Reimagining IP

April 22, 2017 4:30 pm - 6:30 pm

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Jane Anderson
Margaret Chon
Adam Haupt

What are the alternatives to a racialized system of IP? How can we envision a critical race IP that addresses race’s impact on the organization of knowledge? This plenary will explore theoretical and policy inroads into IP’s racialized superstructures, considering questions around decoloniality, development, indigenous knowledge, and access to medicine. Focusing on these questions helps us to think about where to go from here as we move to the close of the conference.


De-colonial Futures: Local Contexts and the Traditional Knowledge Labels and Licenses Project.

Jane Anderson

Local Contexts ( is a collaborative, multi-tribal and multi-institutional project addressing control, ownership and future use of the enormous Indigenous collections held within museums, libraries and archives around the world. It functions as a legal and informational intervention to support Indigenous peoples and communities navigate copyright law and establish new networks for negotiation over the sharing and future circulations of Indigenous knowledge. Currently working with 16 Native American and First Nation communities and over ten cultural institutions in the United States including the Library of Congress, the Field Museum and American Museum of Natural History, Local Contexts is addressing how exclusion from IP law continues to affect Indigenous peoples and communities.

Through the innovative digital tagging and licensing system, the TK (Traditional Knowledge) Labels and Licenses allow local community voices and perspectives on access and sharing to be expressed within public catalogue records. Sidestepping the traditional problems of copyright, this intervention engages the social entanglements of intellectual property law in order to create new knowledge-sharing paradigms that are inclusive of various histories and cultural perspectives. This includes opening up of the otherwise flat concepts of ‘copyright works’, ‘access’ and ‘fair use’ for more nuanced understandings of what these concepts can mean from different cultural vantage points over time. It also points to the embedded colonial logics that persist within concepts of the ‘public domain’ and the ‘commons’. The TK Labels, in particular, signal a set of cultural parameters for using Indigenous collections, asking people to consider standpoints that have traditionally been reduced and relegated outside the legal domain. For instance the TK Labels help identify and clarify which material has community-specific, gendered and/or high-level restrictions or protocols associated with it. The TK Labels also allow for the inclusion of historically missing information about source communities, for instance the name of the community from where material derives, what conditions of use are considered culturally appropriate and how to contact relevant family, clan or community members to arrange appropriate permissions.