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International developments since the mid-1990s have signalled an awareness of the importance and validity of traditional knowledge and cultural property. These include the adoption of the Convention on Biological Diversity and the establishing of the WIPO Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore. These measures illustrate an emerging trend towards the recognition of the rights of communities, and the influence of culture in shaping international law and policy.
This book examines how those developments to protect collectively held knowledge typically associated with Indigenous Peoples, transpose to the cultural and social circumstances within which selected cultural signifiers developed in communities which may not necessarily be characterised as "Indigenous" or even "traditional". The book considers case studies such as the steel pan of Trinidad and Tobago, punta rock music from Belize, Brazilian capoeira, and the cajon, a musical instrument, of Peru. The impact of past and recent international developments to protect traditional knowledge are explored and the book addresses a gap in the international discourse by proposing that there is a category of cultural signifiers which lies outside the scope of intellectual property protection, as well as the protection proposed for traditional knowledge and advocated for intangible cultural property. The book proposes a reinterpretation of Joseph Raz's interest theory of group rights in order to accommodate the rights advocated for collectively derived cultural signifiers. In doing so Sharon B. Le Gall offers an original account of how contemporary intellectual property rights regimes could be adapted to suit traditional knowledge.