Edited by Yasushi Watanabe
Chapter 4: Intellectual property and indigenous culture
Intellectual property has become a battleground for the protection of the cultural heritage of indigenous peoples and traditional communities. While indigenous peoples and traditional communities can use existing types of intellectual property in the forms that they exist, there are many reasons why intellectual property is not a good fit for their traditional knowledge (TK) and traditional cultural expressions (TCEs). This chapter examines the common argument that intellectual property is non-cultural and is, thus, fundamentally inappropriate for TK and TCEs. It discusses the dubious nature of this assertion, but acknowledges that certain specific features of intellectual property do not match indigenous peoples’ and traditional communities’ worldviews and knowledge systems. At the same time, intellectual property is constantly changing and is by no means fixed, but is chameleon-like. This chapter argues that such a creature is apt for dealing with different cultures and the intellectual products of different cultures. It ends by recognizing that intellectual property constitutes just part of the picture.
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