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Intellectual Property and Traditional Cultural Expressions in a Digital Environment

Intellectual Property and Traditional Cultural Expressions in a Digital Environment

Edited by Christoph Beat Graber and Mira Burri-Nenova

In the face of increasing globalisation, and a collision between global communication systems and local traditions, this book offers innovative trans-disciplinary analyses of the value of traditional cultural expressions (TCE) and suggests appropriate protection mechanisms for them. It combines approaches from history, philosophy, anthropology, sociology and law, and charts previously untravelled paths for developing new policy tools and legal designs that go beyond conventional copyright models. Its authors extend their reflections to a consideration of the specific features of the digital environment, which, despite enhancing the risks of misappropriation of traditional knowledge and creativity, may equally offer new opportunities for revitalising indigenous peoples’ values and provide for the sustainability of TCE.

Chapter 1: Lost in Tradition? Reconsidering the History of Folklore and its Legal Protection Since 1800

Monika Dommann

Subjects: law - academic, human rights, intellectual property law, politics and public policy, human rights


Monika Dommann In January 1954, Billboard, the leading US music and entertainment journal, reported on an exclusive contract between the American record company Tempo Records and the government-owned radio station in Afghanistan, Radio Kabul. The contract guaranteed exclusive recording rights in Afghanistan. During a five-month trip around India, Pakistan and Afghanistan, Irving Fogel, President of Tempo Records at the time, collected original indigenous music. The record company planned to release the records in Afghanistan and the United States, where universities and colleges showed particular interest in obtaining the recordings for their collections. Further use of the music by the television and motion picture industries was intended.1 At least two issues concerning the above are worth further consideration. The first issue is related to technology: formerly insubstantial and fluent, only preserved by oral transmission from generation to generation, music became tangible and fixed by the recording process. Hitherto embedded in local cultures, music was decontextualized. It became extremely mobile and entangled with new milieus such as universities, museum collections, radio stations and even the motion picture and television industries. After the music had been recorded, it became what the French philosopher and cultural anthropologist Bruno Latour calls “immutable mobiles”.2 Music could be used and reused on a global scale as an object of scientific research and as a source for economic exploitation. The second issue is related to law. Radio Kabul and the record company Tempo Records made a contract concerning recording rights to indigenous music in Afghanistan. Yet in...

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