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This website, originally designed to complement the book Who Owns Native Culture? (Harvard UP, 2003), has for more than a decade served as an informal clearinghouse for information on efforts to defend indigenous cultural and intellectual property from unwanted appropriation by others.

Because I will be taking a new position at the School for Advanced Research in Santa Fe, NM, in mid-2014, I will no longer be able to update the site. The site and its archive will remain accessible for the foreseeable future in the hope that it continues to prove useful to students, scholars, and the general public.

I remain grateful to the many people who over the years have sent me interesting leads and relevant links for posting here.

Michael F. Brown
April 2014


The International Journal of Cultural Property frequently publishes articles on indigenous IPR and is actively seeking innovative submissions on this and related topics. For additional information, browse the website of the International Cultural Property Society.
Additional publications by Michael F. Brown on indigenous rights and heritage protection, most available for full-text download.
RSS feed for Who Owns Native Culture? website.  
Some blogs to track if you're interested in indigenous IPR, heritage protection, and questions of open access: SavageMinds, the Museum Anthropology blog, Material World, Culture Matters, and Kimberly Christen's In Transition. You might also want to check the web page of a project at Simon Fraser University in BC, Canada, called "Intellectual Property Issues in Cultural Heritage." Likewise the website of the Lawyers' Committee for Cultural Heritage Preservation. Another useful and sometimes amusing blog site to check out is Native Appropriations.
News, Stories, Documents
"Zuni ask Europe to Return Sacred Art." New York Times, 9 April 2014.
A new organization to watch: The Ethnobotanical Stewardship Council, "a nonprofit organization dedicated to assuring the sustainability and safe use of traditional plants, and enriching the communities who work with them."
Another case of (alleged) cultural appropriation by a clothing company: "Are Perks and Mini ripping off or riffing on African Culture?" Theconversation.com, 30 January 2014.
"Indigenous panel at WIPO asks for international instrument compliant with recognized rights." IP Watch, 6 February 2014.
Kerim, writing in the blog Savage Minds, reviews a new ethnographic film from Taiwain that recounts an unusual story of repatriation--not of a sacred pillar, which remains in a museum, but of the spirits that inhabited it. 29 January 2014, posted here 30 January.
The Onion does it again. Don't miss its cartoon on the abolition of Native American mascots, "Trail of Tears 2," 30 January 2014.
For one of WONC's never-ending series of stories on the insanity of today's intellectual property laws, see Andrew Leonard's account of how the creators of the video game "Candy Crush Saga" have trademarked the word "candy" when used in games and related products, including clothing. From Salon.com, 24 January 2014, posted here 30 January.
ESSENTIAL READING: Special issue of Museum Anthropology Review, "After the Return: Digital Repatriation and the Circulation of Indigenous Knowledge," with articles by Kimberly Christen, Joshua A. Bell, Mark Turin, Kate Hennessy, Robert Leopold, Jane Anderson, Sita Reddy, Haidy Geismar, and many others. Posted here 15 January 2014.
"Indian Family Sees Its History in a Shirt," New York Times, 27 December 2013.
New website for learning about and obtaining Traditional Knowledge (TK) Licenses: LocalContexts.org.
"Sending Artworks Home, but to Whom? Denver Museum to Return Totems to Kenyan Museum," New York Times, 3 January 2014.
Available OA, full-text: Derek Fincham, "The Distinctiveness of Property and Heritage," Penn State Law Review, 2011.
Another controversial auction in France, this time with a happy ending: "US charity buys up Hopi masks to return to tribe," 11 December 2013, posted here 27 December.
Check out Sanaa Hamid's photographic blog post "Cutural Appropriation: A Conversation." It's not about indigenous cultural property per se, just a thoughtful exchange about the use of symbolically freighted markers of cultural such as the kaffiyeh.
"Maori culture could be trademarked by TPP multinationals," (TPP being the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact). In Intercontinental Cry, 22 November 2013, posted here 11 December 2013.
Check out the provocative piece by Elissa Washuta in Salon.com: "I regret my 'Naughty Native' Halloween costume." 24 October 2013.
One I missed:Wayne Shammel and Dave Stephenson, "Protecting American Indian Intellectual Property in the Twenty-First Century: The Case of the Cow Creek Tribe and Indian Motorcycle," Cultural Survival Quarterly, Winter 2000.
Shrii Shrii Anandamurtijii, "Distribution of rights within indigenous cultures." 16 October 2013.
Here's a cultural property case with unusual features: the proposed repatriation of Judaica to Iraq by the U.S., a transfer protested by Justice for Jews from Arab Countries (JJAC) and Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and Africa (JIMENA), who fear that the items will be destroyed or poorly cared for. In any case, these groups contend, the Iraqi government obtained the materials illegally. 10 October 2013, posted here 23 October 2013. Thanks to Matthew T. Bradley for the link.
Due out soon: Karolina Kuprecht, Indigenous Peoples' Cultural Property Claims. Posted here 23 October 2013.
"EU lawmakers back ‘intellectual property rights’ over biodiversity." EurActiv.com, 13 September 2013, posted here 23 September 2013.
Yet another clothing gaffe: Nike hammered for producing leggings based on Samoan tattoos. 15 August 2013, posted here 26 August.
Many more archived stories about recent developments in Indigenous IP, 2003-2006, 2007-2013

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Site last modified: 9 April 2014