Lessons from fashion's free culture: Johanna Blakley on TED.com

This TEDx talk by Johanna Blakley is pure gold (thank you Jonathan Brun for passing it along). It’s a wonderful dissection – all while using the fashion industry as a case study – of how patents and licenses are not only unnecessary for innovation but can actually impede it.

What I found particularly fascinating is Johanna’s claim that long ago the US courts decided that clothing was “too utilitarian” to have copyright and patents applied to it. Of course, we could say that of a number of industries today – the software industry coming to mind right off the bat (can anyone imagine a world without software?).

The presentation seems to confirm another thought I’ve held – weaker copyright and patents protections do not reduce or eliminate peoples incentive to innovate. Quite the opposite. It both liberates innovation and increases its rate as others are able to copy and reuse one another. In addition, it makes brands stronger, not weaker. In a world where anybody can copy anybody, innovation and the capacity to execute matters. Indeed, it is the only thing that matters.

It would be nice if, here in Canada, the Ministers of Heritage (James Moore) and Industry (Tony Clement) would watch and learn from this video – and the feedback they received from ordinary Canadians. If we want industries as vibrant and profitable as the fashion industry, it may require us to think a little differently about copyright reform.

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