Academy Awards Alert! Why You Might Be a Fashion Criminal

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Say you don't have the dough to add the fashions you see at Sunday's Academy Awards ceremony to your closet. If you buy knockoffs instead, are you shopping smart or stealing?

Today it's perfectly legal to copy whatever you see on the red carpet and sell it yourself. To some, such as Diane Von Furstenberg, this sounds a lot like theft. The former German princess is one of the world's most successful fashion designers and she's teaming up with Sen. Chuck Schumer (D–N.Y.) to push a bill that would give designers a three-year monopoly on new creations.

The whole point of intellectual property is to spur innovation, and that, according to supporters, is exactly why the fashion industry needs such a bill. Without tougher protections, they say designers will have less incentive to create new looks.

But is the fashion industry really hurting for innovation? And are top-tier designers like Von Furstenberg really getting ripped off by bargain hunters? And even if they were, who's to say whose look is truly original?

Johanna Blakely of USC's Norman Lear Center worries that the relentless push for more intellectual property protection could lead to a situation where big design houses lawyer up and sue young designers. Designer Galina Sobolov, head designer and owner of Single by Galina Sobolov, agrees.

"If this bill was in effect as we grew our company, we would have faced probably millions of lawsuits," says Sobolov, whose designs have been worn by celebs such as Katy Perry and Rachel Hunter. "And we would have never actually had a company."

Approximately 6.30 minutes.

Written and Produced by Ted Balaker. Field Producer: Paul Detrick; Camera: Hawk Jensen, Alex Manning, Zach Weissmueller; Additional Photography: Dan Hayes.

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