Fake Art Harms Culture campaign helps bring on inquiry

September 25, 2017

Almost a year on from its launch, the Fake Art Harms Culture campaign has successfully helped bring about an inquiry to more closely examine the impacts of inauthentic Indigenous art, with submissions open now.

The House of Representatives Standing Committee on Indigenous Affairs announced that it will inquire into the growing presence of inauthentic Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ‘style’ art and craft products and merchandise for sale across Australia.

Its estimated that up to 80% of stores that sell apparently Indigenous products are selling fakes, many made in and imported from Asian and Pacific countries such as Indonesia and China, with no connection to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists, creating a multi-million dollar market.

The Fake Art Harms Culture campaign was initiated by the Indigenous Art Code in response to concerns raised by many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists. The campaign, supported by Copyright Agency | Viscopy together with Arts Law Centre of Australia and other industry partners, called on the Government to tackle the problem of fake ‘Indigenous’ arts and craft being sold in Australia, harming Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and incomes. It received widespread support, including campaign letters to MPs signed by Indigenous artists and individuals, national media coverage, and presentations at numerous Indigenous Arts events. A change.org petition initiated by an individual drew over 13,000 signatures.

Gabrielle Sullivan, CEO of the Indigenous Art Code told ABC News that creating fake Indigenous art that actually has no connection to Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander communities is a violation of culture.

“If someone copied someone’s original artwork and put it on a shirt it’s an infringement, but if somebody gets a factory in China to make a pastiche of Aboriginal design, but not copying anyone directly, that’s not protected.”

“The sale of fake Indigenous art is an insidious practice that, while not illegal, is immoral,” she said.

“It violates culture, it’s taking the economic opportunity away, but it’s also taking control of that resource that’s [the artist’s] to manage and they’ve got no say in how that’s done,” she said.

The Chair of the Committee, Ms Melissa Price MP said “Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists and communities rely on revenue obtained through the sale of…culturally authentic products.”

“The aims of the inquiry are to identify ways to prevent the exploitation and misuse of indigenous culture through the proliferation of inauthentic Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ‘style’ products.”

The House of Representatives Standing Committee on Indigenous Affairs invites submissions to the inquiry by 3 November 2017.

For advice on making submissions see the Committee’s website at www.aph.gov.au/indigenousaffairs or contact the committee secretariat on (02) 6277 4559.

To find out more about Indigenous Copyright, click here.

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