Law, Knowledge, Culture

Law, Knowledge, Culture

The Production of Indigenous Knowledge in Intellectual Property Law

Jane E. Anderson

This informative book investigates how indigenous and traditional knowledge has been produced and positioned within intellectual property law and the effects of this position in both national and international jurisdictions.

Introduction

Jane E. Anderson

Subjects: law - academic, intellectual property law

Extract

In 1983 Aboriginal artist Yanggarrny Wunungmurra and the Aboriginal Arts Agency commenced action for copyright infringement against a fabric designer/manufacturer and the proprietor of a retail shop.1 The argument was that the copyright in the bark painting ‘Long necked fresh water tortoises by the fish trap at Gaanan’ had been infringed when reproduced onto fabric without the artist’s consent. The case was settled with the first defendant, the designer, being ordered to pay damages and to supply a list of all persons to whom he had supplied fabric. The second defendant, the retailer, was ordered to deliver all the remaining material to the plaintiff. The case hardly made a ripple in the vast waters of increasing copyright litigation within Australia. In hindsight this is a surprise considering that, at the time, an emerging issue in the Australian political environment was a concern for the protection of ‘expressions of folklore’, namely Aboriginal art.2 Eleven years later another copyright case unfolded in the Northern Territory Federal Court that generated significantly more attention.3 Milpurrurru & Others v Indofurn Pty Ltd involved the unauthorised reproduction of Aboriginal art as the designs for a series of impressive carpets intended for the art market. The significance of the case lay in the perception that it presented a clear judicial affirmation that Aboriginal art could legitimately secure copyright protection, and the collective interests of Aboriginal owners could be somehow legally secured. While some commentators in the popular media hailed the case as the ‘Mabo of...