have been copied on athletic shoes from Dolce & Gabbana's D&G label.  Perhaps Asics should think about raising its prices to match?

 Asics Revolve USD $64 (left) and D&G $219

 _________________________________________________________________

And while all these lines converge in court, freelance journalist Kate Hahn has actually succeeded in creating a successful parody of the problem.  As anyone who has ever seen Robert Altman's film Prêt-à-Porter can attest, it is notoriously difficult to make fun of fashion.  The reality is already so far out there that attempts at humor tend to fall flat. 

Not so with Kate's Forgotten Fashion: An Illustrated Faux History of Outrageous Trends and Their Untimely DemiseAmong her pseudo-historical vignettes is the rise and fall of the "Adididas" brand, a counterfeit label of such extremely unpredictable -- but uniformly poor -- quality that it is said to have inspired destruction competitions among student backpackers.  You won't want to miss this tale of peeling stripes and exploding shoes, or the irony of the fakes' fall from favor once their quality improved and they actually began to resemble the real thing. 

 Illustration by Amelia Haviland

Kudos to Kate for creating, along with Andrae Gonzalo and other illustrious illustrators, a series of amusing stories that will smooth the frown lines of even the most imperious fashionista.  It's like Botox in book form -- only better. 

May 09, 2008

Bringing Home the Birkin

Michael Tonello is the Crocodile Dundee of the luxury set, skilled in clever means of capturing elusive prey.  When Michael bags his beast, however, it's already been transformed into that most expensive and coveted of handbags:  the Hermes Birkin.  (Genuflect here.) 

Michael's breezy travelogue, Bringing Home the Birkin, is a perfect beach read -- at least if by "beach" you mean the Hamptons, St. Barth's, Ibiza, or similar.  His tale begins in absolute innocence ("What's a Birkin?") and follows the author as he perfects a fool-proof method for not only beating the allegedly "closed" 2-year waiting list, but eventually procuring enough of the high-end croc Birkins to become one of the world's largest resellers (along with his eventual collaborator, Createurs de Luxe).  Of course, every great hunter must someday meet his match, but Michael wouldn't be sharing his secret formula if he were still in the game.  One can't help but wonder, though, if he still bags a Birkin every now and then, just to keep a hand in. 

Throughout his adventures, Michael gleefully outsmarts salespeople and competitors alike, but he's adamant about one thing:  no fakes.  In his words:

Ever since my mother made me return a stolen half-eaten Heath bar to the supermarket cashier (at the ever-so-impressionable age of four), the idea of stealing anything was psychologically insurmountable.  Well, as complexes go, that one has served me well.  It went right along with the idea of selling anything inauthentic -- that would be the same as theft to me.  No knocking over and no knockoffs, and that's final.

Hermes may or may not appreciate the narrative or the closeup of an orange croc Birkin decorating the cover of the book under the half dust jacket -- the company has a trademark on that belted flap, after all -- but it can't object to the author's respect for genuine goods. 

Can't afford to drop thousands or even tens of thousands on a real Hermes bag?  Head over to the company's website, which offers the opportunity to download, print, color, cut, fold, and glue a custom Kelly.  There are worse ways to amuse a junior fashionista-in-training -- or while away a Friday afternoon at your desk. 

As for me, well, some of you know how I feel about orange.  Instead, I'll be daydreaming of a black matte croc 35cm with palladium hardware...in my next life.

April 15, 2008

America's Favorite Oxymoron

Educational TV, of course -- although Counterfeit Chic is a close second!

Either one will offer an excuse to settle in on the sofa tomorrow evening and tune in to Illicit: The Dark Trade, a National Geographic documentary on counterfeiting based on the book by Foreign Policy Editor-in-Chief Moises Naim.  Check local listings for PBS channel and time. 

Judging from the preview clip -- and its stylized voiceover (where exactly do they find these guys?  does the script ever make them giggle at inappropriate moments?) -- high drama is in store. 

March 07, 2008

Welcome Village Voice readers!

Lynn YaegerIt's not in Counterfeit Chic's nature to agree to disagree.  Being punished for "talking back" was a characteristic feature of my otherwise bookish and unrebellious childhood -- and perhaps the germ of my parents' impression that I'd be a good candidate for the lawyer in the family. 

When it comes to someone as intelligent, personable, and dedicated to fashion as Village Voice columnist Lynn Yaeger, however, I may have to make a rare exception.  And I certainly have to send you over to Lynn's most recent piece, for which she and I had a conversation about Oscar knockoffs. 

I still find it a bit odd that someone who's cultivated such an iconic personal image as Lynn -- love, love the Goyard tote customized with her portrait  -- wouldn't oppose fakes.  I'm also surprised that, as the fashion oracle of such  a celebrated alternative, downtown media outlet, she'd endorse derivative mass production.  I'd rather she inspired her readers to develop their own creativity, whatever the mainstream commercial trends might be. 

With so many aspiring young designers watching Project Runway and taking fashion seriously as a creative medium, why settle for looking like a bad copy of an overstyled celebrity on prom night?  Get creative, ladies!  (As I may have mentioned to Lynn, John Hughes' tooth-achingly sweet 1986 movie, Pretty in Pink, in which the impecunious Molly Ringwald character is forced to make her own prom dress but gets the guy anyway, should be required watching for the teen fashionista.) 

Lynn and I do agree on one thing, though:  She'd look amazing in Tilda Swinton's flowing Lanvin on the way to the podium to accept a Pulitzer. 

Thanks, Lynn!

December 02, 2007

Style and Il Sistema: Roberto Saviano's Gomorrah

Philosopher-journalist Roberto Saviano doesn't speculate about the relationship between high fashion and organized crime.  He doesn't have to.  He's seen the connection up close -- and even braved the icy waters off the Port of Naples at dawn to help unload goods that would never pass through customs.

In the Italian bestseller Gomorrah, recently made available in English translation, Saviano offers an exposé of the Neapolitan Camorra so damning that he now lives under constant police protection.  It turns out that while the more famous Sicilian Mafia was drawing attention with bombings aimed at law enforcement, the Camorra -- "il Sistema" to those in the know -- was amassing a profitable portfolio of drugs, toxic waste disposal, and, yes, fashion.  Real and fake.

The shady businessmen of Saviano's story have brokered production of legitimate -- albeit untaxed -- garments for some of the most exclusive "made in Italy" labels.  They have also developed a global trade in counterfeits turned out by the very same skilled hands.  In his words:

Not only is the workmanship perfect, but the materials are exactly the same, either bought directly on the Chinese market or sent by the designer labels to the underground factories participating in the auctions.  Which means that the clothes made by the clans aren't the typical counterfeit goods, cheap imitations, or copies passed off as the real thing, but rather a sort of false-true.  All that's missing is the final step:  the brand name, the official authorization of the motherhouse.  But the clans usurp that authorization without bothering to ask anybody's permission....

Products of slightly inferior quality have yet another venue:  African street vendors and market stalls. 

According to the book, designer labels have been slow to protest for fear of losing access to factories in both Europe and Asia, transportation systems, and many retail outlets around the world, all of which are controlled or influenced by Camorristi. 

Saviano's writing, even in translation, often becomes a sort of grim prose poetry, depicting sordid details far removed from the glamor of Milanese runways or the idyllic charm of Tuscan vacations.  The narrative can be choppy and impressionistic.  But Gomorrah is an extremely powerful work by a gifted writer and a clear-eyed son of the region, a work written from the gut and not merely the brain -- and hopefully not in the author's blood.

P.S.  If you understand Italian, check out this interview with Saviano (in several parts), striking for its matter-of-fact tone. 

 

Thanks to my research assistant, Fordham law student, and Italophile Anthony Mascarenhas for the tip!

July 31, 2007

Dead Again

Pierre Berge regularly claimed that the Yves Saint Laurent's retirement would mark the death of couture.

Teri Agins wrote, "It's not only the end of the millennium, but the end of fashion as we once knew it."

And in a new book to be released on August 16, Dana Thomas argues, "Luxury has lost its luster."  Just in case we missed the point, the volume is cleverly entitled Deluxe -- presumably with emphasis on the "de." 

Pity about those apparently deadly double-digit increases in sales volume and profits reported almost daily in the press and in earnings statements.  Who knew?

Despite analyses more suited to the Grim Reaper than frivolous fashionisti, however, stories about design and luxury tend to amuse.  In her chapter on fakes, "Faux Amis," Thomas offers the following vignette:

One day in 2004, New York security expert Andrew Oberfeldt and lawyer Heather McDonald were participating in a raid in a counterfeit mall on Canal Street in downtown Manhattan, when they saw a petite blond woman sobbing hysterically.  In a thick Texas drawl, she pleaded with McDonald:  "This is my first time to New York and this is awful!  I just want to take my things and go home."

McDonald asked the police what the Texan's "things" were:  "She had fifty-eight of the same bag," McDonald says incredulously.

McDonald said no, and the Texan left in a huff.

Five minutes later she returned, tears gone.

"I'm on the cell phone with my lawyer, and he says you can't do this without my day in court, so I'll take my bags and go," she declared.

"No," McDonald responded.  "I'll take your bags and see you in court."

"Two weeks later we're doing a raid at a nearby location," McDonald recalled when we met in June 2005.  "And who do we see?  The same Texan.  I told her, 'I thought you said you were never coming back here.'  And you know what she said?"

"What?"  I asked.

"Bite me!"

Yes, dear readers, I have taught in Texas -- although hopefully not the lawyer of the blonde in question.  And I will uncharacteristically refrain from further comment. 

July 19, 2007

Harry Potter and the Future Knockoffs?

Fakes and imitations, from toy wands to horcruxes to wizards drinking polyjuice potion, appear throughout the Harry Potter series.  How long, then, until the symbol below -- allegedly part of the widely leaked Book 7, but no spoilers here! -- shows up on fans' T-shirts? 

The idea may have already occurred to J.K. Rowling, who (again, reportedly) placed words of disapproval in international Quidditch champion Viktor Krum's mouth.  The character may or may not note, "Some idiots copied it [the symbol] onto their books and clothes, thinking to shock, make themselves impressive...."

Of course, authorized versions from the Potter retail empire may be another matter entirely. 

Thanks to A-Reader-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named for the tip.

June 02, 2007

Summer Reading

Danielle Ganek's novel, Lulu Meets God and Doubts Him, has repeatedly been described as a Devil Wears Prada for the New York art world.  If that's not enough to secure it a place in your beach tote, consider the following excerpt:

One of the new collectors -- no, not hedge fund money, her husband made his cash inventing some kind of toilet-paper dispenser -- Connie in five-inch heels is a moving sight gag as she makes her way down the center aisle, although her seat too would be more easily reached from the side closest to the door. 

She waves and kisses, kisses and waves, acknowledging anyone she happens to know.  My shoulders hunch reflexively, although I know she won't even glance in the direction of the standing section.  Her eyes dart this way and that with the acquisitive gleam of a collector in heat.

Hers is a lumpy body no amount of money can dress up, although she's trying, in what appears to be a mink sweatshirt with a hood.  She has lank hair even the man known as the magician with the blow-dryer can't volumize and little eyes made smaller with too much makeup.  She wears diamonds by the yard [Lawyer-type query to author:  Would that be Elsa Peretti's Diamonds by the Yard, a registered trademark?] roped several times around her neck and a much larger one dangling from her ring finger.  Off her arm swings an enormous Hermes Birkin bag in bright blue crocodile.  That's one of those bags that cost ten grand at least, if you can get your name on the top of the wait list.  The croc is more.  This one is so big it looks fake, but Connie doesn't have the confidence to carry a fake.

Quite the literary title for chick lit!

It seems that a counterfeit handbag is a sign of good character...description.

May 29, 2007

Barred by the Bard

Shakespeare knockoff

Pepper . . . and Salt

And now a test of your Shakespearean knowledge:  do you remember the full quote and original source?

Continue reading "Barred by the Bard" »

May 17, 2007

Guilt and Innocence

For a cultural historian, works of fiction are arguably among the best records of the past.  What better place to find descriptions of daily life, from employment to entertainment, food to fashion? 

In The Age of Innocence, Edith Wharton's 1921 tale of late-19th-century New York Society and its machinations, gowns of velvet, fur, brocade, muslin, tulle, and especially bridal satin play important supporting roles.  The last of these, in particular, forms an object to be protected from would-be interlopers:  in the case of the bride herself, from a rival to her groom's affections, and in the case of her wedding dress, from (of course) eager copyists.

May Welland's procession into Grace Church to marry Newland Archer is, as custom dictates, to be protected from common eyes by a canvas-draped awning.  The narrow passage, however, proves an obstacle to the bride's broad-minded and physically large grandmother, Catherine, whose wheelchair will not fit between its posts:

The idea of doing away with this awning, and revealing the bride to the mob of dressmakers and newspaper reporters who stood outside fighting to get near the joints of the canvas, exceeded even old Catherine's courage, though for a moment she had weighed the possibility.  "Why, they might take a photograph of my child and put it in the papers!" Mrs. Welland exclaimed when her mother's last plan was hinted to her; and from this unthinkable indecency the clan recoiled with a collective shudder.

How quaint, even for Wharton's day. 

Of course, not every current socialite or celebrity bride wishes to be an easy target for freelance photographers -- especially when they've learned to sell the pictures themselves, or at least arrange for flattering views and venues.  (Melania Trump in Dior by Galliano on the cover of Vogue, perhaps?)

Still, modern copyists don't have to join the scrum of paparazzi in order to get an early look at the latest styles.  That's what the internet is for.

April 02, 2007

Leavening Literature

To celebrate Passover in Counterfeit Chic style, pick up Abraham Cahan's classic 1917 novel, The Rise of David Levinsky.  It's an immigrant's tale of the cost of assimilation and American-style success, as well as an inside look at the early 20th-century garment industry in New York, knockoffs and all. 

Thanks to Professors Sondra Leftoff and Shubha Ghosh for independently recommending this book.  Great minds think alike. 

March 27, 2007

Death in Venice

If you're in need of a Spring Break read with a counterfeit chic theme, check out Donna Leon's Blood from a Stone.  Her perennial protagonist, Venetian police detective Guido Brunetti, is called in to investigate the murder of an immigrant Senegalese street vendor.  Instead of finding little more than a cache of fake handbags among the dead man's few belongings, however, the search turns up a fortune in uncut conflict diamonds.  Complications ensue.

March 07, 2007

Requiescat in Pace: Jean Baudrillard

Jean Baudrillard, the social theorist and philosopher who wrote Simulacra and Simulation, died yesterday -- or did he?  In his own words, "Death is never an absolulte criterion...."  Perhaps, like the powerful metaphor he constructed from Borges' map, the passing of the man and the survival of the geography of his mind in the revealed form of his writings is a superceding reality.  Or, perhaps the challenge of following his thoughts is so daunting that what remains is only a simulacrum that we generate without true source.

Even were this the case, however, Baudrillard will be missed for both his insights and his provocations. A fierce critic, he paid the U.S. the questionable compliment of being the original version of modernity, a blurring of the real and the unreal.  His native France, by contrast, was merely "a copy with subtitles."

Counterfeit Chic salutes the passing of a true original, who believed in neither concept.

November 23, 2006

Pilgrim's Regress

Happy Thanksgiving to friends of Counterfeit Chic -- you all are certainly something for which to be thankful this year!  As those of you in the U.S. enjoy your turkey dinners tonight and prepare to start the Christmas shopping season tomorrow, here's a look back to another Pilgrim who was knocked off -- and the author's response.

An excerpt from John Bunyan, The Pilgrim's Progress (1679 & 1684), The Author's Apology of Part II, "The Author's Way Of Sending Forth His Second Part Of The Pilgrim":

Go now my little Book, to every place
Where my first Pilgrim has but shewn his Face:

. . .

1 Objection

But how if they will not believe of me
That I am truly thine, 'cause some there be
That counterfeit the Pilgrim and his name,
Seek by disguise to seem the very same,
And by that means have wrought themselves into
The hands and houses of I know not who?

Answer

'Tis true, some have of late, to counterfeit
My Pilgrim, to their own my Title set;
Yea others half my Name and Title too
Have stitched to their Book, to make them do;
But yet they by their Features do declare
Themselves not mine to be, whose ere they are.

If such thou meetst with, then thine only way
Before them all is to say out thy say,
In thine own native language, which no man
Now useth, nor with ease dissemble can.
If after all they still of you shall doubt,
Thinking that you like Gipsies go about
In naughty wise the Country to defile,
Or that you seek good people to beguile
With things unwarrantable; send for me,
And I will testifie you Pilgrims be;
Yea, I will testifie that only you
My Pilgrims are; and that alone will do.

August 23, 2006

Congratulations to Fashiontribes!

The fabulous EIC of Fashiontribes.com, Lesley Scott, has relaunched the magazine this week -- with contributions from a few friends.  Check out the Global Chic "School of Fashion" feature, with contributions from fashionable fellow tribespeople Omiru, The Manolo, Bagtrends, Stylehive ... and your own Counterfeit Chic. 

Would that all journal articles could be so stylishly succinct! 

 

August 04, 2006

An Old-Fashioned Question

In my childhood bedroom, on one of many shelves full of books, rests a copy of An Old-Fashioned Girl by Louisa May Alcott, better known as the author of Little Women.  This 1870 novel contains the passage below, in which a group of young women gathers to engage in some charitable sewing and not-so-charitable chatter.  In retrospect, this may have been my first exposure to the knockoff question:

"Hush! Trix has the floor."

"If they spent their wages properly, I should n't mind so much, but they think they must be as fine as anybody, and dress so well that it is hard to tell mistress from maid. Why our cook got a bonnet just like mine (the materials were cheaper, but the effect was the same), and had the impertinence to wear it before my face. I forbid it, and she left, of course, which made papa so cross he would n't give me the camel's hair shawl he promised this year."

"It 's perfectly shameful!" said Miss Perkins, as Trix paused out of breath. "Servants ought to be made to dress like servants, as they do abroad; then we should have no more trouble," observed Miss Perkins, who had just made the grand tour, and had brought home a French maid.

"Perky don't practise as she preaches," whispered Belle to Polly, as Miss P. became absorbed in the chat of her other neighbors. "She pays her chamber girl with old finery; and the other day, when Betsey was out parading in her missis's cast-off purple plush suit, Mr. Curtis thought she was mademoiselle, and bowed to her. He is as blind as a bat, but recognized the dress, and pulled off his hat to it in the most elegant style. Perky adores him, and was mad enough to beat Betsey when she told the story and giggled over it. Betsey is quite as stylish and ever so much prettier than Perky, and she knows it, which is an aggravation."

Alcott, who spent part of her childhood in a utopian social community and became a noted abolitionist and feminist, obviously enjoyed holding social pretensions up to ridicule.  These few paragraphs alone could support an entire lecture:  why would a cook allegedly imitate the style of her employer's daughter?  how did advances in textile production make this possible?  why were European household staff more likely to wear distinctive uniforms than their American counterparts?  what is the role of clothing in constructing social status?

Today, of course, the mistress would be as likely to imitate the maid as vice versa -- fashion trends trickle up from the street as often as down from the haute couture.  In addition, the perspective of the milliner who created the original bonnet might come into play (not that many of us still wear hats on a daily basis, or have chambermaids, for that matter). 

Still, I have to smile when I think about our great-grandmothers gossiping about knockoffs.

April 30, 2006

Kaavyat Scriptor

When the Harvard Crimson reported last week that sophomore Kaavya Viswanathan's novel, How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life (2006), contains a number of passages that are "strikingly similar" to two books by Meghan F. McCafferty, Sloppy Firsts (2001) and Second Helpings (2003), the alleged plagiarism drew national attention.  On Friday, the New York Times reported that publisher Little, Brown would recall the offending book, which had apparently been part of an extraordinary $500,000 two-book deal and had been optioned by Dreamworks for a movie.  Viswanathan has apologized to McCafferty.

Deliberate or not, the plagiarism was obvious.  But apart from the money and publicity, it was nothing that doesn't happen among students every day.  The academic year is ending, final papers are due, and professors (some of whom have been known to be a bit sloppy about citation themselves) are on the lookout for suspiciously familiar works.  The resources available online are all-too-tempting for some students, but the web also makes them easier to catch.  My experience, unfortunately, is that most students who copy are genuinely sorry -- that they've been caught.

The more interesting issue, however, is what constitutes illicit copying within a specific genre.  Even while apologizing, Kaavya maintained that she was writing about her own experiences.  When the book was withdrawn, she and the publisher announced that they would republish with the offending passages rewritten.  As one publishing executive noted in the Times on Thursday, "The teenage experience is fairly universal." 

Had Meghan McCafferty filed a copyright claim, however, a federal court would've been called upon to determine not only how literally certain passages had been lifted (not exactly a challege here), but also the relevance of the similar plots (girl trying to get into elite college), which cannot in the abstract be copyrighted.  This inquiry takes on additional significance in the postmodern era (nod to Foucault) and in light of the involvement of a "book packager" like Alloy Entertainment.  (Check out Professor Laura Heymann's engaging article, "The Birth of the Authornym.")  Can we still tell an "original" from a "copy," assuming that we ever could? 

Actually, yes.  Authors, professors, lawyers, juries, and judges manage this all the time, whether the component parts of the creation are words, musical notes, or lines of software code.  Despite the near-universal fashion among U.S. law professors of attacking intellectual property protection as too extensive -- a position with which I have some degree of sympathy -- even academics don't usually argue that literal copying can't be identified.

In the case of fashion design, however, some people seem to be arguing exactly that.  Communications Professor Siva Vaidhyanathan, for example, told the Marketplace radio program that if fashion is subject to intellectual property protection, "there will be so many ridiculous lawsuits where courts will have to decide between the differences in ruffle (a) and ruffle (b) or hemline (a) and hemline (b)."    

My guess is that Vaidhyanathan wouldn't have found a copyright lawsuit involving words rather than ruffles "ridiculous," even if he has joined many others in disputing the legitimacy of intellectual property protection overall.  Personally, I'd find hemlines easier to distinguish than I would musical progressions.  But the point is that a copy is a copy.  And while pointy-headed intellectuals (myself included) and lawyers may engage in lofty debate about what constitutes copying, a creator's peers -- at Harvard or on Seventh Avenue -- know the score.

April 11, 2006

Required Reading

Some legal academics write about creativity, others create.  Check out Bound by Law?  Tales from the Public Domain, the new commentary by Keith Aoki, James Boyle, and Jennifer Jenkins -- in graphic novel form! 

March 07, 2006

More Simulacra and Simulations

In response to the Sims' Oscar knockoffs, Marty Schwimmer of The Trademark Blog asks succinctly, "Right of publicity issues?"

The short answer:  Of course. 

The longer answer:  Welcome to the state law morass that governs rights of publicity.  In general, celebrities who have developed valuable personnae have the right to protect it from unauthorized commercial exploitation.  (Everyone's favorite case on this subject, for the amusing facts if not the outcome, seems to be Vanna White v. Samsung Electronics America, 971 F.2d 1395 (9th Cir. 1992), in which Vanna sued the company over an ad with a robot representing her.) 

What does that have to do with a Sim knockoff of an Oscar gown?  If the virtual gown for sale is depicted on the actress who wore it to the Academy Awards, that's an interesting question.

Designers don't compete to dress celebrities out of concern that the poor girls can't dress themselves -- there are stylists for that.  Rather, the free gowns, shoes, handbags (and rumored monetary compensation) are offered in the hope that the celebrity will be photographed and the image will be frequently editorialized.  Money simply can't buy the kind of exposure that a Best Actress winner's dress will receive for free.  So the nominees, presenters, and other beautiful people are in effect renting their celebrity status; their bodies become billboards advertising fashion houses.  The ultimate idea is to draw attention to the brand and sell more dresses -- real, not virtual. 

So, if we view the agreements between designers and actresses as a financial transaction, the use of an actress' image to sell a virtual gown might violate her right of publicity.  After all, what if Reese Witherspoon wanted to make money by modeling virtual gowns (as a Sim, she's certainly tall and thin enough)?  It's a good thing that at the moment her real world far eclipses any virtual one.

For more on law in virtual worlds, check out James Grimmelman's interesting and intelligent article and blog.

And for further reflection on the philosophy of copying, see Jean Baudrillard -- whose text also has a cameo in The Matrix

 

January 02, 2006

I'll Show You My Knockoff...

...if you'll show me yours.

Knockoff

Business journalist Tim Phillips has been busy writing a book on the evils of the knockoff economy, reviewed in yesterday's Boston Globe.  No word on exactly what the shadowy figures on his book cover are doing.

December 17, 2005

Lite Reading for Holiday Travel

Usually planes and trains are good places to catch up on paperwork, but sometimes it's nice to have something more engaging to distract from thoughts of accidents, terrorists, or the guy beside you hogging the armrest.  For holiday travel, consider reading Candace Bushnell's Lipstick Jungle.  As you would expect from the creator of Sex and the City, it's a chicklit special, filled with best girlfriends, cityscapes, and yes, a few scenes that might raise the eyebrows of the sweet little old lady sitting on your other side and showing you pictures of her grandkids. 

Best of all, one of the main characters is a fashion designer who faces down a shady business partner/counterfeiter and goes on to fame and fortune. 

Lipstick Jungle 

And if you need an emergency last-minute gift when you get to your destination, just borrow some wrapping paper!