Enforcement Issues

“To obtain the best use of legally enforceable rights it is important to understand their strengths and their limits. This can encourage informed choices about the way in which Indigenous art and culture is managed. This can help reduce the instances of the use of Indigenous people’s art, cultural expression and cultural knowledge without permission, or for purposes which are inappropriate”
- Robynne Quiggin, 2008

It can be difficult for Indigenous artists, their organisations and communities to appreciate that in most instances no one is going to monitor and enforce their copyright and Indigenous intellectual property interests on their behalf. If an artist or organisation becomes aware of any of the following:

  • copyright infringement
  • moral rights infringement
  • breaches of the trade practices laws (e.g. fake Aboriginal art)
  • misuse of Indigenous intellectual property

then it is up to the artist or the organisation to do something about it, at least initially. There are no "Copyright police" who will do this for them.

If the artist is a member of a collecting society, the collecting society may in some cases take action to collect the fees the artist should be paid. For further information see section dealing with collecting societies.

Some agencies may be able to help once they become aware of a problem, e.g. the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has power to bring an action against someone involved in misleading and deceptive conduct.

Copyright is an important asset for artists, who should know and assert their rights. Therefore, any artist who becomes aware of a copyright infringement of his or her work should get legal advice and find out what to do to resolve the problem. Arts Law may be able to assist through Artists in the Black program may be able to assist. The Australian Copyright Council can also advise on copyright matters.

See case studies about Indigenous artists who took steps to address infringements of their copyright and moral rights: