TITLE: Facing the Music: Traditional Culture and Copyright
SPEAKER: Bryan Bachner
EVENT DATE: 2006/05/31
RUNNING TIME: 55 minutes
To what extent should copyright law protect the use and exploitation of traditional culture belonging to indigenous communities? Today's copyright law sadly overlooks and, arguably, discriminates against the interests of the authors of indigenous or traditional musical works - including folk music. As a single example, copyright law asserts that a work must, in effect, be written down for it to be copyrightable; this works against traditional cultures that conventionally transmit their work orally. As a result, traditional and indigenous culture is frequently exploited for profit without any recognition going to the composers or communities who created the works. Bryan Bachner presents musical illustrations and discusses recent cases in South Africa and China that challenge the copyright law status quo - the South African case involves Zulu composer Solomon Linda's "Mbube," an adaptation of an indigenous song that went on to world fame as both "Wimoweh" (recorded by The Weavers) and "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" (recorded by The Tokens)--as part of the Benjamin Botkin Lecture Series sponsored by the American Folklife Center.
Speaker Biography: Bryan Bachner was the first American to receive a Ph.D. in Law from Wuhan University in China. His dissertation focused on a parallel question in the field of patent law and its impact upon the development of traditional Chinese medicine. For the last 15 years, Bachner served as an associate professor of law at the City University of Hong Kong. He is currently assistant director of legal research at the Law Library of Congress and chief of the Eastern Law Division that covers the Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa. The Legal Research Directorate provides legal research and reference services to the United States Congress, executive agencies and the Supreme Court.
SERIES: Benjamin Botkin Lecture Series