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Abstract

The definition and scope of intellectual property and associated

laws are under intense debate in the emerging discourse

surrounding intellectual property and human rights. These

debates primarily arise within the context of indigenous peoples'

rights to protection and ownership of culturally specific

properties. It is true that intellectual property laws are based on

Western, developed markets, Western concepts of creation and

invention, and Western concepts of ownership. But whatever

their origins, those laws have been, and currently are, the

primary vehicle for the protection of artistic, literary, and

scientific works worldwide. To segregate indigenous interests

from this international legal regime, particularly in light of the

increasing globalization of markets, is to deny indigenous

peoples both a powerful legal shield and a powerful legal sword.

This Article argues that copyright laws can, and must, be

expanded so as to maintain the vitality of, and protect, the

creative artistic and literary works of indigenous cultures. The

Article proposes three major changes to international copyright

law: the incorporation of collective and communal notions of

authorship, the expansion of the originality requirement to

reflect these forms of authorship, and the application of limits on

the duration of copyright protection in a broader community

context. The Article further proposes that a variety of

intellectual property mechanisms be drawn upon to provide

special protection for "sacred" cultural works.

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