The devil is in the detail

I have commented on copyright infringement in regards to video games before in some of my previous posts, but I have been thinking lately about what this means for other creative mediums. In particular, can fashion be protected under copyright law? In this day and age, with 3D printers, online shopping and very skilled seamsters cheap knock-ff of very expensive and popular items can be found across the globe in attempt for these people to make a quick bit of easy cash. In 2015 EU’s Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market conducted a study that found that 9.7% of all items on the market were counterfeit, and as a result accounted for around €26.3 billion of revenue lost every year. While it may not be a mainstream issue, it is clearly a huge problem for those who wish to work within such an industry.

Why else does this matter?

In the 2006 movie The Devil wears Prada, Meryl Streep’s character has a little speech about why fashion matters and the end punch line is that it all matters, because you live your life in it. We spend every day wearing clothes, that while we do not think are overly important, they still say who we are: Our personal style helps to create first impressions to those we meet and how we carry ourselves through society. Trends in fashion also reflect the issues of society at any given time: punk rockers dressed the way they did to silently protest against the conformity seen throughout the rest of society, just as vegans can now wear clothing that has little to no impact on the environment and causes no harm to animals. As much as we don’t want to admit that we care about ‘fashion’, we all care about style in that we all care about how we dress ourselves, even if it is only for the feeling of power that is gives us to wear what we like, how we like and when we like.

Blair Waldorf (played by Leighton Meister) in Gossip Girl

How does the law approach it?

As with everything to do with law, interpretation is everything. Lucky for us, fashion is all about interpretation and based on the statute alone, fashion is not actually mentioned under the Copyright, Patents and Design Rights Act 1988. Under this law, a creative medium needs to fall within one of the categories within the legislation and while there is some leeway as to how the courts label fashion, it is most likely to fall within the definition of ‘artistic craftsmanship’. Now this is not really helpful, but thankfully there is a LOT of case law to refer to in order to try and make a decision.

In Hensher v Restawhile, the House of Lords stated hat a prototype for a distinctive three-piece lounge suite, which was intended for mass production, was not artistic although the Lords differed in their reasons as to why. Then there was a case about a baby’s cape which was held not to be artistic because there was no intention to create an artistic work, just as a patchwork bedspread was not deemed to be artistic because although the designs were “pleasing to the eye” they were not sufficiently creative. This has been discussed in fashion relevant case law where sweaters and cardigans were held not to be artistic. Although the items in question had been displayed in the V&A Museum, they were exhibited as examples of developments in fashion rather than as works of art. One case in recent years that has also addressed this issue was related to the storm trooper helmets from the Star Wars movies, where the High Court held that the helmets were not artistic because their purpose was not aesthetic. The Supreme Court later held that the helmets were not sculptures, and could not be protected in that way either, which brings to attention the need for aspects of fashion to be protected from copyright infringement.

The majority of cases seem to show that there is a lot of debate over whether fashion can count as ‘artistic’: as a rule of thumb it seems the work must be aesthetically appealing to the general population or must have been created as an artistic work. To me, art and an ‘artistic’ creation should make you feel something. Now this may be confusing to those who are interested in fashion: How anyone can look at Charlize Theron in that gold Dior dress, or stare at a pair of Louboutin high heel courts and not see the art in them might as well be dead inside.

Image result for j'adore gold dress                                   Charlize Theron in the Dior J’adore perfume advert

On the other hand, “craftsmanship” is potentially easier to meet. Knitting and tapestry-making have been treated as crafts, usully on the basis that they are one off creations that were intended for artistic work. In Hensher v Restawhile, Lord Reid and Viscount Dilhorne said that the requirement for craftsmanship implies that a work must be hand-made whereas Lord Simon held that “craftsmanship” cannot be limited to handicraft and that the word “artistic” in itself is incompatible with machine production. This therefore suggests that if a designer is to make a one-ff, limited edition piece of haute couture clothing that is not designed to be mass-produced, then this could potentially be protected under ‘craftsmanship’ and thus protected by copyright. But what does this mean for mass-produced clothing?

In short, the UK is still pretty slow on the protection available for fashion under copyright law. There have been many debates and papers on what can be done about this, with many of them pointing towards the European model of an open list: In France, Germany and even in the US, any work which is original can be protected by copyright. In France, the threshold for originality is a work which “bears the stamp of the author’s personality” and in Germany copyright protects “personal intellectual creations”. This allows for a much smaller threshold to be met by designers and as such less chance of them being copied without the author’s consent. It also means that there is no need for long and complex case law or debate around the issue as it is simply stated within legislation and only needs to be discussed when it needs to clarified on a large scale. This appears to be not only the simplest option for designers, but also the easiest way for the UK intellectual property offices to keep an eye on potential infringements on the open market.

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Here today, gone tomorrow

One potentially reason why there is no real need for there to be protection for fashion is because fashion is always changing: What is fashionable this week will most likely be forgotten about in a months time. Fashion is a constantly evolving aspect of society and while trends may come and go, the fashion industry is constantly in a state of innovation and trying to create pieces that have never before been seen. Trends are only meant to last a few years at the most, as anytime after that they either become iconic for the time period, or they become cringe-worthy (in some cases they can be both!).

What do you guys think? What would you want to see within the fashion industry?

T xx

 

Why I would be a Sith…

*This is a bit of a far fetched article but it’s all in good fun!*

Now stay with me guys…

A few weeks ago I went to see the new Star Wars identities Exhibit at the O2. if you are interested in psychology and don’t mind Star Wars then it is worth a visit. I didn’t expect to take such a journey through my own psyche.

Image result for star wars identities o2 Star Wars Identities Exhibit

The exhibit (no spoilers) basically shows people how Lucas Film made and created the Star Wars universe: Most notably how each character was given their own personal story to tell. The exhibit leads you through the creative process of many different characters, including Luke, Darth Vader and Yoda (of course) and allows you to interact at each stage to create your own personalised Star Wars character.  Once it has helped you explore who your character is, what they stand for and what they are willing to fight for, you are asked one question: Emperor Palpatine has asked you to join the dark side instead of Anakin Skywalker…do you?

Naturally, most people automatically say no. The Sith are very obviously the Bad Guys, and who really wants to be that?!

But I seemed to approach it in a different way (and clearly far too seriously): Yes the Sith are bad, but they are undeniable going to be in control of everything by the start of Episode 4. Since you are essentially taking the place of Anakin (who would later become Darth Vader…oopsie, spoiler!) you will become Palpatine’s right hand man. Which is a power of position in its own right.

It was clear to see that all of the things I value (equality and freedom for all, to put it simply) are not things that the Sith really aspire towards. So, if I do not join the Dark Side, I would most likely be the first to die under the Sith reign as everything I stand for is everything they want to get rid of. I can never enact real change if I am dead…so I really have no choice but to join him.
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But aside from that, there is also the fact that being in a power of position does not mean that you are automatically a bad person: To become Palpatine’s right hand man means that you are his first in command, his confidant, his personal assistant…nothing happens in the Sith empire without you knowing about it, and most importantly, without him telling you the plan first. In this position, you could potentially be able to change Palpatine’s mind about things. Also, as you are in such a high position of power, everyone beneath you has to listen to you. You could coonvince Palpatine not to condemn all Jedi rights campaigners or those who oppose the Empire, but rather approach it from a different angle. In this sense, you can become the Snape to Palpatine’s Voldemort (Did I just combine fandoms??!!).

Image result for harry potter and star wars gifs

It is also the simple thing of ‘better the devil you know’. It may also be worth noting that Darth Vader’s plan all along was to overthrow Palpatine. Or at least this is what many people are hypothesizing. While it may be super sneaky and may be proof that you have become the Dark Side, the only way anyone could ever hope to truly overthrow Palpatine is to be on the inside with him: I mean, I wouldn’t have a Jedi son for Palpatine to torture in front of me with lightning bolts, so I have to find another reason to throw him over a balcony…right? I mean someone is going to have to.

So what do you guys think? Would you have come to same conclusion?

T xxx

Video game censorship

When it comes to video games society seems to be obsessed with the content, but not necessarily whether the story is well-structured or the characters realistic. There is always a concern that any video game that hints at violence will do one thing, and one thing only: Make the people who play them violent. In today’s society, even the legal system is concerned with the question of how much government should protect its people from offensive material. According to reports, more than 85% of video games on the market contain some form of violence. The controversy surrounding topics such as Call of Duty: Modern Warfare and Manhunt have made the games almost infamous for the violence and aggression that they show throughout game play.

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The ‘No Russian’ starting level of Cal of Duty: Modern Warfare where the player is asked to gun down an entire airport.

However there could be debate over what exactly is deemed ‘offensive’ material: Are guns necessarily offensive, when places such as America deem it a fundamental right to be allowed to own them in your home? Is violence offensive, when sport shows such as MMA and cage fighting get higher ratings when they show more bloodshed? Is sex offensive, when series such as Fifty Shades of Grey, Twilight and Game of Thrones draw in huge numbers of viewers with drawn out sex scenes and naked women? It can be drawn from simple common sense that the majority of these answers are based on individual preferences, as what offends one person can be relatively innocent to another and it is this balance along the spectrum that government needs to be wary of.

Naturally, there are games that are a no-go for anyone: Games that promote rape (such as the Japanese released  Rapelay) or make a mockery out of current social tragedies (such as V-Tech Rampage) very clearly should not be allowed in the public domain as they are quite obviously only there to incite offense and upset, and not to provide a gaming experience. But with many games around today, violence is very much integral to the overall story that the game is trying to tell, with many containing an option to commit no violence throughout all of it. In the newly released Resident Evil 7: Biohazard, it is possible to simply run away from the majority of monsters and trap them in rooms so as to avoid having to shoot them point-blank with a shot gun.

The majority of games that have violent characteristics contain these features because they are based on (although admittedly they are exaggerated) real life situations: Call of Duty is a game built around war and so violence is unavoidable, while Outlast and Resident Evil are games inspired by horror and survival. In many action and adventure games such as the ones mentioned above, part of their whole appeal is the use of large guns and multiple explosive devices, if nothing else but to progress the story on with a rush of adrenaline and excitement to keep the player wanting to play more. The undeniable success of games such as Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto show that the demand for these types of games has risen over the years, but it seems somewhat pessimistic to assume that this is because video game players are becoming more aggressive, more violent and more masochistic.

Anyone who has played a video game understands the thrill of a video game: For that time of game play, you are transported into a different world, living a different life with different goals. People who enjoy reading say that they enjoy the imagination of books and the ability of a good book to transport you to a new realm, so why can the same not apply for video games? Video games have become an integral part of our society and in 2016, the majority of people under the age of 30 were too busy running around outside trying to catch Pokemon through the Pokemon Go mobile app game to even think about violence or crimes.

Furthermore, it could be seen as condescending that the government simply assumes that video game players are mindless beings who are easily influenced: An average person won’t go out and steal a car just because they played Grand Theft Auto. If someone wants to commit violence, the fact that they play video games is irrelevant. Research has shown that while video games can increase levels of aggression, it also stated that this can only be problematic in situations of already heightened aggression due to personality type, family life, social factors and other such factors. Due to this, if a person does feel the need to express their frustrations or their fetishes in a violent manner, surely allowing them to do so in a virtual manner is a better solution than having them attack someone in real life. Perhaps that is why video games are as popular as they are, because they allow people to experience different walks of life without any consequences of their actions: Most people wonder what it would feel like to commit crime but are stopped by the fear of getting caught and, most effectively, going to prison. Therefore they play these games to see what it could be like, without having to actually step into the real world to do so.

Final thoughts?

It is clear that while video games may possess aspects that people find offensive, it is also clear that there is a huge demand for games that allow people to experience things that they never would in everyday life. Government needs to keep this all in mind when deciding just how much ‘protection’ they need to give to its people, as to some members of society these video games may be the only release they get that doesn’t involve actual harm or violence to other people.

T xx