This transcript is for the video Dream Shield - Warlukurlangu Artists.

[Alison Page]

A long way from anywhere; about 300ks from Alice Springs, on an endless horizon of red earth – Yuendumu is home to the Warlukurlangu Artists. Walpri is their language

[Curtis Jampijinpa Fry – in Walpirir]

The turkey came from nowhere and tried stealing the emu eggs.

[Alison Page]

Their language is spoken by only a few thousand people, yet their artwork is enjoyed all around the world

[Cecilia Alfonso]

It does give people a marketing edge to really work ethically through an arts centre. What you get is you know that an artist is being fairly compensated for their intellectual property by buying a product that licenses from an arts centre.

[Alison Page]

One of those licensing deals they have secured is with Melbourne-based designer Roopa Pemmaraju. These striking patterns and colours now grace the catwalks of Sydney and Melbourne.

When Roopa started her design business, she saw the value of authentic Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artwork.

[Roopa Pemmaraju]

We decided that there would be a royalty attached to every garment that we sell. It could be from any artist form their community, but there would be a set percentage which goes back to the community. Then after that they distribute it among the artist’s community. So that was something that we created which was a nice way of giving back, and at the same time it’s a product, it’s a luxury product. There has to be process in place for me to sell the product in a right manner.

[Otto Jungarrayi Sims]

We also have other arrangements with other companies that make china cups, plates, bags iPhone covers. So there’s a lot in the market which is good for the Indigenous people in this area and we feel proud of that.

[Cecilia Alfonso]

I’ve never given away the copyright. People have asked me to sign over the copyright for a set fee, which I’ve always refused. We always make sure that it’s a percentage of sales that is returned back to the Art Centre.

[Roopa Pemmaraju]

I would recommend any individual, any business to first have their IP in place, and have the connection with the person, or the community or the individual artist that you’re going to be working with – to have the IP first in place. Have the agreement sorted, work with it, I know it will take some time, more time than you thought but its very important that it be in place. Then you can do your next steps.

[Alison Page]

Warlukurlangu Artists are a not-for-profit profit organisation, but they are very successful in generating funds for the community. So what others learn from their experience?

Licensing copyright connects the dots from where art is created to where it is ultimately sold. You can make money in the city, while still living on country.

Of course, like any business you may need people with different skills such as marketing or accounting to help you succeed. Make sure you read any contract before you sign it. If you don’t understand it, don’t sign it.

Take necessary steps to protect your intellectual property. It’s best practice to place a copyright notice on your work. Consider licensing your IP so that you can keep earning royalties in long term relationships with trusted clients.

Even if you’ve sold your copyright, you still have moral rights, including the right of attribution. Someone else can’t claim to have created the unique art that you yourself have created.

Copyright is free and automatic. You don’t need to apply for it. Most other IP, like designs, patents and trade marks, are registered rights you apply for through IP Australia.

Copyright law may not protect some aspects of your culture. Seek professional advice on using contracts to protect indigenous protocols.

If you’d like more information visit

Last updated: 
Wednesday, April 6, 2016