Wik Apalech dancers

In 1998, Wik Apalech dancers from Cape York discovered unauthorized images taken by a commercial photographer at a festival in 1995.

An image of the dancers dressed for ceremony was reproduced onto CDs, postcards, and cassettes. This was offensive because only certain people in the dancers' community have the authority to use images of the dance.

While the dancers didn't own copyright in the photographs, the law does offer some protection. Performers' rights can prevent an unauthorised recording of a traditional ceremony. Even if they agreed to photos, their moral rights could prevent offensive use. There are also competition and consumer laws to prevent deceptive and misleading conduct.

With the help of the Cape York Land Council, the dancers took action to end the manufacture of the products and remove the photographs from the website.

Photograph: Garma Festival, © Yothu Yindi Foundation 2012. Use with permission.

Last Updated: 16/12/2013

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