By Terri Janke of Terri Janke and Company
I set up my law firm in 2000 with a view to providing advice to Indigenous Australians about intellectual property (IP) and Indigenous Cultural and Intellectual Property such as songs, stories and knowledge that have been handed down through the generations. We provide advice on how existing IP can assist Indigenous people create and innovate as well as promote cultural protocols as tool for commercial engagement.
We have worked with many Indigenous women to help them with the protection of their culture. Kylie-Lee Bradford, Indigenous business owner from the Kakadu region, came to us for protection of her business’ branding. We helped her understand the importance of trade marking. Bibi Barba worked with us around the protection of the intellectual property of her artworks. These women came to us because they understand that protection of intellectual property ensures that they feel safe to create.
Indigenous Australians have been calling for intellectual property protection for their traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expression throughout the years. When I started my career in the mid-1990s, I worked with the legal team on the Carpets Case. The case involved carpets that were being copied from Indigenous artworks, made overseas and sold in Australia without consent from the artists. It was the first time the Federal Court of Australia recognised that Indigenous artists were entitled to use copyright to stop the unauthorised copying of their works on imported carpets. Whilst this case was a game changer there are still many legal issues.
We work with our clients to assist them to assert their cultural protocols, use existing intellectual property laws and to also negotiate their rights in contracts so that the cultural issues for protection are managed.
We also know it is important to advance everyone’s understanding of the importance of protecting Indigenous Cultural and Intellectual Property. We developed the True Tracks Protocols to offer a framework that can help people navigate the use of Indigenous Cultural and Intellectual Property appropriately. We work with companies, organisations and government departments who collaborate with Indigenous creators.
Changing the way we understand Indigenous Cultural and Intellectual Property is the first step.