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Mardi Gras Indians Seeking Copyright Protection For Outfits

Kip Currier's Copyright Blog linked to -- or, rather, reprinted in full (irony?) -- a New York Times article about Mardi Gras Indians who have decided they're tired of finding images of themselves, clad in their traditional elaborate outfits, on calendars, posters, coffee mugs and other assorted tchotchkes, without getting any cash.

So, with the help of attorney Ashlye M. Keaton, they've been registering copyrights in their flashy suits. The experts quoted in the Times article seem lukewarm, at best, about the potential merits of any copyright infringement claims against people who use photos of the Indians all decked out.

Clothing is generally considered a "useful article" not subject to copyright protection. The suits manufactured and worn by the Indians, though, certainly challenge the traditional notion of clothing.

And here I thought a mushroom jacket was the epitome of style.

You can't deny the fact that an incredible amount of effort must go into designing and producing these costumes. But, where photos are concerned, is a copyright properly vested (pun sort of intended) in the outfit, or in the photo itself?  Should the Indians be entitled to a piece of any profits derived from commercial use of images in which they're featured?

Posted by Eric Lipman on March 25, 2010 at 11:35 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)


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