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Unbeknownst to many a Fashion Week attendee, Fordham Law School's renowned Fashion Law Institute is housed right next to the Lincoln Center tents. So when we discovered they were hosting a "Law of the Fashion Show" panel with some of the fashion industry’s brightest (and best-dressed) legal minds, we thought why not put on our Elle Woods glasses and learn a thing or two? Speakers from Wilhelmina International, EMC2, and Tory Burch, among others, enlightened us on the multitude of legalities that come with putting on a runway show. In a nutshell, here's what we gleaned:
Runway music is crucial to the experience of the show, obviously, but licensing it is a legal minefield—not to mention expensive. Assuming the venue has the proper license to play music, the public performance right from the songwriter must be granted to play each song. Want to stream your runway show on your website? Don’t forget the “synch” license, which gives you the right to affix the music to footage.
Turns out, many of the runway images on the Internet are probably illegal. True, the average runway show attendee owns the copyright of any old iPhone pic he might snap, but the model still retains rights to her own image. As such, the model technically needs to sign an image release before Joe blogger can post it up on his Tumblr.
Photo Rights Continued:
Even designers sometimes misuse images from their own runway shows. Securing rights for runway footage doesn't entitle designers to use runway images forever and in every context. If the runway show is going to be part of the ad campaign, the model and the agency are entitled to the much higher fee that campaign work earns. After all, the model probably got paid in clothing for working the runway.
Ah, yes, the the countless interns working NYFW for school credit, or for their resumes, or for "experience"—but certainly not for money. There's a legal loophole for "volunteers" that clears designers, production companies, agencies, etc. of any tax liability to the state or workers comp responsibilities, so that's what these hard-working interns are called on paper. Which is nicer than calling them Fashion Week's bitches, actually.
At the end of the day, it's the lawyer's head when the models or the shoes get stuck in customs, a la Nicole Miller. So at least we now we know who to blame.—Elizabeth Newman
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