Documentation and Digitization of Traditional Knowledge and Intangible Cultural Knowledge: Challenges and Prospects

The Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS Agreement) has been widely critiqued for proprietizing Western knowledge, while leaving indigenous knowledge and cultural heritage vulnerable to appropriation. This chapter, divided into three sections, explores the discourses arising in the search for a knowledge protection mechanism that can stop the appropriation of intangible cultural heritage in indigenous and local communities. Section 2 explores trends in the discourses emanating from the diverse forums that debate alternative strategies for the protection of intangible cultural heritage outside of intellectual property regime. Section 3 focuses on the documentation and digitization of intangible cultural heritage as a defensive and anti-appropriative mechanism. The section examines the place of documentation within the existing public domain movement for knowledge protection. Section 4 is a partial critique of the public domain movement. It highlights the “romance of the public domain” as an issue being raised by the new public domain campaign and its potential danger for the documentation project. The chapter highlights the potential benefits of digitization as a preferred documentation option. The concludes by calling for a broader vision of documentation that transcends its present thrust as a defensive and anti-appropriative strategy.

 

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Oguamanam, Chidi, Documentation and Digitization of Traditional Knowledge and Intangible Cultural Knowledge: Challenges and Prospects (2009). In Toshiyuki Kono, ed., Intangible Cultural Heritage and Intellectual Property: Cultural Diversity and Sustainable Development (Antwerp: Intersentia, 2009) 357-383.

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