Celebrating Local Stewardship in a Global Market: Community Heritage, Intellectual Property Protection and Sustainable Development in India

This project aims to contribute to the UN Sustainable Development Goals by helping to build sustainable communities, protect and safeguard cultural heritage, enhance well-being, address income inequalities, promote economic empowerment of marginalised groups, and reduce poverty.
Project status

Intangible cultural heritage (ICH) practices, such as craft, dance, musical performance, storytelling, and visual arts, give communities a sense of identity and belonging. The sale of products created by ICH practice can also create jobs and income. However, many communities in developing countries like India experience significant difficulty preventing the appropriation of their heritage by others, for example through mechanisation of production methods. Conventional intellectual property (IP) rights, such as copyright and design protection, offer limited protection to the authors of original creations. These IP tools cannot easily be used to protect cultural expressions whose authors are unknown, and which have been passed down through the generations, changing and adapting to new contexts.

This project forms an interdisciplinary partnership between experts from Europe, a well-established Indian NGO and three ICH communities in West Bengal, India to assess the effectiveness of existing strategies for commercialising intangible cultural heritage (ICH) products based on musical performance, dance, painting and storytelling (Baul, Chau and Patachitra). The project seeks to co-create heritage-sensitive intellectual property (IP) marketing and social media strategies appropriate to each community to help them respond to increased appropriation of their heritage by third parties.

Principal Investigator: Professor Charlotte Waelde, Coventry University 

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