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AAFA Rules Out Copyright Protection Deal

The board of the American Apparel & Footwear Association has rejected a compromise deal struck with the Council of Fashion Designers of America on proposed federal legislation that would provide copyright protection for fashion designs.

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WASHINGTON — The board of the American Apparel & Footwear Association has rejected a compromise deal struck with the Council of Fashion Designers of America on proposed federal legislation that would provide copyright protection for fashion designs.

The move, announced Monday, is a setback for the CFDA, which championed the bill, and dampens prospects for Congressional consideration of the bill this year.

The two powerful industry groups had a deal in the works to break an impasse over the legislation, but the AAFA's 60-member board voted at its annual meeting last week to turn down the compromise reached between the staffs of both associations.

"When we considered the risk and reward ratio, the unintended consequences were untenable," Peter Gabbe, AAFA's chairman, who is also chief operating officer of Carole Hochman Designs, said Monday.

But the CFDA is not giving up.

"We have invested a lot of energy and time into this. We are not abandoning this legislation," said Steven Kolb, executive director of the CFDA. "We're going to continue to champion what designers want, which is to protect their creativity and be thoughtful as an industry. We are comfortable and glad that we went through the process because we have a tighter and stronger bill."

Among the unresolved sticking points cited by Gabbe were:

l Inadequate provisions ensuring that only truly original designs receive protection.

l A potential for a major disruption in trade and new liabilities with U.S. Customs in the form of civil detentions or criminal penalties.

l Added costs associated with anticipated lawsuits and research of copyrighted designs.

l Stifling the speed to market for legitimate companies.

There has been widespread opposition among apparel brands and vendors to the legislation — the Design Piracy Prohibition Act — that was introduced in the House and Senate last year.

As written, the bill would allow companies and designers to register their fashion designs for three years of copyright protection. Apparel, handbags, footwear, belts and eyeglass frames would be covered, but designs that are already part of the public domain would not. The measure would also establish penalties for designers or companies knocking off designs. The fine would be $250,000, or $5 for each copied item, whichever is greater.
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