Protecting Folklore of Indigenous Peoples: Is Intellectual Property the Answer?

Christine Haight Farley, The American University Washington College of Law


What can the Navajos do to prevent non-Navajos from using Navajo rug patterns to produce rugs overseas using cheap material and labor, thereby undercutting the Navajos themselves in a market for their famous rugs? What can the Australian Aboriginal peoples do when their sacred and secret imagery is reporduced on carpets they did not make, and sold to non-Aboriginals, who will inevitably walk on them? Do these communities have any legal rights to these pieces of their culture? Does the law provide any means for them to take back their culture or to prevent further poaching?