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Beyond 'intelligence'

BEYOND INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY: TOWARDS TRADITIONAL RESOURCE RIGHTS FOR INDIGENOUS PEOPLE AND LOCAL COMMUNITIES· Darrell A Posey and Graham Dutfield·International Development Research Center, Ottawa· 1996

 
By K Ravi Srinivas
Published: Tuesday 31 December 1996

-- THE issue of protecting the interests of indigenous people against the unauthorised use and piracy of their valuable genetic material and traditional knowledge has become an important one. The Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) regime however, neither recognises such knowledge as being intellectual property nor JOs it contain any provisions to identify community rights. The book under review discusses these issues in detail and argues in favour, of what the authors call 'traditional resource rights' (TRR).

The authors contend that the IPR regime has limited utility and is inappropriate for defending the position of the indigenous people. Hence, it is necessary to think of alternative systems to protect their rights and provide just compensation for the use of their knowledge and practices, besides the equitable sharing of benefits derived from them. But all this is easier said than done as there are not many precedents. Moreover, such systems should be able to take into account the ground realities and the inequitable relationship between communities and outsiders like governmental representatives.

The authors discuss solutions put forward 'by various NGos and communities and the strategies that have been developed to remedy the situation. Since these rights and claims pertain not just to economic issues but also to those relating to community control over knowledge and self-determination, the laws Of IPR, based on the utilitarian value of knowledge alone, would be inadequate. The relevance of various legal mechanisms for the protection of these rights have also been examined.

The major merit of the book is that it puts forth a strong case for TRR and offers guidelines and essential advice to ethnic communities for the protection of their knowledge and resources. It is a welcome addition to the debate on issues relating to IPR and biodiversity and is a significant contribution to the initiatives already taken in the field. The authors have placed all relevant information in a single book which could be used by indigenous people and communities. The appendices contain a wealth of information which includes an extensive bibliography of books and articles. This book will be useful to anyone concerned with the protection of biodiversity and dealing with IPR issues in biodiversity conservation.

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