Intellectual Property and Traditional Cultural Expressions in a Digital Environment
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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.
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Chapter 7: ‘It’s a Small World (After All)’: Some Reflections on Intellectual Property and Traditional Cultural Expressions

Wend B. Wendland


7. “It’s a small world (after all)”: some reflections on intellectual property and traditional cultural expressions Wend B. Wendland* I. INTRODUCTION Exploring the intellectual property (IP) protection of traditional cultural expressions (TCE) and the cognate subject matter of “traditional knowledge” (TK)1 has been described as “like trying to fit a round peg into a square hole”.2 There are certainly deep-running divergences between the worldviews underpinning the conventional IP system and the customary legal systems, ways of life and traditional practices of indigenous and local communities. From an indigenous perspective, a song or story is not a commodity or a form of property but “one of the manifestations of an ancient and continuing relationship between people and their territory”.3 As a result of the unique nature * This article was written in the author’s personal capacity and any views expressed in the article are those of the author, and not necessarily those of the WIPO Secretariat or any of WIPO’s Member States. 1 In intellectual property discussions a distinction is usually drawn between the content or substance of traditional knowledge per se (traditional knowledge stricto sensu, “TK”) and the tangible and intangible forms in which such knowledge is expressed, communicated or manifested (traditional cultural expressions, or “expressions of folklore”, “TCE”). This distinction is criticized as artificial, as it certainly is in relation to the daily life of indigenous peoples in which technical know-how and artistic expressions form part of an integrated unitary heritage. However, the distinction facilitates an IP...

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