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Tradition, Tech, and Transformation: Information Technologies and the Intellectual Property of Indigenous Peoples
Enweyin: The Way We Speak (2005)
  • Sam Grey, University of Victoria

Changes brought about by the globalization of laws and markets, and the geometric expansion of technological innovation, make intellectual property issues nebulous and mercurial, to the point that keeping pace with changes in the field is a full-time pursuit requiring a high degree of skill and dedication. For nations-within-nations, as is the status of most Native groups worldwide, intellectual property presents a particularly difficult legal and political problem, as indeed intellectual property rights (IPR) regimes challenge the sovereignty of even the strongest and most 'modern' of nation-states. Authorities on the protection of traditional knowledge (TK), resources, and cultural expressions assert that digital technologies are the strongest (if not the only) methods of establishing authorship and ownership, as well as preserving an eroding store of cultural materials for future generations. This claim becomes increasingly complex when considered in light of the dissonance between current information and communication technologies (ICTs) and Native cultural practices, along with the stark fact that most Indigenous groups today find their communities on the wrong side of a deep – and growing – 'digital divide'. Lending urgency is the realization that the pace of the filing of alien claims on traditional knowledge, resources, and expressions is accelerating in response to market demands worldwide, while the cultural context of that same material is undergoing rapid and fundamental change. Framed properly, efforts to constrain the outward flow of cultural goods, as well as to develop and harvest digital resources, is linked to an internal struggle to reconcile the traditional and the modem as powerful oppositional forces in the contemporary Indigenous reality.

  • intellectual property,
  • traditional knowledge,
  • Indigenous knowledge,
  • cultural property,
  • Indigenous intellectual property
Publication Date
Citation Information
Sam Grey. "Tradition, Tech, and Transformation: Information Technologies and the Intellectual Property of Indigenous Peoples" Enweyin: The Way We Speak Vol. 9 (2005)
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