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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 12: Traditional Cultural Expressions and their Significance for Development in a Digital Environment: Examples from Australia and Southeast Asia

Christoph Antons

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


Christoph Antons* 1. INTRODUCTION: THE PROBLEM OF DEFINING “TRADITIONAL CULTURAL EXPRESSIONS” AND “TRADITIONAL KNOWLEDGE” While there are great expectations for traditional cultural expressions (TCE) and their significance for development, at the international level there is still little agreement as to how they are to be defined, the beneficiaries of potential forms of protection delineated, cultural integrity simultaneously commercialised and protected, and the benefits from increasing commercialisation distributed. In her chapter, Miriam Sahlfeld points out some of these problems, which are also identified in other chapters of this volume. In the following, I will comment on these problem areas by using Sahlfeld’s chapter as a point of departure and reference point and by providing examples from my current research focusing on Australia and Southeast Asia. First, there is the question, discussed by Martin Girsberger earlier in this volume, of whether “traditional cultural expressions” can be easily separated from what the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) now defines as traditional knowledge (TK) “in the strict sense”. Terms referring to “tradition” are all somewhat problematic, as will be outlined later in this chapter. Therefore, this debate appears as a rather technical one conducted by intellectual property experts, on how to fit the various categories of “tradition” into the relatively narrowly defined categories of intellectual property. In spite of such categorisation by intellectual property experts, most of the literature dealing with TCE – including * The author would like to thank the Australian Research Council and the ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation...

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