Table of Contents

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 8: The Lay of the Land: The Geography of Traditional Cultural Expression

Johanna Gibson

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


Johanna Gibson Through the use of ancestrally inherited designs, artists assert their identity, and their rights and responsibilities. They also define the relationships between individuals and groups, and affirm their connections to the land and the Dreaming.1 You see, the land is not only to cultivate. The land is also for you to be cultivated in as a person. This is why, when the land is in the hands of others, you are only a tool.2 1. INTRODUCTION The relationship between copyright and traditional cultural expressions (TCE) is an uneasy and problematic schema, one which not only locates the interests within the proprietary and objective character of copyright, but also one which shares much with the imperial narration of knowledge that accompanies histories of colonisation and global cartography. Intellectual property laws chart the modern trade routes built upon international knowledge economies. Knowledge is thus inextricably geographically-bound not only for traditional communities but also for the momentum of globalisation. The main battle in imperialism is over land, of course; but when it came to who owned the land, who had the right to settle and work on it, who kept it going, who won it back, and who now plans its future – these issues were reflected, contested, and even for a time decided in narrative.3 1 Wally Caruana, Aboriginal Art, London: Thames and Hudson, 1993, at p. 15, as quoted in Terri Janke, Minding Culture: Case Studies on Intellectual Property and Traditional Cultural Expressions, Geneva: WIPO, 2003, at p. 75. 2...

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