Walk the Walk: New rights to protect runway models?

Written by Margaret Briffa | October 1, 2018

Intellectual Property

As we prepare for Brexit and the prospect of loss of intellectual property rights we had taken for granted until now, a big thank you Exeter University academics who have come up with a new idea for a right.

Timed to coincide with fashion week they are advocating protection for ‘strutting’ yes that is correct. The name for the impossible walk in high shoes new creations which takes place on the catwalk.

Under the proposal the sashaying down the cat walk will be deemed to be a performance with models put on the same footing as musicians and other artists.

Until now the way in which a model executes the walk has not been considered as protectable in its own right but why not. The UK’s Copyright, Designs and Patents Act gives a list of performances eligible for performers’ rights. One category is ‘dramatic’ performances. There is to date no precise definition of what ‘dramatic’ means in the context of performances but if we look at copyright case law we find that ‘dramatic’, in the phrase ‘dramatic work’, is defined as a ‘work of action’, ‘capable of performance’ which displays a modicum of dramatic unity so that the substance of the work is not left to chance or mere randomness. Runway modelling could arguably fit this rather broad definition as theirs : it involves action, elements of performance, holds an overall artistic and dramatic unity as it is directed and is not left to chance nor randomness. On that basis, no new law needed, just a recognition that runway model performances can qualify for protection. Does this mean that models can earn more and will benefit from this, probably not as they are likely to have to sign over any rights they have to their show employer. However that doesn’t make the right worthless to a model as the mere fact it exists does give some measure of bargaining power when it comes to pay and conditions and that surely is very welcome.

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