CMU School of Drama

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Cheerleading company can get copyrights, pursue competitors, Supreme Court says

Ars Technica: The Supreme Court issued a 5-2 opinion (PDF) today allowing cheerleading uniforms to be copyrighted. The case, Star Athletica v. Varsity Brands, is expected to have broad effect in the fashion world and beyond. A group of 3D printing companies had also asked the high court to take up the case, asking for clarity on how to separate creative designs, which are copyrightable, from utilitarian objects that are not.


Sarah Battaglia said...

This is so cool because I remember righting an article about this same story a year ago when they had just filed the law suit, so it is interesting to get to go back and read how it all panned out. I am 99% sure that when I wrote that past article I was in favor of the companies being able to get copyrights because it seemed crazy to me that who ever designed the type of uniform that literally all cheerleaders everywhere wear is not getting any money from the whole world copying them. So I guess that the court agreed with me and now people will start being able to own their designs and start to make some money. I have a lot of opinions about cheerleading as an enterprise and as I was to quite literally make women objects to dance around for the enjoyment of men, and thats not what this article is about but I had to say it because misogyny is everywhere and it isn't going any where. Maybe this law will require companies to branch out a little and design new outfits, and maybe some wont show off an entire woman's body in spandex. I guess only time will tell.

Angel Zhou said...

I have definitely read an article related to this case back when it was relatively new. The previous article I read discussed pros and cons of the two sides, and I recall strongly rooting for one but I can no longer remember which side that was.

I find this case pretty fascinating and I’m not sure how I feel about its result. I feel as though there is merit to both sides – on one end, it is unfair to the original creator of a design if he or she cannot copyright it. But, on the other end, how much variation can one really achieve with a cheerleader uniform? This could potentially lead to huge monopolies in the clothing industry and monopolies can be exploited pretty easily.

As a whole, I don’t have much more to say apart from my annoyance with how sue-happy a lot of Americans are. I feel as though there is a belief that lawsuits are the answer to conflicts, especially with today’s political sphere.

Katherine Sharpless said...

I found this article way more interesting than I thought it was going to be. I'm not very invested in legal issues and I was annoyed (for lack of a better term) that cheerleading groups were taking up the time and energy of the Supreme Court. But the article and the case was well written and truly communicated all the implications, opinions, and ideas surrounding this debate. It's about much more than the uniform chevrons but also about artistic design versus utilitarian design and how new technologies (i.e 3D printing) are complicating how fashion and product designs are manufactured and protected. I found myself agreeing with the court, thinking it was unfair and dangerous to chop up a design for its parts. I had also never though that the Supreme Court would use Van Gogh's shoes or the familiar concept "form versus function" in a case- perhaps I should take up more interested in copyright cases.

Marisa Rinchiuso said...

This was such an interesting read! It seems odd to me that this has never been brought to court before. It was very interesting that the courts had two different opinions on the matter. I think the conclusion of being able to copyright designs is a good choice, but that really limits the consumers. In junior high I was the school mascot, Paws the Coyote. Because of that I had to go through all the outfitting much like cheerleaders, for pep rallies, camps, etc. I can tell you there is not much variation of designs as is. If it weren't for school colors most outfits would be identical. It's because the sleek style, v-cut neck, straight skirt with 2 side slits and stripes/chevrons, is the standard for most school cheerleading teams. Although these factors are not utilitarian, at the end of the day it's hard to stray from the "standard" cheer outfit design. Overall, I found this article very interesting in the clarification of design versus function in fashion, and think that it will have a huge impact on fashion from here on out.

Claire Farrokh said...

This was a pretty interesting article. I completely agree that fashion design should be able to be copyrighted, since every design is a work of art. However, like many of my peers, I'm not entirely sure how much variation there can be from one cheerleading uniform to the next. With the number of different cheerleading uniforms that are distributed worldwide, it's kind of unbelievable to think that all of those could be different in a way. Apart from colors and potentially mascots or logos, there's not a ton of stuff to differentiate one team from the next. This could be dangerous, like Angel mentions, in creating a monopoly in the cheerleading uniform industry. However, based on the article, it seems like there are only a couple major manufacturers in the business right now anyway, so that's not entirely the hugest problem. Overall, very cool article, and it's kind of weird that this is just happening now, since fashion can pretty much always be copyrighted.

Megan Jones said...

I'm honestly not sure where I stand on this issue, as from my perspective there doesn't seems to be a whole lot a difference from one cheerleading costume to the next. Obviously some teams like the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders have their own unique look, but the majority of high school teams maybe only change their colors and logo from team to team. I feel like if companies were able to copyright these designs then they might be able to establish a monopoly and drive up uniform prices. This could decrease accessibility to the uniforms to low income households, which would be very detrimental to their participation in the sport. On the other hand, I do believe that the fashion industry should be able to copyright their designs. I guess this is pretty hypocritical of me to think this way but it just seems like in the fashion world designs would have much more variation.

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