How Costumes Evade Copyright Infringment
The month of October is a celebrated time of year, both for consumers and companies alike; it brings about a joyous equilibrium of buying and selling, in the man-made circle of life that is capitalism. Endless plastic spiders, skulls, and candy corn are sold to consumers for highly marked-up prices, and in return, the people get to revel in the orange-and-black, pumpkin-spiced aura of autumn. However, this delicate October ecosystem is upheld on a potentially unstable market; Halloween costumes.
Upwards of $7.3 billion is spent on Halloween sales a year in the United States, and an approximated 38 percent of that goes towards costumes. With a revenue nearing $2.8 billion per year coming from costume sales, companies cannot afford to get tangled up in copyright lawsuits that discontinue any of their products. Due to the popularity of character-costumes from movies, television, books, and video games, there are a great deal of costumes that can be sold from them. Unfortunately, production costs can take a hit when various royalties have to be paid to so many different companies in order to label costumes officially as the character they are intended to be. This particular problem has inspired a widespread loophole that has been stirring up accidental humor everywhere this season, the solution being, simply put, generic naming and description of off-brand costumes, in order to evade a copyright infringement lawsuit. Examples of this loophole in action include costumes titled “Courageous forest princess,” “Deluxe Candy Man,” and “K Billy Skin Suit,” in attempts to mimic the likeness of characters from Brave, Willy Wonka, and the Kill Bill movies. Techniques used to communicate the intended character without breaching any existing copyrights include the use of synonyms to original titles, such as “courageous” is to “brave,” or generic descriptions of well-enough known characters, as the case shows with Willy Wonka. Perhaps the most bizarre method, however, is the random rearrangement and abbreviation of exact original phrases. “Kill” was inexplicably shortened to a mere “K,” whilst “Bill” was lengthened to common nickname “Billy,” despite the lack of use in the actual films whatsoever. Thanks to trends on websites such as Facebook and Buzzfeed, there is a plethora of compilations of these strangely named costumes floating around the internet, although business seems to remain booming for companies involved in this practice. Whether or not people support or look down on this blatant display of copyright evasion, one fact remains steadily true: as long as the leaves turn red and coffee shops sells pumpkin themed beverages, people shall continue to buy polyester constructions of their favorite characters’ offbrand counterparts for half the price of originals.