Ownership of traditional information: Moral and legal obligation to compensate for taking

TitleOwnership of traditional information: Moral and legal obligation to compensate for taking
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication1989
AuthorsMcNeil, RJ, McNeil, MJ
JournalNortheast Indian Quarterly
Date Published1989 Fall
Keywordsbiodiversity; ethics; ethnobotany; intellectual property rights; medicinal plants; rainforests

Technically developed societies have benefited greatly by the knowledge which they have extracted from indigenous, tribal societies, especially those living in the tropical rainforests. Tropical plants, and occasionally animals, have been used to produce many valuable pharmaceutical products; genetic variants of domestic crops have been used to produce increased yields, resistance to disease, and other valuable characteristics. Knowledge of these values of tropical plants has been created and discovered, sometimes at great hazard, over generations of people. The intellectual property so created and cared for is owned and has value. The knowledge has sometimes been extracted from rainforest people by ethnobotanists, anthropologists, and others, in transactions which may be characterized as unjust and illegal. From both moral and legal standpoints we may have obligations to compensate people of these tribal societies for the immensely valuable intellectual property which we have obtained from them. Various methods are available for compensation for past injustices and to produce fair transactions in the future. (author)

Short TitleOwnership of traditional information