The Namatjira Project: Copyright Law, Traditional Knowledge, and Indigenous Intellectual Property

Monday, 1 July 2019
Prof Matthew Rimmer

This presentation considers this historical conflict over the copyright ownership of the artistic work of Albert Namatjira. It considers the circumstances in which the Public Trustee of the Northern Territory assigned ownership of copyright to Artarmon Galleries. It examines the efforts of Senator Aden Ridgeway to deal with the controversy in the Australian Parliament. It examines the discussion of possible litigation in respect of the dispute. This paper considers the Namatjira Project and its ultimately successful resolution of the dispute. It also considers the settlement by the Northern Territory Government in respect of the action of the Public Trustee - after work by pro bono lawyer Mark Leibler. This presentation considers the ramifications of this dispute for copyright law reform and Indigenous intellectual property. In particular, it focuses upon communal ownership of copyright works, economic and moral rights, assignment and licensing, wills, and the duration of copyright term. Moreover, this paper looks at passing off and personality rights. It also considers the perennial efforts to implement a sui generis regime of Indigenous intellectual property - at a national and an international level.