The Intellectual Property Issues in Cultural Heritage research project is an international collaboration of archaeologists, Indigenous organizations, lawyers, anthropologists, ethicists, policy makers, and others working to explore and facilitate fair and equitable exchanges of knowledge relating to archaeology. We are concerned with the theoretical, ethical, and practical implications of commodification, appropriation, and other flows of knowledge about the past, and how these may affect communities, researchers, and other stakeholders.
The Intellectual Property Issues in Cultural Heritage research project provides a foundation of research, knowledge and resources to assist archaeologists, academic institutions, descendant communities, scholars, policy makers, and other stakeholders in negotiating more equitable and successful terms of research and policies through an agenda of community-based research and topical exploration of IP issues. Our focus is on archaeology as a primary component of cultural heritage; however, this project is ultimately concerned with larger issues of the nature of knowledge and rights based on culture—how these are defined and used, who has control and access, and especially how fair and appropriate use and access can be achieved to the benefit of all stakeholders in the past.
Indigenous peoples, scholars, practitioners, and policy-makers are increasingly faced with dilemmas about rights, responsibilities and access to intellectual products associated with cultural heritage including research data, and use of artifact and site images. George Nicholas, Professor of Archaeology at Simon Fraser University, is leading an unprecedented international collaboration of archaeologists, lawyers, anthropologists, museum specialists, ethicists, policy makers, and Indigenous organizations, representing eight countries, working to explore and facilitate fair and equitable exchanges of knowledge relating to archaeology and cultural heritage. Composed of 50 researchers and 25 partnering organizations from Canada, Australia, United States, New Zealand, South Africa, Germany, England, and Switzerland, the project team received an award of $2.5 million from the Major Collaborative Research Initiatives program of Canada’s Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.
The 7-year project was co-developed by Nicholas, Dr. Julie Hollowell (Indiana University) and Dr. Kelly Bannister (University of Victoria). The project is led by Dr. Nicholas and guided by a steering committee of six team members representing five universities (Catherine Bell [University of Alberta], Joe Watkins [University of Oklahoma], and John Welch [Simon Fraser University], plus Hollowell and Bannister [see above]). Team members represent 9 Canadian and 19 international universities, and 11 Canadian and international organizations. Twenty-five partnering groups include the World Intellectual Property Organization (Geneva), Parks Canada, the Canadian Archaeological Association, and over 12 Aboriginal Nations, from the Sto:lo in the greater Vancouver area to the Barunga Community of northern Australia. A project advisory board will provide an annual review of project activities in addition to advice on strategies for linking with stakeholders and dissemination of results (Michael Brown [Williams College], Larry Chartrand [Métis; University of Winnipeg], Robert Layton [University of Durham, UK], Peter Levesque [Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario], Robert K. Paterson [UBC, Faculty of Law], Dame Marilyn Strathern [University of Cambridge, UK], and David Stephenson [Brauchli-Snyder, LLC, Boulder, CO].
Approximately one-quarter of the project budget is reserved for student fellowships and research support, and one-quarter for community-based participatory research for community-based initiatives related to the project themes. The team will identify a range of intangible cultural heritage, intellectual property (IP) and ethical concerns faced by researchers, communities, and others, and use this information to generate ideas for norms of good practice and theoretical insights on the nature of knowledge, IP, and culture-based rights. Areas of particular concern are research on and access to cultural material and cultural heritage sites – including implications of applying both Indigenous and Western legal frameworks – cultural tourism, censorship, commercial use of rock art and other images, open vs. restricted access to information, applications in new products, bioarchaeology and the uses of ancient genetic data, legal protections, and research permissions and protocols. The project will fund 15 community-based initiatives employing a community-based participatory research methodology, compile a web accessible knowledge base, and explore the implications of the empirical data for theory and policy in our topical working groups and publications. The results will assist archaeologists, academic institutions, descendant communities, scholars, policy makers, and other stakeholders in negotiating more equitable and successful terms of research and heritage policies in the future.