Protecting the Traditional Knowledge and Cultural Expressions of Russia's Numerically-Small Indigenous Peoples: What Has Been Done, What Remains to Be Done
Texas Wesleyan Law Review, Vol. 15, pp. 357-414, 2009
58 Pages Posted: 4 Jan 2020
Date Written: November 18, 2009
The Russian population is drawn from 160 ethnic groups and indigenous peoples. Among the latter are the so-called “indigenous small-numbered peoples” -dozens of groups of people that live in their historical territory; preserve their traditional ways of life, occupations, and trades; recognize themselves as separate ethnicities; and number no more than 50,000 individuals living in Russia. The indigenous small-numbered people include various peoples of the Far North, central and southern Siberia, and the Far East. For many of these peoples, the traditional ways of life consist of hunting, fishing, reindeer husbandry, etc. Their traditional forms of cultural production include painting and carving on wood, bone, and stone, bead ornamentation, and other forms of graphic arts.
As Alexandra Xanthaki has written, “very little has been written on the rights of the numerically small indigenous peoples of the North, Siberia, and Far East of the Russian Federation; yet, their situation has been described as ‘critical.’” While there has been some scholarly analysis of the land rights of the indigenous people of Russia, nothing has yet been written about the legal protection of the knowledge and literary or artistic works they produce. Such an analysis is especially timely because a new Russian copyright law - Part Four of the Civil Code - took effect at the beginning of 2008.
In this paper, I propose to address three issues: (1) An overview of the legal regime applicable to Russia’s small-numbered indigenous people; (2) The extent to which existing Russian law (primarily copyright law, but also patent and other law) covers works produced by these peoples; and (3) What changes are necessary in order to improve the legal protection of cultural works produced by Russia’s small-numbered indigenous peoples.
Keywords: Russia, indigenous peoples, traditional knowledge, traditional cultural expression, intellectual property
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