Elgar Law, Technology and Society series
Edited by Jessica C. Lai and Antoinette Maget Dominicé
Chapter 10: In/tangible heritage, intellectual property and museum policy: exploring methods for respecting indigenous legal traditions
Issues around defining respectful relationships, and within those relationships, reconciling laws and values concerning use and control of intangible indigenous heritage, arise in numerous museum contexts including: repatriation of material culture and associated information; co-management of information or cultural expressions that were (and often still are) considered sensitive or sacred by an Aboriginal community; data and products of research derived from Aboriginal peoples or conducted within their territories; and digital images and multimedia processes designed to enhance exhibits or access to information and participation of Aboriginal peoples in interpretation and control of collections and/or a broader public through use of contemporary technologies (for example, “virtual museums”). However, the particular nature of western intellectual property norms (largely dictated by international obligations) and the intangible/tangible divide in western property complicate the matter. This chapter will introduce the current legal and policy environment for addressing intangible heritage in museum contexts and how intellectual property law, in particular trade mark and copyright law, and its relationship with chattel property and contract law, offer opportunities and challenges for policy implementation respectful of indigenous laws and relationships.
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