Indigenous Issues Today is pleased to announce an upcoming roundtable discussion that will take place at the Society for Applied Anthropology's annual meeting in Memphis at the end of March. Entitled "Intellectual Property Rights, Technology, and Indigenous Peoples: Perspectives From and On the Public Sphere" this roundtable will bring together several leading scholars and researchers - as well as meeting participants - in a discussion of the nuances surrounding the intellectual property rights of indigenous people and technology.
Applied anthropologists, cultural heritage specialists, representatives from indigenous groups, intellectual property rights scholars, and others will discuss issues involving recognition and protection of intellectual property rights related to technology and indigenous peoples. Broadly, these complex issues include parameters of benefit-sharing, commodifications of heritage, biopiracy and biofarming, and the control, access, and use of indigenous peoples’ knowledge. Topics of discussion will include geographical information systems (GIS) and traditional ecological knowledge (TEK), the Internet and intellectual property in the digital era, and other issues centering on indigenous peoples, intellectual property rights, and technology. The roundtable is an opportunity to define and give voice to these issues from diverse standpoints and discuss contexts where they have emerged as particularly significant in the public sphere.
Some of the noted discussants are: Kathy M'Closkey of the University of Windsor who will discuss "Diasporas of and by Design: Native American Artisans Encounter Free Market Anarchism"
Isleta fetish carver Andy Abeita recently acknowledged: “the world renowned recognition of southwest arts and crafts does not reflect what goes on within impoverished makers’ homes.” Although Native Americans are the primary attraction, and tourism brings billions into the region annually, publications skim lightly over the manner in which artisans are now enmeshed in globalization. Since 1970, an environment of ‘free-market anarchism’ has escalated; one-half of the two billion-dollar annual sales of arts and crafts are ‘knock-offs’ imported from abroad. In this paper I review the consequences of this diaspora facilitated by the Internet, that increasingly impoverishes thousands of Native artisans.Similarly, Mary Riley will discuss her work using GIS technologies to map indigenous peoples' knowledge.
Advances in GIS technologies and dataset creation create novel liability issues in digital technology law. Such liability may potentially extend to all persons or entities involved in indigenous knowledge mapping projects using GIS technology. This contribution to the Round Table discussion will focus on problems surrounding the creation, maintenance and use of GIS datasets, including the following legal issues: (1) negligence and malpractice; (2) misappropriation; (3) selecting an appropriate standard of care; (4) establishing “best practices” for GIS dataset creation, maintenance and management. In addition to these liability issues, the legal issues surrounding access, ownership, and control over indigenous knowledge extend to the products of indigenous mapping projects, i.e., professionally-produced digital spatial data.Sara Geirholm, from PACTeam Canada Inc. will also touch on GIS technology in association with intellectual property rights.
In Canada’s Northwest Territories, the use of GIS in natural resource management is prolific. For First Nations who participate in co-management regimes, who are negotiating land claims, who are in discussions with industry or who are involved in land use planning, using GIS to illustrate their use and occupancy is a necessity. But what are the impacts of using a tool that creates a commodity out of traditional knowledge; that means relying on people from the outside to use it? How do First Nations maintain control over the distribution of their information and ensure it is not misinterpreted?Finally, Tressa Berman from the Smithsonian Institution and the California College of the Arts will talk about de-coding the signature in Indigenous art practice and the digital age.
This panel contribution considers notions of ‘the signature’ as a cultural marker and metaphorical emblem by examining new media applications and artistic expression from the standpoints of Indigenous heritage and creativity. This investigation is part of a larger project that interrogates the ‘problematic of the signature,’ as a way of examining meanings that signatures, or the absence of signatures, convey in their application to cultural properties. This discussion will build on the contributor’s research that links land rights with art rights, and Indigenous intellectual property rights (IPR) with customary practices and other legalizing claims to cultural heritage in world forums (such as the United Nations). By looking at ‘the signature’ as a form of cultural marking, we can uncover its consequences for (cultural) property relations, and specifically, how it ‘codes’ our understandings of discursively linked frames, such as ‘ownership,’ ‘identity,’ ‘authenticity,’ and ‘originality,’ through various practices in the public sphere of the Internet and its applications in new media art.Anyone interested in these issues is welcome to attend the roundtable. There are many other panels and roundtables at the meeting that will be of interest to people involved in indigenous issues, so the entire meeting should be of use. A summary of the discussion will be posted on the Indigenous Issues Today website.