Faculty Scholarship


In the United States, the policy of localism – the legislative goal of fostering local community expression and competence to deliver local content – finds its home in the Telecommunications Act rather than either the Copyright Act or Trademark Act. Other nations have introduced values of localism into trade policy, content distribution rules, and international efforts to protect intangible cultural heritage and expressions of folklore.

Jurisdictions in every continent are struggling to address the pressures of globalism through efforts to protect indigenous peoples’ and minority communities’ languages and culture. These efforts take many forms. Nations have introduced efforts to protect these interests into trade policy, content distribution rules, and the legal regimes of copyright and trademark. Some jurisdictions, for example, emphasize the need for historical preservation of particular culture and content. Other jurisdictions emphasize localism to promote domestic employment and economic growth. At the same time, however, other regulators are cloaking governmental censorship under the guise of protectionism.

These efforts assume, arguendo, that some model of protectionism is necessary to assist these communities. Because there are many different types of intangible cultural heritage – local languages, tribal customs, religious traditions, folklore, styles of artworks, etc. – this assumption may be counterproductive. Particularly in our increasingly networked, global information community, assumptions of territorial protections must be reconsidered.

This article reviews the underlying societal imperatives reflected in a policy of intangible cultural heritage and the intellectual property-like regimes being developed to protect these interests. It contrasts UNESCO efforts with more narrowly tailored efforts of WIPO and juxtaposes those approaches with the localism model developed under the FCC. While aspects of the WIPO protection efforts focusing on trademark-like and trade secret-like protections benefit the people and cultures these policies hope to serve, additional copyright-like protections will likely do more harm than good. Instead, global public policy will be far better served through emphasis on localism’s attributes of developing human capital to improve the quality of content being produced and encouraging local communities to focus on the content of their own choosing.


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