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There’s something new in the field of copyright and trademarks. And it has nothing to do with the Internet. Rather it involves a move to protect something a little more traditional — the art, music, and culture of indigenous peoples throughout the world. And Kate McGovern, who will begin her third career when she graduates this summer from Chicago’s John Marshall Law School, hopes to be a part of that movement. McGovern has already traveled to Geneva to research the subject at the July meeting of the World Intellectual Property Organization. WIPO is a leader in the effort to standardize intellectual property laws worldwide. Three years ago it launched a series of fact-finding missions to analyze issues relating to protecting traditional knowledge and folklore. In July of 2000, it issued an interim report that remains under discussion and is available on the WIPO Web site. McGovern found herself swept up in the excitement of the new legal endeavors. Although she was aware of indigenous cultural influences in American theater and art, it wasn’t until she was asked to write a paper on the subject for Marshall IP Law Professor Doris Long that she understood how the legal profession could help preserve and protect these influences. “For many indigenous people this is going to become a very important industry,” says McGovern, who is an intern at Chicago’s Lawyers for the Creative Arts. McGovern also has received certification from the California Lawyers for the Arts and the American Academy of Dispute Resolution to deal with intellectual property issues for artists and musicians at home in the United States. But while the United States has laws on the books protecting artists from infringement, the country does not recognize folklore and traditional knowledge for copyright protection. The United States, McGovern maintains, has given “lip service” to the idea that it offers protection to Native American artists. McGovern recalls traveling to Santa Fe, N.M. — theplace to find authentic Native American jewelry. Not far from Santa Fe’s Governor’s Palace, where traditional women peddle their wares, McGovern picked up a pair of earrings and was chagrined when she flipped them over and found the words “Made in Hong Kong.” For her research McGovern turned to Third World and developing countries, which have different understandings of authorship as it relates to folk traditions and knowledge. Though the United States has trouble recognizing works without identifiable authors, other countries have more readily accepted groups like an entire tribe as the author of a work, according to McGovern and Professor Long. Long recently returned to John Marshall from a year’s sabbatical doing international enforcement for the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office in Washington, D.C. Because of that broader understanding of authorship elsewhere and the increasing influence of WIPO, Long expects the United States will one day follow suit, finding ways to better protect and value the ideas, designs and traditional knowledge of its indigenous citizenry. Many countries already see the value of such protection, including Peru, which Long notes has drafted laws to protect folklore and traditional knowledge as well as specifications on the taking of biogenetic material for the purposes of developing medical cures. The underlying issue, she says, is: “Who gets the right to interpret our culture and who gets to make money off of it.” And industry-seeking countries understand there is money to be made — in tourism, trade, the arts and even in pharmaceuticals — if they can find ways to categorize their folklore and traditional knowledge as intellectual property. “Some of these countries are looking for industry and their industry can be the production of their [traditional knowledge] or design of their jewelry,” McGovern says. McGovern maintains that Australia is at the forefront of these issues, with its high court helping Aborigines protect their artistic designs. “Australia,” she says, “recognizes the commercial value” of protecting the intellectual property rights of its indigenous peoples. That’s the case partly, she explains, because Australia sits so close to Asia, which is infamous for its knock-offs. She hopes to travel to Australia after she graduates from law school to continue her research there. While the legal profession is fairly new to McGovern personally, she is married to a lawyer, Peter J. McGovern, who teaches at John Marshall. And she is certainly no stranger to the arts. A former director of career services at Columbia College, McGovern spent nine years as an adjunct professor at Loyola University Chicago’s graduate school of education. She specialized in teaching reading techniques by using theater, puppetry and oral interpretation. McGovern has an undergraduate degree in arts and education from Hunter College and a master’s in arts and education and a doctorate in education from the University of South Dakota. Long says McGovern’s background suits her for this type of intellectual property study. “She appreciates the creativity that exists within the culture,” Long says. And while there might not be much money to be made in this field, McGovern intends to continue her activities and ideally work her way into the formal WIPO committees and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization as those two groups work to press this issue on an international scale. These indigenous cultures, she insists, “have something to share with the rest of the world. And she adds, “They don’t mind sharing” as long as they get attribution and, ideally, compensation.

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