Think Before You Appropriate: A Guide For Creators and Designers

The IPinCH Project—Intellectual Property Issues in Cultural Heritage, directed by SFU professor George Nicholas, has recently released a new guide, "Think Before You Appropriate" which unpacks important questions around cultural appropriation. The guide is aimed to give advice to designers, artists, creators, marketers, and anyone seeking information on the why's and how's in avoiding misappropriation.

The About page of the guide explains:

"People and cultures have always exchanged and borrowed ideas from each other to create new forms of art and symbolic expression. Whether intentionally or not, most if not all human creations reflect varied sources of inspiration.

Why, then, are some products negatively labelled “cultural appropriation” or their creators accused of disrespecting the very cultures they found inspiring? And why do products inspired from Indigenous cultural heritage seem to spark particularly strong reactions and pushback?

This guide unpacks these important questions. It provides advice to designers and marketers on why and how to avoid misappropriation, and underlines the mutual benefits of responsible collaborations with Indigenous artists and communities."

The guide is written in a Q&A format with easy-to-read, clear and accessible language. Several important questions covered by the guide include:

- What is “cultural heritage” and when is it being “misappropriated”?
- Why is following existing Intellectual Property laws usually not enough?
- What makes for a responsible creative collaboration?
- What are the costs and risks of misappropriation?
- What are the benefits of taking part in a responsible collaboration?
- How can you contribute to the ethical treatment of Indigenous cultural heritage?

Towards the end of the guide, IPinCH introduces a few illustrative examples to help readers recognize and avoid misappropriation.

Think Before You Appropriate is registered under creative commons and is available online here.

Other related links:

Cultural appropriation guide aims to help designers, consumers, avoid insensitive choices - Via CBC News

To hear the full story "It's not just headdresses at festival; prof says Indigenous cultural appropriation widespread" on CBC:

Think Before You Appropriate: new guide advises on ethical use of indigenous cultural heritage - Via SFU