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Desirability of Commodification of Intangible Cultural Heritage: The Unsatisfying Role of Intellectual Property Rights

The increasing sensibility regarding intangible cultural heritage provides momentum to better define a legal framework for the protection of these peculiar immaterial goods. This article questions whether the current intellectual property rights (IPRs) regime represents an adequate model of protection vis-à-vis intangible cultural heritage. A plethora of caveats must be taken into consideration, starting with the desirability of the commodification of intangible cultural heritage, i.e. its exploitation and commercialization through the IPRs regime, but also including the outlining of the legal instruments needed for guaranteeing adequate advantages for the countries and communities representing the sources of origin of the intangible goods.

After framing the crucial issues detected in literature regarding intangible cultural heritage, the article investigates the ways in which the actual IPRs regime grants protection to intangible goods. Our evaluation supports the idea that, without a many-faceted remodeling, current intellectual property laws represent an unsatisfactory mechanism for protecting intangible cultural heritage. This inadequacy is rooted in the inefficacy of IPRs under the patent and copyright regimes in ensuring the protection of cultural heritage, while also falling short of fostering an appropriate comprehensive social policy.

By Paolo Davide Farah and Riccardo Tremolada

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