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What is Copyright Infringement? A Lesson from Dapper Dan

Updated: May 9, 2022

Have you watched “The Remix : Hip Hop X Fashion” on Netflix? It is a documentary that showcases the fashion designers that turned 90’s hip-hop style into a global phenomenon. However, these designers didn’t always get the credit they deserved. This documentary lets their voice be heard.

In the group of fashion designers, was a man named Dapper Dan. Dapper Dan was a designer who had a clothing boutique in Harlem, New York dedicated to the streets and urban style. He specialized in custom tailoring and custom made to order pieces. He was famous for taking print of luxury brands, such as Gucci, Louis Vuitton and Fendi, and reconstructed them in a way that fit the hip-hop street culture. His clothing was highly requested and was worn by famous rappers such as L Cool J, Salt-N-Pepa, and Big Daddy Kane. He was in fact, introducing high end brands into the hip-hop culture. As the music traveled into other countries, so did the style and culture.

Along with other states, the state of New York became aware of Dapper Dan’s store. The New York City Police Department raided the store to seize his clothing, fabric and materials. These luxury brands exercised their rights by suing for copyright infringement and put him out of business.

According to the United States Copyright Office, copyright infringement occurs when a copyrighted work is reproduced, distributed, performed, publicly displayed, or made into a derivative work without the permission of the copyright owner. Although Dapper Dan was creating his own custom made pieces, he was doing so by using other fashion brands’ protected intellectual property. As stated in the documentary, his store was shut down and he explained how he went “underground” to still serve his clientele. Although Dapper Dan was put out of business by these brands, he later got the chance to collaborate with Gucci.

The takeaway lesson is: OWNERSHIP IS KING! Once you have created a work, you want to make sure that your work is not reproduced, distributed, performed, publicly displayed, or made into a derivative work without your permission.

In order to have these rights, your copyright must be registered!

Keep creating and keep working. But also be sure to get your intellectual property protected!

Until next time,

Lawyer Jas


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