67 responses to “Public Domain and Traditional Knowledge”

  1. Farah Shroff

    Protecting traditional health knowledge, through legal and other tools, is a critical aspect of public health approaches that embody anti-racism and anti-imperialist approaches. Sadly, we have seen the corporate theft of herbs and other aspects of traditional health knowledge from many parts of the globe.
    The “romantic space of the public domain”, as Okediji typifies it, has great relevance for those of us who work in the area of traditional health knowledge. In her paper, she notes: “Deploying the construct of the public
    domain to constrain the capacity of Indigenous
    groups to govern their knowledge, practices
    and cultural goods vital to the identity and
    sustainability of their community is consistent
    with neither the justifications for IP (including
    its various public domains), nor the global
    public interest.” It is vital, in this regard, to create safeguards for the protection of traditional health knowledge and products.

  2. Courtney M.

    I think Dr. Okegiji makes a lot of good points, both in the video and in the paper, that require some purposeful thought in thinking about how we make intellectual property considerations acknowledge and work for traditional knowledge. The tiered approach suggestion is something that I have encountered before and have thought on previously, but the more time I spend on it, the more questions I have. The thing that’s always formed a kind of disconnect in my head is, exactly as Dr. Okegiji says, that intellectual property as Western society has conceptualized it and made into law, that it feels almost fundamentally at odds with traditional knowledge due to the structures being different in many ways.
    The tiered approach is one way of, as closely as possible, marrying the two together, and I think it does a lot of that well. However, I’d have to do more research and talk to more people to see how viable some of the specific parts are. For instance, the item most tripping me up at the moment has to do with the second tier. Who decides who gets to hold onto those rights? Does the group of set of individuals hold those rights on behalf of the group? What happens when someone within the group disseminates that knowledge on their own, or other similar scenarios? And I also wonder at what point some traditional knowledge shared amongst First Nations moves from the second tier to a more public tier – if some knowledge is closely guarded but between two or three different First Nations does that make it more or less guarded?
    I’m a settler, so I have much to learn, but I do have questions.

  3. Willis Monroe

    Dr. Okegiji’s video was enlightening for its contextualizing the historical interaction between indigenous traditional knowledge and efforts to separate knowledge from their creators and customs. The tiered approach outlined in the short paper suggest one approach, but I share the concerns of Courtney in that it seems to some degree to be placing an external rubric over systems of knowledge that have existed in their own form for millennia. This topic also forced me to question my own right to conduct some of the research that I continue to do. I translated esoteric cuneiform texts that are clearly marked with a rubric stating that the “initiated should not show the uninitiated.” These clay tablets are clearly traditional knowledge of a form, but just over two thousand years old. What is our right to make this knowledge widely available when it was marked as such?

  4. Jennifer Ma

    In Ruth L. Okediji short paper, it raises my awareness of tension between Public Domain IP system exclusive rights and the restraints to creativities and innovation of the Traditional Knowledge. To distinguish traditional knowledge and GRs, there are challenges exist. By reconciling public domain in particular field and traditional knowledge, it will help to protect traditional knowledge and foster indigenous peoples’ creativities.
    Traditional medicine knowledge contains a vast resource. Would it be a great aid in pharmaceutical field as long as it was applied appropriately, responsibly and respectfully?

  5. Ian Harmon

    I’ve encountered some issues related to Traditional Knowledge before, but I’ve never been presented with the concept as such until reading the course unit and reviewing Dr. Okediji’s video and paper. It’s given me a lot to think about, but it’s already helping me think about issues of cultural appropriation with an improved perspective, well beyond the realm of scholarly communication.

    I think it’s particularly interesting to think about Traditional Knowledge in the context of the Open Access advocacy that I do as a part of my job as a librarian. I’ve always thought of and presented Open Access as a way of empowering creators because I contrast it with traditional publishing in which an author signs away their ownership to a publisher. Rather than be restricted by a publication agreement, I’ve associated OA with Creative Commons licenses that allow authors to retain their freedom to share and reuse their work.

    Sometimes I think we see the public domain as something like an ideal form of Open Access, a mechanism by which creative work that was previously hoarded becomes liberated and available to all. But after reading Dr. Okediji’s paper, I think I should be more thoughtful in considering how ideas like Open Access and the public domain can be used for colonialist or imperialist purposes. As a librarian, I often give a simplified sketch of the IP landscape as it relates to scholarly publishing when working with other faculty, but it’s crucial to maintain an awareness of the assumptions that are built into such a sketch and think about the implications that espousing in such a manner can have. In other words, I need to be aware that in advocating for OA, I’m pushing an agenda of sorts and it’s one that may not be in the interest of everyone.

  6. Jennifer Cowe

    I didn’t know about the tired system and I found that interesting. This framing of the topic purely from the perspective of colonialism/cultural appropriation is quite limiting and as I read the other comments I wondered if anyone has a different take on this?

  7. Chiara Mason

    This video and article presented some interesting points. I agree with Dr. Okegiji in discussing that the public domain has been used as a source to disinvest Indigenous communities, and has been used to deny legitimacy of knowledge. However, it seems that Dr. Okegiji’s focus is how to bring traditional knowledge into intellectual property rights. Thought this could be seen as elevating the rights of Indigenous peoples through giving them ownership of their own forms of knowledge, I am hesitant to take that approach and wonder if Indigenous communities would agree with this. I am primarily concerned with how traditional knowledge of Indigenous communities are becoming commodified and trying to be placed in to the colonial structure of intellectual property in various ways, such as the tiered approach that Dr. Okegiji mentions. I agree with many of the points raised by Courtney and Willis – it feels intellectual property is a Western structure that is being forced on to traditional knowledge, which may or may not be necessary when they feel so at odds. Who are we to say that Indigenous communities want their traditional knowledge to be stuck into the mold of ownership and commodification that comes along with the colonial, Western structure of intellectual property? To my knowledge, Indigenous communities are based on communal knowledge that is passed down through generations, and are not focused on the ownership or commodification of such knowledge. Furthermore, the belief that some of this knowledge needs to be ‘shared’ and available to all is problematic: much of this traditional knowledge is specific to Indigenous communities and it is not necessary to share with the general public. I believe when it comes to traditional knowledge, we should allow Indigenous peoples to determine what the best form of preserving this knowledge is, rather than trying to fit their ways of knowing into a colonial structure such as intellectual property. These conversations and decisions need to be made by Indigenous communities, as they alone can determine the best forms of preserving their knowledge and who should be able to have access to it.

  8. Neah Ingram-Monteiro

    Reading through the contributions above, my thoughts go back to Daniel Heath Justice’s words about territoriality, and how Open Access can open knowledge up to those looking for another territory to claim (in the Open Dialogues video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VrBN8_IGuuw&feature=emb_title). I take Dr. Okegiji’s work as addressing Traditional Knowledge that is being mishandled and misinterpreted by those unrightfully claiming this knowledge as their own territory, as available in the public domain to be freely used. The proposed tiers offer a way to internationally exert economic and moral rights, so that when knowledge is unrightfully claimed and used (as happens all the time), there is a mechanism for enforcement.

  9. Alyssandra Maglanque

    Reading Dr. Okegiii’s paper and listening to the video was very enlightening for me. The first part of the video spoke of some things that were familiar to me such as how the public domain has been used to separate Indigenous peoples from traditional knowledge, often for the profit of non-Indigenous corporations at the expense to the Indigenous peoples the knowledge comes from. However, her argument to use types of public domain was a new take for me, and very enlightening. Her tiered approach to traditional knowledge actually reminded me of Traditional Knowledge Licences that are meant manage intellectual property rights issues around Indigenous cultural materials. Collaboration with Indigenous peoples in order to set expectations and limits for traditional knowledge allows for Indigenous peoples to set rules and guidance for future research and engagement with traditional knowledge.

  10. Neah Ingram-Monteiro

    Apologies, I misspelled Dr. Okediji’s name.

  11. Elliot Montpellier

    Dr. Okediji’s description of tiered approach to traditional knowledge is definitely a helpful way to think about rights of communities that have been and continue to be exploited. There are two specific points where I think greater nuance is needed. I think these definitely also speak to others’ hesitancy with Dr. Okediji’s framing of fitting traditional knowledge into a Euro-American legal framework.
    The first is the specific claim that Dr. Okediji makes that, “A public domain has vitality because it is directly connected to the property rights that depend on a public domain for a sustained and continued vitality.” The issue for me is the normative assumption being made about the neutrality or even positiveness of property rights social function. This comes across as assuming that property rights operate evenly for everyone across time and space, even within their ‘natural’ setting in the West. But, property rights reliance on the public domain is not a socially-neutral process. Rather, in many ways property rights rely on, perpetuate, and create deep social divisions, as we see in any extractive economy – fossil fuels, big data, etc. A legal system built on defending private property rights at the expense of others, generally, isn’t one that we ought to be aiming to fit other forms of knowledge and systems of ownership into. There is no doubt that we should be incredibly attentive to the ways that the public domain is used as a weapon against indigenous communities and as a defence in property rights frameworks – but to speak to the “vitality” of property rights writ large is frustrating.
    Dr. Okediji’s also discusses geographic indicators in the article excerpt, for example singularly attributing basmati rice and curry to “India”. As a student of South Asia, I’m particularly attentive to the elision of particular histories (to name but a few): the making of national identities (e.g., Pakistan also produces Basmati), culinary exchange, including from forced migration (e.g., “curry” as a product of 18th century export to England, but also in Bangladesh, the Caribbean, etc.), and social stratification (e.g., casteism in yoga, marginalisation of Adivasi communities), risk playing into nationalist narratives that often perpetuate and obscure violence against minority communities.
    In an attempt to speak to global forms of “traditional knowledge”, there is a tendency to flatten such particularities or regional cases and their contestations. With this in mind, the proposed tiered approach is an important benchmark for internationally-minded conversation, but one that must find its place alongside more nuanced focus on specific regions, reflexive engagement on Euro-American systems, and a critical approach to universalist schema.

  12. Jason Nisenson

    I found Dr. Okediji’s work provided a good basis for me to consider the issue of traditional knowledge and how you reconcile that within a western legal framework of property rights. I am accustomed to thinking of the various iterations of “public domain” as a straight up force for good, but the video and paper certainly challenged that idea – presented public domain as an avenue for theft and misuse and a possible risk for severing traditional knowledge from the cultures which have fostered it.
    In terms of solutions, I thought the tiered approach for protection of traditional knowledge was compelling in the way it attached value to traditional knowledge through measure of its use in its source culture as well as the extent of its dissemination. Like other commenters here, I wondered about how a property moved from one tier to another. At what point does “closely held traditional knowledge” in tier 2 move into enough of a state of dissociation from its root culture that it becomes tier 3? Who is to judge? What are the mechanisms (and the ethics of such mechanisms) to keep properties either stationary, within their tiers, or mobile, out of them? I also liked her recommendation for a shift towards limitations and exceptions as means for addressing traditional knowledge instead of “public domain”. I am not a legal scholar (at all) but this struck me as a more likely path for responding to the nuances of access and rights when it comes to traditional knowledge, shading in a better, case by case, approach rather than something attempting to blanket the whole issue.
    It strikes me that a key problem – touched on by Okedjii (“advocates of [traditional knowledge] are not typically interested in IP analogues” and again on p. 15 para 7) has to do with trust in communities advocating for traditional knowledge (and I assume here that here she is primarily referring to the creator communities themselves) for a legal framework that has already dispossessed them of so much.

  13. trish varao-sousa

    Fascinating piece! One statement really struck me here “when you steward knowledge appropriately and responsibly…”. So powerful. I think many of us do try to apply that mindset to our work/activities but what guidelines are there for doing things appropriately and responsibly? How does that happen? How can we ensure it is happening in our own practices? Very thought provoking. I will bne asking myself this question in my own future work creation.

  14. michelle hepburn

    Hello all, To respond to some of the comments above, I think might be useful to point out that the tiered approach Dr. Okediji mentions comes from WIPO’s IGC (World Intellectual Property Organization’s Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore). This committee includes Indigenous representatives from countries around the world. It is therefore likely that the tiers themselves come directly from at least some Indigenous Peoples.
    Also, building off of Elliott’s comments about global inequalities (and inequalities within countries) – it might also be useful to reflect that patent laws are often drawn into free trade agreements, especially by the US. In the module’s content, there was mention that Canada’s law has recently changed – that is because of pressure from the US in recent free trade renegotiations.
    I also wanted to underline the importance of Elliott’s comments highlighting inequalities within countries, because it is an important one that has often been mentioned by scholars who explicitly study this.
    To the comments about whether using Indigenous Knowledge can be used responsibly in medicines for example… this is a very long-standing debate. For an example, look up ICBG and its controversies if anybody is interested in learning more (ICBG was a series of projects which hoped to create licensing agreements between pharmaceutical companies and specific Indigenous Peoples).
    Some context: I’ve assisted the implementation of an intellectual property law in Peru, which specifically registers Indigenous collective knowledge – it’s actually a really interesting law. The law roughly follows the tiers that Dr. Okediji mentions in her paper. I’ve also spent time critically assessing both the law and its implementation, and so these are issues that I have spent a lot of time reflecting on. If anybody is interested in learning more/discussing these issues, please reach out.

  15. Kyla Jemison

    I found Dr. Okediji’s arguments very interesting. In many ways the tiered approach offers a logical way to protect traditional knowledge while allowing that which can be more public to be shared. However, like other commenters here, I don’t see a straightforward way to determine what belongs in each tier, and who gets to make that determination, especially as the tiers may not be static. Each indigenous group brings their own history and experience with the knowledge itself and the ways in which they share it, so building a consensus puts a lot of work on them – are they interested in doing this work? Or are external institutions asking them to do this work so they can make use of traditional knowledge? For this model to work, it would need extensive acceptance from many communities and nations and an ongoing commitment to sharing their traditional knowledge in this specific way.

    I was puzzled by the example of “the art and process of body tattooing” as a widespread knowledge that likely would not be protected – in my understanding, primarily from reading/learning about artists discussing Inuit facial tattoos (Alethea Arnaquq-Baril, Sarah Ayaqi Whalen-Lunn), while the process of tattooing is not necessarily unique, the art is, and while the art is publicly visible (displayed on the face), it should not be considered as available for others to pick up and use as they will, especially by people who are not part of that culture. Could this tiered system of determining intellectual property rights be nuanced enough to make clear what sort of uses are appropriate for widely diffused traditional knowledge? The Western model tends much more toward “if it is in the public domain, then I can use it however I want” sort of understanding; I think a more nuanced approach is required for traditional knowledge.

  16. Tara Stephens-Kyte

    Hello all, I am late to this discussion but very engaged by the points already made. Like many others, I am a settler and my brain is turning on this idea that others have highlighted that the very framework of IP and its supports seem to be at odds with Traditional Knowledge, and like others I have many more questions and endeavour to approach the topic from a place of curiosity. I can’t help but think of this topic through the lens of my work as a repository librarian. I have long struggled with the fact that framework in which our standards exist are rooted in colonialist ideologies and practices, but have tried to determine what, if anything, can be salvaged based on the premise that, as Dr. Okediji puts it, “when you store knowledge responsibly and appropriately, there will be rules and norms that ensure that access to that knowledge is encouraged and sustainable for the long-term.” Although, like others I wonder about the nuances and breadth of its application, I think Dr. Okediji’s tiered approach outlines a way forward for re-imagining public domain as a way to ensure preservation without disinvesting indigenous communities by building a respectful and consultative framework that allows for growth and development.
    I think RavenSpace has helped tremendously in leading by example how this work with some forms of Traditional Knowledge can be accomplished https://ravenspacepublishing.org/about-us/ In particular, I am struck by the presentation of the invitation to access the knowledge shared there which contextualizes and guides access from the perspective of the person sharing the knowledge: http://publications.ravenspacepublishing.org/as-i-remember-it/index

  17. Permjit Buadhwal

    Dr.Okediji’s video and article are trying to address the past inequities. In the past, the rights of people (usually people in power) public domain have overridden the rights of indigenous people to keep traditional knowledge private. I agree with most of what she said in the article, but I find it interesting that she applies colonial intellectual property law to categorize and divide traditional knowledge into the 3-4 tiers. For me this raises a slew of questions. Is this appropriate? Are the peoples involved okay with their knowledge being placed into this hierarchy? Will they be the ones to determine what knowledge will be a trade secret or something else, and if so, how will they protect this secret knowledge? Also, how are indigenous groups to be identified? Some are obvious as they have their own nations or maintain their identity, but others have already been subsumed into dominant cultures.

    After viewing Daniel Heath Justice’ video, I agree that everyone does not need access to all indigenous knowledge.
    Especially as it is their years of accumulated work and knowledge, They should have the option to do whatever they want with it.

    While Dr Okediji is addressing the issue of public domain, I assume she means all people, including corporations. The reason I am concerned with this is that often it is the neo-colonial corporate entities that use the public domain to justify their predatory activities. Such corporations, particularly US based, use their rights to overrule others, even in other countries due to free trade agreements.

    Finally, I see that she is referring to groups of people. Will the same categories and enforcement apply to individuals?
    I wonder if the same system would be applied to an indigenous individual’s works, or if an individual appropriates indigenous knowledge?.

  18. Esteban Morales

    The video and article by Dr. Okediji have so many exciting and disruptive reflections that it took me some time to decide what to write about. This phrase, in particular, got my attention:

    “To say that traditional knowledge is not intelectual property, is to restate the historical assumptions that indigenous peoples are not people.”

    This phrase made me reflect expressly on the importance of going beyond academic knowledge that resides in traditional scholarly systems and trying to reframe my takes on intellectual property that could better adapt to the contexts I work with. In my case, since I work with Colombians students, I must recognize and reflect on the local ways of understanding knowledge and its protection.

  19. Jordan Bulbrook

    Dr. Okediji’s arguments are outside of anything I’ve considered before when looking at IP and the Open Access landscape. She offers an interesting perspective around how the past has intervened with IP, particularly from a Western and colonialist view, which left me to question how I approach OA as a librarian.

    Looking at the tiered approach, I am struck by how simple it sounds, but also aware that this is not a blanket method that would work without raising a lot of questions, and, in all likelihood, create many complications given how deep-rooted our Westernized approach to knowledge has been to date.

    While there are many considerations to her points, one of the major takeaways for me was to continue to read and learn about other perspectives in order to approach OA and IP openly and inclusively.

  20. Claire Swanson

    Dr. Okediji’s video and article were very interesting. I had some general background regarding how the public domain can be used to undermine Indigenous communities, but this was my first introduction to the idea that there are types of public domains associated with each IP category. I also appreciated that Dr. Okediji specifies that this is only one possible framework. While acknowledging the existence of other visions, Dr. Okediji makes it very clear that the current conceptual and legal framework of the public domain is unworkable with regard to traditional knowledge.

  21. Bart McLeroy

    This was very interesting. I do wonder about the practicability of establishing an international conception of the “pubic domain,” and whether that is even possible (or advisable) given the very different legal and historical traditions present around the world. Even the concept of intellectual property has been slow to be adopted around the world, and is still not rigorously enforced in many countries today.

  22. Madeline Donald

    This feels important to mention in light of the above. There are decision-making, legal, and governance frameworks already in existence in ecologically embedded communities, indigenous and otherwise. The Syilx, for example, on who’s territory UBC’s Okanagan campus sits, have “the dialogic practice of enowkinwixw* which institutes a process of decision-making,” which Dr. Jeannette Armstrong has written about at length in her 2009 dissertation and elsewhere. Other groups will have other methods, likely, as Dr Armstrong explains, based on the lands/waters with which their languages and cultural processes have developed. So the question of who decides who gets to hold onto traditional knowledge rights cannot have a monolithic answer. The decision of how to engage with IP and the public domain can come from traditional knowledge holders and their communities, for there are frameworks outside of the settler colonial legal systems through which to make such decisions on a case by case basis. That’s not an efficient or easy solution, and that’s okay.

    *This “w” is a superscript in the Nsyilxcen alphabet.
    Armstrong, J. C. (2009). Constructing Indigeneity: Syilx Okanagan Oraliture and tmixʷcentrism [PhD thesis]. Ernst-Moritz-Arndt Universität Greifswald.

  23. Isabella

    This video is a great summary, as Dr. Okediji describes how the public domain can and has been used as a way to delegitimize the idea of implementing traditional knowledge frameworks and ultimately creates intellectual property law that is inequitable. I have learned a little bit about this before within the context of an archives class. The tiers described are a new idea to me, and reading through them I found I had many of the same questions about how the bounds of each could be defined. I also wonder how such boundaries, considered through this international lens, may be defined differently or require adjustment depending on different local histories and contexts.

  24. Marie Song

    I found Dr. Okediji’s video and paper really illuminating. The concept of a public domain as enforced by institutions with colonial histories will often result in continued colonization. Before reading about her tiered approach to traditional knowledge, I was thinking about how the fixation requirement in the Canadian Copyright Act (I’m sure a similar requirement exists in copyright law in other nations as well) disenfranchises traditional knowledge and the sharing of traditional knowledge. Fixation also seems to be a requirement rooted in the privileging of writing/documentation over other forms of knowledge dissemination, a practice that has Western roots. Dr. Okediji’s tiered approach to traditional knowledge preserves traditional practices of knowledge sharing and knowledge itself from appropriation. I thought it was an effective solution to some of the issues that not only exist with open access but with copyright law.

  25. Heather McTavish

    Dr. Okediji’s work raised my awareness regarding what intellectual property is. Like someone mentioned above, I tended to think of copyright as protecting all creators’ rights and that it was, in general, doing something good. I never even thought to consider the harm it could be doing by alienating certain people by not including their perspectives on what knowledge is. I see how important it is to include indigenous ways of knowing about research and disseminating our work to challenge the harmful structures. One way of knowing should not be valued over another.

  26. Natasha Malik

    I very much enjoyed watching and reading Dr. Ruth Okediji’s work on reframing thinking surrounding the public domain and traditional knowledge. This quote particularly resonated with me: “Knowledge begets knowledge”. Increasing control and selective ownership over work limits the freedom and creativity of the collective. At the same time, Dr. Okediji’s revealing insights on ownership illuminated how colonialism continues to penetrate conversations of intellectual property rights: who profits? who is excluded from “owning” their knowledge? why?

  27. Vanessa Chan

    These concepts of Open Access and public domain are, aside from some dips into Creative Commons licenses, quite new to me, so I am at a little bit of a loss as to what I could contribute. That said, I echo some of the above concerns about imposing Western structures and ideals on Indigenous communities. I thank Michelle Hepburn’s input that the format Dr. Okediji bases her tier format from is informed (at least in part) by Indigenous representatives. The question that also comes to mind is whether relying on colonial IP laws and enforcement to protect Indigenous knowledge might undermine nations’ arguments for sovereignty.

    I may have a misunderstanding of how the World Intellectual Property Organization and IP laws work, but it is my understanding is that they are enforced on a national and not the international level. My question speaks not only to what happens when individuals claim IP protection for a community’s traditional knowledge, but also what happens when different governments and institutions place knowledge from communities in different tiers (e.g. if an Indigenous group that spans across the Canadian American colonial borders, and Canadians list their practice as sacred or secret while the United States list is as widely disseminated)? Would that unintentionally forfeit the trade secret-like protections for the Canadian Indigenous community? How would the international community reconcile these differences?

    Overall, this has me thinking more carefully about how I engage with works that are listed as public domain but may hold cultural value that I may not have a right to use or share.

  28. Crystal

    I am very intrigued by the concept of a tiered IP protection system that Dr. Okediji discussed within her paper. It is important to address the fact that knowledge exists in so many forms with unique contexts that while we as information managers may be interested in the open accessibility to information, this does not entitle us nor the public to access to traditional and sacred knowledge. The tiered system seems to be able to address differing complexities of protecting traditional knowledge. Ultimately, decision making on how to protect or manage tradition knowledge lies with the groups from which that information is entrusted.

  29. Rachel

    Dr. Okediji’s paper and the succinct outline it provided of a tiered approach to Traditional Knowledge was extremely interesting to read and as someone who has been learning about copyright laws in Canada pertinent to information professionals, I agree that the legal protection for traditional knowledge is integral for information within the public domain. Attempting to use a overall approach that does not take into consideration the complex nature of ownership rights as copyright laws currently do further isolates Indigenous ownership and governance from being brought to the forefront, as the protection of their knowledge should within their decisions, not the government of colonisers.

  30. Janet

    Knowledge creation, curation, and sharing thereof through universities and similar institutions is privileged. Research is not universal and not all knowledge is meant to be shared in the same way. Knowledge has to be protected and shared where possible. I lament statements that claim that the traditional public cannot make sense of what is good scholarship and what isn’t. It stems from the paternalistic lens of knowledge creation from the Western world. But, I also agree that knowledge is not to be shared irresponsibly. That means that traditional knowledge should not be treated as other knowledges in the sense of sharing.

  31. Andrea Lucy

    There are many thoughtful reflections and questions above I echo. While watching and reading Dr. Okediji’s work, I was surprised that Open Access was perpetuating systems already in place by closed access publications. During my undergraduate degree, I read many anthropological texts sharing traditional knowledge from a second-hand perspective. The further back you go in publications, the less and less confident I am that the community represented gave fully informed, voluntary consent for the sharing of their knowledge, even if it was just to a small elite group of academics. Was I previously citing and writing about traditional knowledge that wasn’t mine to share — most likely, and most likely in many other disciplines too. In summary, I argue that the need for a rethinking of norms around traditional knowledge is not just needed for the public domain, but also for the closed domain and likely others I haven’t put my finger on yet.

  32. Paula

    Reflection of Ruth Okediji’s Discourse: Public Domain and Traditional Knowledge


    Stewardship of traditional knowledge requires a delicate and sometimes precarious balance. When contemplating this balance, I would assert that it is important to consider the latent or overt personal lens each of us brings to our understanding. Care must be taken to be as fully aware as possible of personal bias brought to this consideration.

    When discussing the romantic space of the protection of indigenous knowledge, Okediji uses the sword and shield analogy often used in law. She contends that responsible and appropriate stewardship of traditional knowledge does not pose a danger to access to knowledge and makes a case to debunk the tension between them. Therein lies the rub. What is responsible and appropriate in one culture may not be so in another culture.

    While the rules of modern technology can allow for open or restricted access, indigenous systems of knowledge storing, and sharing have been confined by cultural rules for centuries. The processes of handing down and enhancing knowledge, traditional or otherwise are very similar. Privilege, skill and opportunity are often the deciding factors in knowledge transfer opportunities. I reference the storytelling and shamanic knowledge systems of many indigenous cultures and compare them to the admission and exit processes of the university culture. In both, access to knowledge is often determined by decidedly closed and carefully curated practices.

    Okediji continues to assert that when knowledge is stored responsibly and appropriately there will be norms. I concur and assert here another caution. Norms often take time to stabilize and indigenous knowledge norms have had a long time to steep. Norms around the storage of technical data and the resulting opportunity for modern knowledge have not yet stabilized. In fact, according to the Digital Credential Consortium (DCC) https://openlearning.mit.edu/news/university-led-digital-credentials-consortium-explores-technology-digital-academic-credentials, there is concern regarding the lack of universal standards around privacy, sovereignty, security, trust, and ethics.

    There is much work on all sides to be done to protect the property rights around intellectual knowledge through both the shield and sword. This journey continues through efforts such as the work of the DCC, endeavours such as POSE, and a widespread understanding of the social and ethical contracts necessary to honour both the individual and the greater good.

    Paula Weaver

  33. Hana Kim

    I believe that access to knowledge goods is crucial for development and that policymakers. I was so intrigued by the concept of the IP protection system that Dr. Okediji talked about: “Reconciling traditional knowledge with the doctrinal limits of the IP system is an important aspect of advancing multilateral discussions about the nature and design of a legal framework that facilitates legitimate trade in knowledge goods that utilize or embody traditional knowledge.” I agree that it is important for us to have both creation and dissemination to promote social welfare.

  34. Susan Cox

    I’ve just finished watching the video of Dr. Okediji and the accompanying reading. This material should be part of the basic training for all students — it is vital that everyone thinks about the knowledge economy, our part in it, its inherent tendency to reproduce structures of oppression and how it can and must be decolonized. I also really appreciated introduction of the idea that some knowledge should not be available to everyone, that there is no inherent right to access anything and everything, that this is not what open access is about.

  35. Caitlin Purdome

    I’m chiming in late, but I was very interested to see how the topic of Indigenous knowledge would be addressed by this program. I’m happy that we are talking about it! I agree with some of the previous commenters that it is problematic to have Western governmental bodies determining what is and what isn’t traditional knowledge and what rights Indigenous people have to protect it. To me, this issue really highlights the fault lines of our settler-colonial state. It’s impossible for a colonial government to adequately protect the rights of Indigenous people. Self-determination is critical and these guidelines need to come from Indigenous communities. Watching the video and reading the article reminded me TK labels that are developed in consultation with Indigenous communities and applied to resources.

  36. Paul Lusina

    I liked how this article compared and contrasted how traditional knowledge relates to IP and the public domain. In particular, the author’s examples of how IP has expanded, the collaborative nature of IP and the joint ownership typically presented in patents provided good evidence that the legal framework for protecting ideas can be flexible. I particularly liked the section on the tiered approach to traditional knowledge. This nuanced approach is helpful in addressing the the diversity of traditional knowledge.

    One question I have regarding the article is how to define the community that owns the traditional knowledge and who is authorized to use it? Who within the community decides how the knowledge is used now and what if there is a disagreement?

  37. Andrew Clarke

    First, I apologize for completing this activity after the due date. I got confused about which category it was in, which is oddly fitting. Second, I wanted to clarify that the reading assignment reference to pages 22-24 refers to the pagination within the PDF file, not the publisher’s original pagination, which would have been 14-16. If I’m wrong about that, then I probably read the wrong section.

    On to my reaction. My plain language distillation of Okediji’s thesis is that the constructs of “traditional knowledge” and “public domain” and even “intellectual property” on which broad (but not complete) consensus exists in Western cultures, cause disadvantage to groups outside those cultures when they are applied to information that is exchanged in the process of intercultural contact. Her solution to this is to create more sub-categories within the notion of “traditional knowledge” might cause less disadvantage.

    While I applaud the goal, I don’t like the proposed solution. Maybe I’m extra-cynical, but I think that whatever categories we create will end up being “gamed” by the wealthy and the powerful. What this really comes down to is that while we have pretty advanced dispute resolution systems within (some) national entities, these don’t operate very effectively in an international, or intercultural context. To me, the whole label of “traditional knowledge” is problematic. Whose traditions are we talking about? I would rather see some kind of moral/ethical principle articulated that could somehow find its way into law. That principle would be something like, “If you have contact with other nations and cultures, and they share stuff with you, make sure that you understand and document their intention for doing so. If you then turn around and use what they shared for entirely different purposes, and without their permission, you owe them something.”

  38. Jessica B. Srivastava

    I am very late to the game! I have to admit, I found the video and article interesting but a little overwhelming. There are so many thoughts and ideas that have developed for me that I feel like I need to sit with this as it is not something I have intentionally thought about. I think the viewpoint of colonialism and the use of traditional knowledge as public domain is an important one to consider. However, I do wonder who decides on the traditional knowledge. I say this because one of the examples used is curry and it is attributed to India. Actually, in India, there is no such thing! It is construct of the British Raj but today, curry is widely attributed to India.

    That said, I think the tied system maybe one effective way to protect traditional knowledge but I to am skeptical and a little cynical in relation to the work around as mentioned about. I am very interested in reading some of the literature cited in the comments to further my knowledge and understanding of this area.

    This exercise has been very thought provoking!

  39. Marianna Kalaczynski

    In working with traditional knowledge, I believe that its appropriate use within the public domain is more beneficial to its widespread use and recognition. Although traditional knowledge is inherently contained within the identity of a given community or people, I nonetheless believe that with the appropriate adaptation of the public domain to suit these needs would be more beneficial than harmful. Should the equitable design, as Dr. Okediji described, be attained and upheld by both the public domain and users, traditional knowledge would be preserved and made accessible.

  40. Ruby

    I really appreciated Dr. Okegiji’s points and the concrete solutions that she proposes. It’s interesting to hear about the ways that TK could be viewed and treated within the current systems of copyright and intellectual property. I wonder what things could look like if entirely new systems were created that consider and incorporate Indigenous and community knowledge systems and values at their inception.

  41. DS

    I really learned a lot about the challenges associated with juggling open-access approaches with the different realities of diverse knowledge systems and paradigms, and how important this conversation is for processes of decolonization. Dr. Okegiji’s tiered approach to traditional knowledge and public domain sounds very promising to me, and although, as some of the commentators have pointed out, tricky points still need to be solved within this framework – it is a promising framework. In my personal work on Tibetan Tantric Buddhism (that implies certain secrecy), this is something that has been discussed quite controversially in both, Western and traditional scholarship. One aspect that makes this difficult on top is that such traditional practices sometimes are controversially discussed within the tradition itself, therefore “traditional knowledge” is often very diversely interpreted itself by the knowledge holders as more secret-public, which raises the important question for me: Who sits on the table to decide those important things? What are the most inclusive processes for this?

  42. Bianca C.

    I enjoyed watching the video and reading the article. Dr. Okegiji’s tiered approach raised questions related to ownership and equity. Who (actually) owes these points of knowledge? Is it right to distribute such knowledge? I think much of this ties by to colonialism and the ideas of conquering and taking ownership or possessing things you don’t actually own, which connects nicely to the unbalanced power dynamics between Global North and Global South in the section on limitations of Open Access. We still have much to learn and I’m eager to see how we can learn together as a community.

  43. Christie Hurrell

    This was a really interesting video and paper. Dr. Okediji’s phrasing of the “romantic space” of the public domain definitely resonated with me, I think like a lot of open advocates I began with a pretty idealistic notion of “information wants to be free” but I’ve definitely had that problematized by a lot of colleagues and activists and scholars over the years! I’m still learning and Dr. Okediji’s perspective adds another facet to my thinking. I also thought that what she had to say about stewarding knowledge resonated with the video featuring Dr. Justice that was in an earlier part of this module, where he spoke to knowledge existing in territories, and that opening up territories can make them vulnerable to extraction/exploitation. One theory that resonates with me as a librarian is the concept of an “ethic of care” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethics_of_care). I find this theory really helpful and practical to my own work as a librarian, and I try to centre interpersonal relationships in all of my work as much as I can.

  44. Jenna

    The thing that stood out to me the most about Ruth Okediji’s work is her emphasis on the need to move past the assumption that tensions exist between the public domain and Traditional Knowledge. I recently participated in a series of webinars about Indigenous Data Management and something that was consistently emphasized was Indigenous peoples’ prioritization of the community over the individual. I think public domain similarly seeks to prioritize the community, or the greater good, over the individual. Okediji concludes the video by arguing for the need to reconcile the importance of the public domain by seeking out and examining the types of indigenous public domains that already exist to protect Traditional Knowledge. This coincides with something one of the presenters in the data management webinars said: we need to resist the temptation to build something and then indigenize it rather than build something that is already indigenized. I’m interested in learning more about the ways in which we can do this and rethink OA so that it doesn’t capitalize on Traditional Knowledge at the expense of Indigenous Peoples and communities.

  45. Allan Cho

    This unit on traditional knowledge and Canadian indigenous knowledge is most useful and interesting in my understanding of open access. I find the unit most helpful that in thinking about open access, it’s critically important to recognize the difference in ideas of ownership, copyright is increasingly harmful to Indigenous peoples in the following ways. Okediji’s “Traditional Knowledge and
    the Public Domain” offers a three-tiered approach to Traditional Knowledge which can be very helpful in framing a better understanding relationship with indigenous peoples within the context of knowledge dissemination.

    It’s very clear that Canadian copyright does not fit with Traditional Knowledge and in fact, the capitalist underpinnings of copyright Copyright focus on the “economic benefits of knowledge and fails to recognize the cultural, spiritual, and communal importance of Indigenous creative works.” This unit really drives home the point that copyright focuses on “individual creators and fails to recognize the communal nature of producing and caring” for the creative works of indigenous peoples.

  46. David G.

    This clip shows the subtleness of indigenous knowledge, which is in line with orality. To my mind, the interactive characteristics between traditional orality and knowledge should be deeply considered not to neglect indigenous people’s situated land, social justice, and the ways that they appreciate knowledge. As such, Dr. Okediji’s points allow me to think more of how I should be tied up with the diverse connections of the public domain, myths, rules, norms, and access to traditional knowledge in the course of reflecting on my mind toward indigenous perspectives and the eurocentric concept of “right.”

  47. Helen

    I find the outline for a tiered system very interesting and the potential application of such an approach intuitive and practical, which seem like key factors to ensuring that the system can have widespread adoption/adherence. I could see potential disputes arising if different individuals with access to and rights over such intellectual property wish to classify different intellectual property in different tiers or share/restrict access within or outside of their communities in different ways, so I imagine a model for resolving such disputes over collectively held intellectual rights would be important not only for communities but also for institutions like libraries and museums or for publishers to determine whether appropriate permissions are in place to store, share, or reproduce such knowledge. I wonder what this might mean for intellectual properly that might be classified as secret but which has already been shared to varying extents (ex. online, in a book, in photographs, and so on) in a limited capacity, not to the extent of yoga, as given as an example. If someone were writing a paper on a certain topic and found information in a book published before the adoption of such a system, for instance, what would that researcher’s responsibilities be in that moment if they are considering quoting from/reproducing that knowledge? A set of guidelines for researchers and institutions after the adoption of such a system to know how it applies retroactively would be very useful. I also wonder how such intellectual rights might be treated when considering knowledge, records of, and objects belonging to a people who have no living members to administer their intellectual property rights, since it seems like the passage of time after an individual creator’s death is not the determining factor of whether traditional knowledge should be in the public domain under this model. How might guidelines for the treatment of such knowledge be created?

  48. Victoria

    This is an interesting perspective of the way knowledge is accessed. As emphasized by Dr. Okegiji, it is critical to think about how tiered approach makes the knowledge of some a priority to be kept safe, while others can be owned by anyone with little regard for where it comes from. In this model, it is Indigenous groups who are to having their knowledge shared widely meaning that their Traditional Knowledge gets little protection, if any at all. Oral means of knowledge is often used amongst various Indigenous Peoples but it does not fit the mold of what knowledge means to the West. Thus, there is a clear connection between colonialism and colonization and the protection, actually lack thereof, of Indigenous knowledge, in addition to the lack of priority.

  49. Emily Schudel

    A very important topic to explore as we in more privileged roles move into the Open. It’s so easy to say, well it’s my IP but I’m fine with it being open…I don’t need to “own” it. I think we need to consider more that concept of ownership.

    Some people have already asked the question, with regards to traditional knowledge, do individuals hold the ownership for the collective? But I think we need to back off from our western notion of ownership and recognize that traditional knowledge and cultural concepts of ownership likely do not fit into our western definition(s). That means working with indigenous communities and traditional knowledge keepers to understand better what openness and traditional knowledge could look like from within their world view.

  50. Dave Smulders

    Okediji warns that often there is this assumption that traditional knowledge is not intellectual property. This seems to be a critical component is making the public domain a secure place for intellectual property. Along with the traditional knowledge out there, maybe there’s a way to learn about how societies and communities have managed to secure their intellectual property in the public domain instead of trying to work backwards from our conventional instruments of intellectual property protection in a Western context and then trying to devise ways of making that more open and accessible so that it fits in with public domain parameters. I appreciated the use of the term stewardship to try to explain how traditional knowledge is cared for, cultivated, and made available in public spaces as opposed to the view of making knowledge commodified as something that one buys and sells.
    I like Emily’s comments just above mine, that sometimes it seems as if in trying to resolve this paradox of access and ownership there is a tendency to impose a western, closed-friendly system on an older issue that has been addressed in different ways.

  51. tebogo Khama

    The video summarises the article and is indeed elightening. Interesting read and analogy that Dr. Okediji brings about. Her phrasing the public domain as a “romantic space” definitely resonated with me; traditional knowledge needs recognizing as it offers a different idea to ownership and copyright for Indigenous peoples.The tiered approach brings forth a structure to distinguish the categories and rights which could be considered for TK as a step towards a solution.

  52. tebogo Khama

    The video summarises the article and is indeed elightening.

    Interesting read and analogy that Dr. Okediji brings about. Her phrasing the public domain as a “romantic space” definitely resonated with me; traditional knowledge needs recognizing as it offers a different idea to ownership and copyright for Indigenous peoples.The tiered approach brings forth a structure to distinguish the categories and rights which could be considered for TK as a step towards a solution.

  53. Anastasia Zhuravleva

    The video and paper by Dr. Okediji were very interesting. The relationship between traditional knowledge and public domain is often set against histories of colonialism, and the tier system seems to be a viable bridge between traditional and Western concepts of the ownership of knowledge. The most important question that comes to my mind at this moment is the need to be aware and cognizant of who decided that the knowledge which you might want to engage with belongs to a specific tier.

  54. Cecilia Canal

    I was aware of the tensions between Traditional Knowledge and the pubic domain but Dr. Okediji’s paper and video helped me understand it more deeply.
    This phrase that she mentions in the video really resonated with me. “If you imagine a world in which every squared inch of property were owned, it would be a very difficult world to live in, in fact it would mean that the only people who could go anywhere, would be those who own property, or those who can afford to pay for the rights of entry and exit”.
    As always, the western point of view of property, and who owns what, is difficult to combine with the notion of TK.

  55. Amber Gallant

    Dr. Okediji’s work on intellectual property and traditional knowledge, particularly the conceptualization of a public domain that works with traditional and indigenous knowledge to bridge Eurocentric and Indigenous concepts of ownership, is interesting to me as an open-access advocate with much to learn. We’ve all heard that “information wants to be free”, but that concept is more related to publicly-funded knowledge behind the barriers created by information capitalism than the nuanced view required for traditional knowledge, which places knowledge and therefore agency in the hands of the community from which it springs. I think that the tiered system has great potential in beginning to recognize this knowledge and the respect with which it must be treated. It purposefully acknowledges the fluidity of some knowledges, the specificity of others, and the histories of colonialism that may lead us to think ALL information should be free and accessible while obscuring the agency attached to it and the ways power shifts when it does become accessible. My main questions around this framework concern who has the agency to decide what tier knowledge belongs to. Who is making the decisions here? Who are the community representatives, and how do “we” ensure that they have as much voice as institutional representatives?

  56. Leila

    The points Daniel Heath Justice made in the Open Dialogues video really stuck with me as I moved through the Open Access unit. The idea of the “extraction mentality” towards knowledge made me think about who benefits from open access to all information, and who could potentially be hurt. Traditional knowledge has been exploited using the public domain through this same mentality. Dr. Okediji mentioned “stewarding knowledge responsibly and appropriately” and I feel like the tiered approach is a useful way to approach this kind of stewardship. It feels uncomfortable to describe traditional knowledge in these legal terms that don’t fit, but also it seems like an important step away from existing exploitative practices.

  57. David

    I really enjoyed the video and paper by Dr. Okediji, and it really developed my understanding of how damaging it can be to putt limits and barriers on knowledge as this act is a tool to perpetuate colonialist thinking. Dr. Okediji’s point about looking to particular kinds of public domain within existing systems at knowledge was also a highlight for me. Her point in noting that these systems are already in place yet foster Indigenous creativity. Overall, Dr. Okediji makes insightful conclusions in regards to how we can better our “protections” on knowledge in order to be more inclusive.

  58. Sarah

    I’ve really enjoyed delving into the issues surrounding traditional knowledge and the public domain. From my previous experience in archives and special collections, I know that there is a lot of work to be done within the GLAM sector and I agree with Daniel Heath Justice’s point that materials within archives (and by extension special collections, galleries, and libraries) need to be interrogated, questioned for what is and is not present, and re-examined to see if materials currently in the public domain should actually be in the public domain. Central to this is engaging with communities in efforts of reconciliation and provenance.
    While I appreciated and learned a lot from Dr. Okediji’s article, I did not feel that the tiered approach as it was presented provided enough guidance to be put into practice, and instead left me with more questions.
    In further research, I happened upon the Indigenous Cultural and Intellectual Property rights (ICIP) and True Tracks protocol approach presented by Dr. Terri Janke (https://youtu.be/nR6Zzo2uLMc) that has community engagement at the centre. I found this approach delved deeper and answered questions I had about traditional knowledge, public domain, and intellectual property.

  59. Daryl

    While I like the tiered approach that Dr. Okediji, I have to wonder how much debate/discussion could result from trying to figure out what category something belongs to. First, within the communities that the knowledge comes from and then with the larger world. Could trying to determine the tier cause people within the community to fight? And could the larger world argue with them saying that something should belong to “the world”? Since historically there has been so much disrespect towards traditional knowledge, I can see people from outside the community trying to claim ownership. For this tiered approach to work there would need to be strict guidelines and rules put in place that are accepted by the world at large. While this will most likely be difficult to achieve, I think that this is something that should be done. We need to acknowledge the rights to traditional knowledge and ensure that the knowledge of all people is respected, protected, and treated as equal.

  60. Katherine Schock

    Dr. Okediji’s metaphors of the public domain as a “sword to disinvest” peoples from their knowledge and a “shield… to deny legitimacy” of the need for protections around this knowledge were, for me, quite poignant. I had certainly connected with the public domain as a “romantic space” where all come together and peacefully use what they need. But of course: while public domain structures can support public sharing and community building, they also have the capacity for aggression, disinvestment, and disempowerment. I am wondering, is such a framework only capable of fostering tensions between interested parties? Perhaps that is an inevitable consequence of ownership of any kind – I have and you do not.
    In public education, where I spend most of my time, people are very concerned about accomplishing provincial mandates around Indigenous content and ways of knowing. I have been glad to see the Indigenous communities in our province and region present and participating in revising provincial education by defining values and providing content, protocols, and pedagogical approaches that support Indigenous communities. At the same time, our students are steeped in property as value, in individualism, and in achievement and possession as worth. I’ve approached discussions around intellectual property from the perspective of giving credit where due. I am thinking about ways to shift my language and approach to research teaching (gathering knowledge) from owner to steward, as Okediji mentions, from one that possesses to one that cares for.

  61. Laura Super

    A reflection on the video and to Dr. Okegiji’s tiered approach to traditional knowledge and public domain, for me is that this is a very complex topic that I think requires much discussion. I wonder how the best ways forward for different Indigenous groups can be obtained? Different knowledge bearers may want different approaches to address the protection of their knowledge as well as when they want to share, remix, or put in the public domain. What I hope can be achieved someday are ways to best promote inclusion, diversity, equity and accessibility and in this case protection and reverence of non-traditional and traditional knowledge. I think for some of this it might be helpful to address some of the systemic reasons for issues around intellectual property, traditional and non-traditional knowledge sharing, and the public domain; a broad overview I think is essential given many recent issues even over main stream pop songs and whether they were unique enough to be considered from a particular artist or not, which involved lawsuits and lawsuits are only one way to settle and respect the creation of material, especially in the arts.

  62. Somayeh

    I believe in term of sharing the traditional knowledge in Public domain, and in particular indigenous knowledge we should respect the indigenous community choices. The indigenous people based on their tradition may have different ways and understanding of sharing their traditional wisdom.

  63. Zenith Bose

    The West is very good at “othering” cultures that are not Euro-centric, so I can’t say I’m surprised by the way traditional knowledge has been treated here in Canada. I really appreciated Dr. Okegiji calling out this “othering” by showing us that “even when judged against prevailing IP standards”, traditional knowledge isn’t incompatible with the IP system. There is a way we could marry the two systems or worldviews. Like others who have commented above, I also think it won’t be a simple solution, but just because every question isn’t answered at the onset doesn’t mean it’s an endeavour not worth pursuing. Even if the tiered system must go through iterations, I still believe it would be worth the experiment, especially if it ensures traditional knowledge receives the respect and protection that it hasn’t historically been given.

  64. Zoe

    What strikes me is the complexities of ownership in our legal system. There are so many gaps in a system that seems to protect some people and not others. There definitely seems to be divisions along socioeconomic lines creating inequities and barriers. For example, non-people constructs such as companies can own intellectual property and rights to forests etc..
    Some people can own intellectual property can be attributed to a creator if authorship can be confirmed. Some intellectual property is protected after death (e.g. but only for 50-70yrs). It makes you wonder what type of timeline and distribution of ownership is fair?

  65. Hikaru Ikeda

    I found Dr. Okegiji’s video to be an especially helpful introduction to the many dynamics at play between the public domain as it stands (and how it should be) in relation to Traditional Knowledge (TK). Key aspects that resonated for me include the inherent dislocation, individualism and unidirectional entitlement to access that underlie the current public domain system. Unsurprisingly, these embedded values and presumptions align with the colonial and imperialist histories and ongoing legacies of their Western nations. I especially appreciated Dr. Okegiji’s call to legally acknowledge and protect the diverse socio-cultural systems and accountability and access mechanisms (or public domains) already in place in and between communities around the world. As more countries, such as “Canada”, commit to (eventually) aligning their laws with UNDRIP, there is possibility to use this framework to leverage appropriate protections for diverse forms of Indigenous TK which centre and are led by communities.

    Dr. Okegiji’s tiered approach to TK made me reflect on how colonial and imperial violence (including cultural appropriation and looting) can lead to forms of TK being devalued along the tiered spectrum of secret to generic traditional knowledge. The tiered approach can be used to reflect and protect the state of TK as it currently is and hopefully safeguard TK in the future, including rights and appropriate protocols (or lack thereof for widely-known, generic TK), but it can not undo how we got here. I’m interested in learning more about other, complementary mechanisms that exist and can work alongside the tiered approach to repatriate and (re)protect stolen TK, address harm, and foster healing.

  66. Jordan Pedersen

    Something that stood out for me, which may only be a result of the brevity of the video, is that Dr. Okediji still talks about Traditional Knowledge and the tiered framework with a Western sense of ownership. Specifically, around 1:07 she says “the public domain has been used to disinvest Indigenous groups and local communities from the very things they have laboured, invested, produced…”. And while she goes on to explain that isn’t how the public domain should be used, I find it concerning that stewardship and the concept of ownership isn’t really being considered.

    The reason I think this may only be a result of the brevity of the video is because in the reading, Dr. Okediji writes “Strong proponents of traditional knowledge might argue that addressing the question of access to traditional knowledge is inappropriate in an international framework intended to ensure resource holders have effective rights of control. However, no system of entitlement-like protection is absolute… In seeking entitlement-like protection, Indigenous groups and local communities must confront the reality that their property rights will be subject to limits.”. On my own time I will look into any responses that have been written that may address this concern.

  67. Joel Blechinger

    Like other commenters here, I hadn’t actually ever encountered this tiered approach to a traditional knowledge public domain that Dr. Okediji outlines. (I agree with Caitlin Purdome above that it kind of reminds me of TK labels.)

    As other commenters have noted, I could foresee there possibly being dispute in determining the tier/category of traditional knowledge and I would think there would have to be some acceptance of mutability in terms of the determination of the knowledge category.

    Admittedly, I was only able to watch the video and read the Executive Summary of Dr. Okediji’s report due to time constraints, but my gut reaction to this type of endeavour is to still register how colonial it all feels. Tiers, categories, the ordering of the world – it all reminds me of Hope Olson’s vital work (https://journals.ala.org/index.php/lrts/article/view/4913) on the epistemological assumptions underpinning library classification.

    I understand that there is a pragmatic need to clarify protections for traditional knowledge in national/international IP regimes, which is the motivation behind this kind of work. I guess I am also just always skeptical of this work, too, because I think that the ways in which traditional knowledge frustrates our colonial understanding of IP and property rights is, in itself, important to contend with, and isn’t, to my mind, something that needs to be “solved” to play well with capital.

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