The knockoff economy : how imitation sparks innovation

Author / Creator
Raustiala, Kal
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"Conventional wisdom holds that intellectual property rights are essential for innovation. But are copyright and patents really necessary to spark creativity? In The Knockoff Economy, Kal Raustiala...

"Conventional wisdom holds that intellectual property rights are essential for innovation. But are copyright and patents really necessary to spark creativity? In The Knockoff Economy, Kal Raustiala and Christopher Sprigman provocatively argue that creativity can not only survive in the face of copying, but can thrive. The Knockoff Economy approaches the question of incentives and innovation in a wholly new way--by exploring creative fields that do not rely on legal monopolies, such as fashion, cuisine, and even professional football. By uncovering these important but rarely studied creative worlds, Raustiala and Sprigman reveal a nuanced and fascinating relationship between imitation and innovation. In some creative fields copying is kept in check through informal industry norms enforced by private sanctions. In other cases, the freedom to copy actually promotes creativity. High fashion gave rise to the very term "knockoff," yet imitation only makes the fashion cycle run faster--and forces the fashion industry to be ever more creative. Raustiala and Sprigman carry their analysis from food to font design to football plays to finance, examining how and why each of these vibrant fields remains innovative, even in the face of sometimes-extensive imitation. There is an important thread that ties all these instances together--successful creative industries can evolve to be resistant to, and even to profit from, piracy. And there are important lessons here for copyright-focused industries, like music and film, that have struggled with piracy. Raustiala and Sprigman's arguments have been making headlines in The New Yorker, the New York Times, the Financial Times, the Boston Globe, Le Monde, and elsewhere. By looking where few had looked before--at industries that fall outside normal IP law--The Knockoff Economy opens up fascinating creative worlds. And it demonstrates that not only is a great deal of innovation possible without IP, but that IP's absence is sometimes better for innovation"--

"In many sectors, copying is more or less accepted as a business strategy. Products that look, taste, and sound suspiciously like 'originals' abound in upscale chain restaurants, fashion outlets, and contemporary architecture. And such industries typically regard the pervasive piracy as a spur toward further innovation (albeit individual designers and creators may condemn it). When an original becomes a knockoff, it's a signal to move on to the next big thing. Interestingly, while piracy certainly skirts legality, there is no prosecution of it in many arenas. Instead, sectors as diverse as the jam band circuit, the gourmet scene in New York and Los Angeles, the comedy circuit, the garment industry, and the NFL accept the fact that copying will occur and instead rely on social norms to police the practice. Those who step out of bounds are called on it, and often ostracized. As Kal Raustiala and Chris Sprigman argue in The Piracy Paradox, such fields have not suffered any loss of vibrancy. There is presently an intense debate surrounding copyright law, especially with regard to how it applies to the media and entertainment industries, yet very rarely does it factor in the benefits of piracy that are so evident in other sectors. This is to their detriment, the authors argue. Enhancing copyright law has not worked, largely because people subjected to it do not accept the social norms that the law implies. Changing norms so that consumers and producers buy into limits on acceptable practice offers a path out of the dilemma. That means acknowledging the dynamism that an acceptable level of piracy fosters, and in turn rejecting aggressive approaches to copyright law enforcement"--


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