Edited by Christoph Beat Graber and Mira Burri-Nenova
Chapter 3: The Disneyland of Cultural Rights to Intellectual Property: Anthropological and Philosophical Perspectives
Elizabeth Burns Coleman In this paper I will argue against the concept of a human right to intellectual property in traditional cultural expressions (TCE), in so far as they are defined as arts. In so doing, however, I do not deny, and indeed intend to defend, the intuition that there are moral issues surrounding the use and transmission of TCE. I will argue that, while there is no human right to the protection of arts, not all TCE should be thought of as “arts”, as this misrepresents the functional role they play. However, once we see what role they play, and why we should accept that they are morally important, we should not think of them as human rights. 1. INTRODUCTION The “right to culture” is considered a human right. Article 27 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (CCPR)1 states, that “[i]n those States in which ethnic, religious or linguistic minorities exist, persons belonging to such minorities shall not be denied the right, in the community with other members of their group, to enjoy their own culture, to profess and practice their own religion, or to use their own language”. The right to enjoy one’s culture might be considered uncontroversial if it were merely taken to mean that it would be wrong of a government to forcibly suppress or destroy the culture of an indigenous minority group. Yet, the United Nations Report “Protection of the Heritage of Indigenous Peoples”2 suggested that the term “enjoys...
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