Traditional Cultural Expressions, A Protection Beyond Intellectual Property Law

Author:Ms Vera Albino
Profession:Inventa International

John Steinbeck, in one of his works, questioned "Without our past, how will we know it's us?" João de Barros also said "the man without memory has the understanding of little boy".

The preservation of our past, made of narrations and expositions of facts and memorable events, is a common concern for as long as memory exists. Characterized by historical feats, it is also externalized by artistic forms, namely traditional cultural expressions.

According to the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions of UNESCO, 2005, "cultural expressions" are "expressions that result from the creativity of individuals, groups and societies, and which have cultural content.".

Intentionally vague and comprehensive, this definition invites us to identify cultural expressions that may be considered as included in this category. Thus, in the concept of cultural expressions we can include immaterial expressions, externalized by words (tales, poetry), musicals (songs), corporals (dances, rituals) as well as material expressions such as paintings, sculptures, crafts and clothing.

Traditional cultural expressions are part of the cultural heritage of peoples, regions and the humanity, as far as they bear witness to a set of cultural goods to which identifiable meanings are attributed.

We recall that "Heritage" comes from the Old French iritage, eritage, heritage "heir; inheritance, ancestral estate, heirloom," meaning the "condition or state transmitted from ancestors", evoking that the person who received a heritage should manage it as a good father in order to passing it onto their descendants.

Intellectual property law has proved to be a possible tool for the management and transmission of cultural heritage, protecting it from unauthorized use and reproduction, misappropriation and other forms of illicit exploitation.

Indeed, intellectual property rights make it possible to protect traditional cultural expressions through the registration of copyright and related rights, geographical indications, designations of origin, trademarks and designs.

Thus, contemporary adaptations of folklore are protected by copyright, while traditional music may be covered by the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty and Beijing Treaty on Audiovisual Performances. Trademark registrations can also be used to identify traditional arts, such has what happens with the protection of the word "Maori" in New Zealand.

The intellectual property...

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