Digging Deep: Dance and Energy by Abbe Brown

A key theme of InVisible Difference is new interaction between fields. A forthcoming international intellectual property conference in Cape Town provides the opportunity for one team member to explore what should be the common themes underpinning intellectual property - irrespective of the intellectual property right in question, the creative or innovative discipline, geography, or the people involved. Being on the blog rota this week provides the opportunity for her to share some (very) preliminary thoughts.

To develop the possible common themes, two case studies will be explored in respect of the UK and South Africa. The first is dance, by people with different bodies, in the UK and in South Africa. A collection exploring post apartheid dance in South Africa, which in particular considers whiteness, women and disability is a valuable source [1], alongside the InVisible Difference outputs to date. The second case study is renewable energy. This was chosen as it is an apparently radically distinct field from dance, and has attracted the attention of intellectual property scholars.

Yet are dance and energy distinct? They both involve questions of individual and group creativity and public benefit. It has been suggested that as energy sources change, society changes, and this can be traced in art over time. These findings were presented at the Aberdeen May Festival in 2015[2]. The Beyond Perception 2015 conference held in Aberdeen explored links between creativity and the physical environment from an anthropological perspective[3].

Legally, there are synergies. Dance and energy are both in complex legal and philosophical frameworks. Intellectual property rights exist in respect of dance and energy. This is on the basis of an international treaty which requires that states (including the UK and South Africa) have intellectual property laws which can cover dance (subject to the points explored in InVisible Difference) and energy. To support creativity, there are arguments in favour of reward models, encouragement of investment, exclusive approaches to property and utilitarianism. These are manifested in contemporary approaches to intellectual property. There are other international and regional treaties and instruments which apply to the UK and South Africa. These address access to information and culture for all, sustainable development and rights to life, health and a satisfactory environment. These are supported by and complement practices and theories regarding equality, distributive justice, community action and stewardship.

This suggests that there are common themes underpinning creativity in dance and energy. The present intellectual property framework is firmly entrenched in the first, more controlling approach, notwithstanding the potential for limits to be imposed on rights. So, if the more open second set of common themes is preferred, or arguments are developed as how why this must be done, bringing this about could be a challenge. Scholars are developing arguments for intellectual property to be recalibrated (with countries taking a different approach to different rights in different contexts) and also as to how different international organisations and treaties can work together and be part of a more integrated approach to international decision making. These valuable approaches could avoid, say sustainability and equality being ignored in intellectual property decision making.

What might arise here, however, is a call for more fundamental change - shifting the foundations of intellectual property. Further posts may follow….

[1] S Friedman (ed) Post-Apartheid Dance: Many Bodies Many Voices Many Stories (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2012)
[2] B Lord Art & Energy. How Culture Changes (The AAM Press, 2014); https://www.abdn.ac.uk/mayfestival/events/6613/
[3] Beyond Perception 15 http://www.abdn.ac.uk/socsci/disciplines/anthropology/beyond-perception.php

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