The Legacy of David Unaipon
Matthew Rimmer (ed.), Indigenous Intellectual Property: A Handbook of Contemporary Research, Cheltenham (UK) and Northampton (Mass.): Edward Elgar, 2015, xxi-xxvii
Posted: 7 Nov 2015
Date Written: December 1, 2015
The historical case of David Unaipon is a good starting point for a wider discussion of Indigenous intellectual property law, practice and reform. His story is a microcosm of larger battles over the cultural appropriation of Indigenous culture, iconography and science. David Unaipon could be seen as a beneficiary of intellectual property law. He is a creator of copyright works; an inventor of patented inventions; and an iconic figure, worthy of personality rights. His creative and scientific work has been an inspiration for others. David Unaipon could also be seen as being disenfranchised by intellectual property law. He lost ownership of his economic rights in respect of literary works; and his moral rights have not been respected under copyright law. His case also highlights the deficiencies of copyright law in respect of its failure to provide comprehensive recognition of communal authorship and ownership of copyright works. While he was a patent applicant, David Unaipon never seemed to have benefitted from the patent system. His experience raises questions about access to justice. The government and commercial use of the persona of David Unaipon raises complex questions about trade mark law, passing off and personality rights. The story of David Unaipon highlights the need for the systematic and holistic reformation of intellectual property law, so that it better serves Indigenous communities and peoples.
Keywords: Indigenous Intellectual Property, David Unaipon, Copyright Law, Patent Law, Trademark Law, Personality Rights, History
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