Kal Raustialia and Christopher Sprigman‘s The Knockoff Economy: How Imitation Sparks Innovation is a truly innovative book, pulling together disparate tales to give an overall picture about the interactivity between creativity, copying, and change. If you are in the IP world, especially copyright and trademark, this is the book to give to your questioning family and friends about what you do is important.
And the interesting readability exists regardless of whether you agree with their overall thesis that to spark creativity, imitation is often required, and the law should accommodate these incremental progressions and copies. Seriously, where else will you in one chapter read about football, fonts (arial v. helvetica), financial services, and … database protection? If you’re not already sold, how about discussions about cooking (including celebrity chefs), high fashion, magicians, and the ethics of comedy writing? And the trademarked drink — the Dark and Stormy? In. One. Book.
Not everyone will be won over by their argument, for example, the small designers on Etsy who come up with creative products and then large companies poach their designs. The book does not discuss Forever 21, Urban Outfitters, and lawsuits involved with fast fashion (see more on this issue from Susan Scafidi on Counterfeit Chic, Jezebel, and the Village Voice), where the knockoffs do not allow for the creativity of the original creator to be acknowledged. (This is not true for high fashion/popular knockoffs — if you are buying a Pippa dress, you are getting it due to the connection to the original).
The general cultural mushing together of our understanding of copyright and plagiarism has allowed for the idea that citation in whatever form means permission must be sought. We all build on the shoulder of the giants that have come before. Thankfully, this book helps to show how the process of using the creative energy of others is important for creativity.
Summary: Read this engaging and informative book. And then buy a copy for your mom.