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Indigenous Research

University of Alberta Copyright Office

Copyright Office, University of Alberta
W218 John A. Weir Memorial Law Library
2nd Floor, Law Centre

Phone: 780-492-8327


Intellectual Property Rights and Copyright

Traditional knowledge is not formally protected under the international IP system. The difficulties in defining traditional knowledge and the collective aspect of it pose several challenges because IP systems grant term-limited proprietary rights to a specific individual or institution.


In a Canadian context 

Issues with IPR and its imposition on TK and Indigenous communities  expressions of TK often cannot qualify for protection because 

  1. they are too old and are, therefore they are assumed to be in the Public Domain; 
  2. that the “author” of the material is often not identifiable, therefore there is no “rights holder” in the usual sense of the term;
  3. and that TK is owned “collectively” by Indigenous groups for cultural claims and not by individuals or corporations for economic claims. 


additionally Canadian Copyright laws do not protect Indigenous knowledge because of the above stated. 


For more information see Younging, G. (2010). Protecting traditional knowledge : the WIPO intergovernmental committee on intellectual property and genetic resources, traditional knowledge and folklore, for WIPO Indigenous Panel on the Role of the Public Domain, Geneva. 

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