Traditional Knowledge Licensing and Labeling Website 1.0

Special Initiative — Traditional Knowledge Licensing and Labeling Website 1.0

The Traditional Knowledge Licensing and Labeling Website 1.0, developed by IPinCH Associates Kim Christen and Jane Anderson, in collaboration with many others, is a project for the development of an accessible digital platform that will contain a set of standardized licenses and fair-use labels that can be applied to already existing and future generated content that contains community-recognized traditional and Indigenous knowledge. 

Indigenous people are under-served by both traditional all-rights-reserved copyright and Creative Commons licenses because they do not account for: the second and third party ownership of this material; the cultural protocols and access restrictions that govern access to material within Indigenous contexts; the fact that a significant amount of Indigenous cultural material is already in the public domain and also inevitably circulating in the digital domain; that Indigenous communities are wanting to share certain material whilst also making users aware of the appropriate codes of conduct for access, use and future circulation of that material.

There is an urgent need to develop a set of specific licenses and labels that can recognize the special status that Indigenous cultural material has and the legitimacy of already existing and developing Indigenous knowledge control strategies.

IPinCH has provided financial support for this project.

For many Indigenous communities, materials (photographs, sound recordings, films, videos and manuscripts) that contain cultural information or representations of cultural practices need to be managed according to alternative sets of rules to those provided by copyright and creative commons license models. These alternate rules derive from the specificity of the contexts from which such materials derive and reflect cultural conditions of circulation and use particular to the materialized knowledge. For instance, some material has rules regulating access according to gender, initiation and/or the secret nature of the material. The website will offer Indigenous peoples and communities, as well as those working in collaboration with Indigenous communities, an opportunity to apply legal licenses and educative labels to digital cultural content. The licenses are designed to be legally defensible across multiple jurisdictions, while the labels are designed as a non-legal, educative and social strategy that can deal with cultural material in the public domain.

The website has been registered as “” because the site is meant as a springboard for many types of tools and educative devices around Indigenous peoples’ intellectual property needs which are always, by definition, embedded in and derived from local contexts. In addition to offering both licensing and labeling options for holders and owners of indigenous cultural material, the website will also provide accessible explanations and tutorials for when and how traditional knowledge licenses and labels can be used and for what kind of material. For the first time, Indigenous peoples and communities will have access to a resource tool that offers specifically tailored license options for cultural content that recognizes unique needs in relation to access and control of this material and that incorporates already existing and context driven rules and obligations for sharing knowledge and cultural material. will provide a platform for dialogue, a set of licenses and labels and an educational toolbox to address the mismatch between Western IP systems and the varied indigenous concerns over the circulation of, access to and control over their traditional knowledge in its many forms. The licenses and labels are already being tested as part of the production of Mukurtu CMS, a community-driven, free and open source content management system and digital archive platform designed around the unique needs of managing, sharing and preserving Indigenous digital heritage. 

Drs. Anderson and Christen will work in partnership with Dr. Michael Ashley and his team of developers at the Center for Digital Archaeology at the UC Berkeley to design, produce, test and launch the site. Our development process will be open for comments and suggestions and the end product will be a free and open source platform. 

Research Themes
Illustration by Eric Simons

“Commodification” means transforming something into a product for commercial purposes, an item to be bought and sold in the market. Intangible cultural heritage is frequently used in the commercial sector, incorporated into company names, branding, logos, and products. Tangible cultural heritage may also be commodified, such as in the case of artworks intended to be sold commercially. 

Community-Based Participatory Research (CBPR) methods engage communities in all aspects of the research process. 

Claire Poirier, used with permission.

Significant differences exist between Western and Indigenous societies, and their respective knowledge and legal systems affect heritage. 

Journal of Western Archives, Special Issue Native American Archives 6.1: article 3
Kimberly Christen
Natasha Lyons, Kate Hennessy et al.
IPinCH Webinar, Simon Fraser University
Jane Anderson
IPinCH Fall Gathering
Addressing Indigenous Intellectual Property Concerns Through The IPinCH Project: Digital Heritage and Traditional Knowledge Licenses and Labels
George Nicholas and Kim Christen
The Memory of the World in the Digital Age: Digitization and Preservation UNESCO Conference, University of British Columbia (Vancouver, BC)
George Nicholas
American Anthropological Association Conference, Session: Reversing the Legacy of Colonialism in Heritage Research (Montreal, Quebec)
Videos & Podcasts
Local Contexts: Traditional Knowledge and Indigenous Cultural Heritage
Kim Christen Withey

This presentation introduces Local Contexts, an educational website that includes an introduction to a set of innovative traditional knowledge (TK) license and labels being developed in a response to Indigenous communities' needs.