Summary of Lessons from Fashion’s Free Culture

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Lessons from Fashion’s Free Culture summary


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Since digitization began facilitating copying and sharing, the media industry has been desperately trying to defend intellectual property via copyrights. Arguably, it is fighting a losing battle. In response, Johanna Blakley, deputy director of a media-focused think tank, introduces an industry that is thriving on imitation: fashion. Her TED Talk is compelling, especially her data showing the enormous profits of the industries without copyright protection and the meager profits of the industries with this protection. getAbstract recommends Blakley’s entertaining talk to those eager to learn how imitation can produce innovation.

In this summary, you will learn

  • How the fashion industry benefits from the lack of copyright protection,
  • Why imitation can beget innovation and
  • What other industries could learn from the fashion industry.

About the Speaker

Johanna Blakley is the deputy director of the Norman Lear Center, a media-focused think tank at the University of Southern California.



The Italian fashion designer Miuccia Prada found a jacket she liked as she was browsing clothes in a secondhand shop. She inspected every detail closely. When her companion prompted her to buy the piece, Prada responded, “I’ll buy it, but I’m also going to replicate it.” In the fashion industry, copying another person’s design is perfectly legal, because “the courts decided long ago that apparel is too utilitarian to qualify for copyright protection.” And contrary to common fears, the fact that the fashion industry has no real copyright protection has not inhibited industry innovation. In fact, copying and borrowing has led to more creativity.

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