This page contains historical information and is preserved here as a matter of record. This project operated at the SSRC from 2005-07-01 to 2005-07-31.

In 2002, in anticipation of the 2005 deadline for compliance with the Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPS) agreement, Indonesia undertook a major revision of its copyright law. The new law brought Indonesia into compliance with higher and more extensive international norms of copyright protection, including the extension of copyright protection to software and broadcasts. The law also reaffirmed copyright protection for works it characterized as “commonly authored” or of “unknown authorship” — both references to the forms of creativity and ownership associated with traditional arts and folklore. These copyrights are accorded to the state, and assigned an unlimited term. The intent was to create a permanent zone of protection for traditional Indonesian cultural practices, in part by empowering a legal actor (the state) to defend them from unauthorized exploitation. The actual application of the law — and the practical capacity of the state to adjudicate these new property relations in a context of turbulent multiculturalism — remains unclear.

By ‘propertizing’ the traditional arts as a means of defending them, Indonesia is participating in a much larger debate about the protection and exploitation of cultural heritage and — more broadly — the relationship of culture to processes of globalization and international trade. The debate reflects a tension, felt especially within minority and indigenous cultures, between the notion of culture as a commercializable asset and culture as the core of non-commercial community identity.