Skip to content Skip to main menu Skip to utility menu
Canadian Federation of Library Associations / Fédération canadienne des associations de bibliothèques

CFLA Releases Position Statement on Indigenous Knowledge and Copyright

May 2, 2018

The Canadian Federation of Library Associations (CFLA) recently released a position statement on Indigenous knowledge and the Copyright Act.

Indigenous Knowledge in Canada’s Copyright Act

Position Statement


Canada’s Copyright Act does not protect Indigenous knowledge, which may be found in published works as a result of research or appropriation. In Canadian law, the author of a published work holds the legal copyright to that knowledge or cultural expression, while the Indigenous peoples from whom the knowledge originated have lost their ownership rights.


CFLA-FCAB recommends that the Copyright Act respect, affirm and recognize Indigenous peoples ownership of their traditional and living respective Indigenous knowledge.

Indigenous refers to First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples of Canada.

The Government of Canada should work with Indigenous peoples in Canada to explore mechanisms to protect Indigenous knowledge from unauthorized use through copyright legislation and to ensure that Indigenous concepts of ownership are respected, while enabling the originating community to actively exploit the knowledge.

Canada’s implementation of protection of Indigenous knowledge must ensure that contracts and licenses cannot override rights accorded through legislation. We recommend that Indigenous knowledge be respected in public domain works through the acknowledgement of community and knowledge origin. In unique cases, such as sacred or private information, there may be a necessity to include a right to regain ownership of some Indigenous knowledge, even if the work has lapsed into the public domain. These concerns must be addressed through protocol agreements with Indigenous communities on care of collections and contested items.

Flexibility in our international agreements should be maintained for concepts of Indigenous knowledge and its uses in Canada to be defined at regional, provincial and territorial levels, through consultation with elders and leaders of all Indigenous communities. Canada should include participation by Indigenous peoples in discussions at the World Intellectual Property Organization.

(Via Canadian Federation of Library Associations)

Add a new comment