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The Knockoff Economy Is Out! Bring Your Questions for Kal Raustiala and Chris Sprigman

The Knockoff Economy is out! The book explores the relationship between copying and creativity. Copying has a well-known destructive side—which is why we have intellectual property rights—but it also has a much less appreciated productive side. We explain how some creative industries not only survive in the face of copying, but thrive due to copying.  These industries offer an important set of lessons about intellectual property law and highlight the often complex balance between innovation and imitation. While many of the cases we explore are unusual—such as fashion and fonts—we close the book with a broader examination of the main themes and lessons and a brief look at the music business, which is perhaps the poster child for the (often exaggerated) perils of copying.

The Knockoff Economy grew out of an earlier paper of ours on innovation in the fashion industry. We realized there were many creative fields that fell outside the scope of intellectual property law in one way or another, and just as importantly, these fields turned out to be really fun to explore. Writing the book allowed us to dig into things like football and fonts, and to do so in a way that, we hope, opens up a broader debate on the law and economics of innovation.

To celebrate the release of The Knockoff Economy, let’s have a contest.  Send your photos of crazy knockoff items to  Here’s an example we saw a while ago — a Louis Vuitton waffle maker:

Can you find a knockoff that’s nuttier than that?  Send us a pic. The winner will receive a signed copy of The Knockoff Economy, and this great new CD of Fleetwood Mac covers. “Cover songs” is just a technical term for knockoffs in music. The law makes these knockoffs legal, so don’t worry!

We’re also happy to answer any questions that Freakonomics readers might have, so please ask away in the comments section below!

Here is the table of contents:

The Knockoff Economy:  How Imitation Sparks Innovation


Knockoffs and Fashion Victims

Cuisine, Copying, and Creativity

Comedy Vigilantes

Football, Fonts, Finance, and Feist

Conclusion: Copies and Creativity

Epilogue: The Future of Music

This post is no longer accepting comments. The answers to the Q&A can be found here.