Wednesday, 11 December 2013

The Undetected Lion King

No everybody knows Solomon Linda; but you may know the song ‘the lion sleeps tonight’ right? Well, that is probably the moment when you think of Disney’s ‘The Lion King’ and ask yourself what Salomon Linda has to do with it.

Solomon Linda is a Zulu musician, who composed this song and he is a victim of intellectual property. While The Walt Disney Company earned millions of Dollar by using his song, he died poor in a Southafrican township. It is a tragedy and scandal that companies (like Disney) exploit traditional knowledge (TK) without obeying international legal standards.

However, the situation is tricky. One the one hand, immense treasures of TK exist, values that go beyond ethical materialism or consumerism and on the other hand, cruel market policy expedited by globalisation forces the competition of companies. Realisable regulations are needed to protect TK and enforce the indigenous right to determine what happens to traditional values, be it music, designs or handicrafts.

Article 11 paragraph 2 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UBDRIPI) marks the starting point for a bold approach. It implies the right to revitalize and develop cultural traditions and customs of indigenous peoples. The use of a traditional song in a successful animated film is quite a revival and a gain. The only way to guarantee that the utilization of a traditional song is not only a gain for the producing company but also for the composer, is to make an indigenous approval condition for the commercialisation. Within the Declaration and the ILO Convention 169, the achievement of the Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) could provide assistance. If states ensure that commercialisation of TK is only permitted if indigenous consent is granted, two beneficial aims could be achieved. A natural protection of the TK and the foundation of compensation. Therefore indigenous consent has to be interpreted as the power to decline or accept marketing strategies. By making the obtaining of indigenous consent obligatory for companies and states, the biggest obstacle would have been conquered.

FPIC, a legal affirmation of adequate socio-legal behaviour and decency, needs to become an every day practice in protecting TK. If this, or the truly implementation of the Declaration into national legal systems, were possible, you would have heard of Solomon Linda before.

Posted written by Lisa Albanis (LLM candidate, University of Buckingham).
Source The Guardian.