Indigenous Australian artistic designs are protected by a new court ruling
Art Law

Indigenous Australian artistic designs are protected by a new court ruling

The Federal Court of Australia has for the first time protected Indigenous Australian artistic designs without relying on copyright or other intellectual property rights. The Federal Court of Australia has applied the Australian Consumer Law to protect Indigenous Australian artistic designs by penalising a seller of souvenir boomerangs, didgeridoos, bullroarers and message stones with fake indigenous designs, authenticity and provenance, the sum of $2.3 million. The decision is Australian Competition and Consumer Commission v Birubi Art Pty Ltd (in liq) (No 3) [2019] FCA 996 (26 June 2019) (Justice Perry). The decision is significant in that it establishes that the Australian Consumer Law can be used to protect against cultural appropriation . In this case, it was the cultural designs, images and symbols that were taken and were exploited for commercial benefit, causing widespread economic, social and cultural harms to Indigenous Australians. The Decision The facts were: Birubi Art, sourced the artefacts from Indonesia, where they were manufactured and decorated with Australian Aboriginal designs such as kangaroos, emus, crocodiles, fish and dot art by non-Aboriginal people. An Aboriginal designer, Trisha Mason, had prepared artwork for some of the products, but did not supervise or paint any of the artefacts. […]

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