Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Indigenous Cultural Property

On Origin, the Idea, and Society:

Thomas Jefferson once said in a letter to Isaac McPherson on August 13, 1813:
"If nature has made any one thing less susceptible than all others of exclusive property, it is the action of the thinking power called an idea, which an individual may exclusively possess as long as he keeps it to himself; but the moment it is divulged, it forces itself into the possession of every one, and the receiver cannot dispossess himself of it. Its peculiar character, too, is that no one possesses the less, because every other possesses the whole of it. He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me."

Thomas Jefferson, Letter to Isaac McPherson (August 13, 1813)

Another limitation of current U.S. Intellectual Property legislation is its focus on individual and joint works; thus, copyright protection can only be obtained in 'original' works of authorship.[^] This definition excludes any works that are the result of community creativity, for example Native American songs and stories; current legislation does not recognize the uniqueness of indigenous cultural 'property' and its ever-changing nature. Simply asking native cultures to 'write down' their cultural artifacts on tangible mediums ignores their necessary orality and enforces a Western bias of the written form as more authoritative.

Philip Bennet, "Native Americans and Intellectual Property: the Necessity of Implementing Collective Ideals into Current United States Intellectual Property Laws", 2009

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