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 9: The Long Tail of the Rainbow Serpent: New Technologies and the Protection and Promotion of Traditional Cultural Expressions

Mira Burri-Nenova


Mira Burri-Nenova* Technologies have often been seen as a peril for traditional cultural expressions (TCE) and as an inhibitor of their protection. The first reason for this angst, whose legitimacy will be one of the issues discussed in this paper, is that new technologies are viewed as the very epitome of globalisation forces – both as driving and deepening the process of globalisation itself and as a means of spreading its effects. Frequently made statements in this regard (and widely supported ones too) are that, “[t]he distinct and diverse qualities of the world’s multiple cultural communities are threatened in the face of uniformity brought on by new technologies and the globalization of culture and commerce”.1 “Increasingly, traditional knowledge, folklore, genetic material and native medical knowledge flow out of their countries unprotected by intellectual property, while works from developed countries flow in, well protected by international intellectual property agreements, backed by the threat of trade sanctions”.2 The author thanks Christoph Beat Graber for inspiring the title of this contribution. The rainbow serpent is a major mythological being for Aboriginal people across Australia, although the creation stories associated with it are best known from northern Australia. The rainbow serpent is seen as the inhabitant of permanent waterholes and is in control of life’s most precious resource, water. It is known both as a benevolent protector of its people and as a malevolent punisher of law-breakers (excerpts taken from Wikipedia at 1 WIPO, Consolidated Analysis of the Legal...

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