Cultural Appropriation in Fashion: Is Copyright the Answer?
Cultural appropriation cases spark passionate debate because while fashion's borrowing of stylistic elements from other cultures is common practice, it can in reality be offensive to the holders of source cultures. Misinterpretation or disregard for the cultural significance of a traditional cultural expression (TCE), even unintentional, can have drastic consequences for its holders. Calls for action to curb appropriation emphasize a need for indigenous peoples to have better control over their TCEs. Cultural appropriation may be explained by the jarring relationship between TCEs and copyright. While TCEs, such as traditional designs or motifs, are a product of the human mind, it is difficult to protect them within the existing copyright system, which casts most TCEs into the public domain. For instance, protection remains unavailable for TCEs that have been passed down the generations and fail to meet the originality criterion. This presentation explains the concept of cultural appropriation and illustrates it with multiple examples from fashion. It shows how copyright law fails to provide adequate protection to TCEs and thus make them vulnerable to appropriation. The presentation concludes by showing how copyright principles, particularly moral rights, could be adapted to offer strong protection to TCEs against cultural appropriation.
Copyright, Traditional Cultural Expressions
ABC Copyright 2019