Monday 4 March 2013

Intellectual Property, Cultural Appropriation and Value(s)

The intersection of intellectual property and cultural appropriation raises many issues and is rife with controversy.  The allegations of the, at least immoral if not unlawful, taking of cultural property, traditional cultural expressions or biological resources for “outsider” commercial exploitation are not new.  The use of intellectual property to then protect and exclude others (including insiders) from using that property is also not new.  Here is a recent allegation of cultural appropriation by MSNBC reporter Melissa Harris-Perry concerning the viral “Harlem Shake” videos.  The usual suspect of issues exist concerning  allegations of cultural appropriation such as “who is the owner of “Harlem Shake” the term and the dance?”; “who has the power to include or exclude others to the original dance or term?”; “what is fair attribution or respect for use of the dance or term?”; “what is fair compensation for use of the term or dance?” in light of “Western” notions of intellectual property.  (Hat tip to Professor and Associate Director Steve Jamar at Howard University School of Law in Washington DC for the lead to the video.  Professors Lateef Mtima and Jamar lead the Institute for Intellectual Property and Social Justice at Howard University.) 

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