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Forum Home - Go Back > Pow Wow Arena > Pow Wow Singing Cultural theft? Cultural theft?

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Old 12-22-2009, 04:03 PM   #1
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Cultural theft?

I have grown up listening to powwow music. Some songs sung in one tribal language that I originally heard, are now sung in another language. From what I have witnessed, this is happening to both northern and southern songs.

Should a drum group or tribe at least gain permission before changing word songs from another tribe into their own tribal words?

Can this be considered cultural theft?

Whatcha' think?
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Old 12-22-2009, 06:02 PM   #2
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Can you post some examples? I haven't heard any that I can remember.
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Old 12-23-2009, 10:04 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by rez_hopper View Post
Can you post some examples? I haven't heard any that I can remember.

rez,

The song "Hey how are yah, Hey how are yah" is not sung the same.... *L
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Old 04-15-2010, 02:23 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WhoMe View Post
I have grown up listening to powwow music. Some songs sung in one tribal language that I originally heard, are now sung in another language. From what I have witnessed, this is happening to both northern and southern songs.

Should a drum group or tribe at least gain permission before changing word songs from another tribe into their own tribal words?

Can this be considered cultural theft?

Whatcha' think?
Just wondering, if the words are changed...Is it really the same song?
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Old 04-15-2010, 03:29 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rez_hopper View Post
Can you post some examples? I haven't heard any that I can remember.
There's also 99 Red Balloons and 99 LuftBallons
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Old 04-15-2010, 03:45 PM   #6
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On the thread about the french jingle dancer placing at a powwow, I bet she never got permission to do anything, just made her outfit and started dancing. Some people say that's okay and have no problems with it because they are "respectful". So does it matter if our own people do the same or should they be held to a higher standard because they should know better?

I've been hearing complaints like this for a long time. Some of my Lakota friends were upset that Dine' sundancers and singers translated traditional Lakota sundance songs and started singing them that way at their Dine' sundances. I don't know if it changed or not, but I really doubt it. I know powwow songs are different but that was the only real example that I could compare the topic to.
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Old 01-28-2011, 06:31 AM   #7
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Talking

I agree, But as long as you give credit to the orignal song in which it came from. Songs are made for a reason and shouldn't lose why they were made.
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Old 01-28-2011, 02:35 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nakota_sawicasa View Post
I agree, But as long as you give credit to the orignal song in which it came from. Songs are made for a reason and shouldn't lose why they were made.
I have to agree with half of what you said Nakota. Where I come from, the First Nations are very protective of their property which includes, art, songs, dances, names and clan items. When we are "loaned" an item from another clan, we must give credit to who gave it to us, what clan gave it to us and what house gave it to us and the conditions for which we were given permission to use the item. We must also acknowledge that the item is not ours and the ownership rests with the clan and can not be passed on through inheritance.

In recent years, the First Nations up in my neck of the woods have been using both American and Canadian case law and statutes to launch legal actions against those who have helped themselves to our properties. For the most part, we have been quite successful in those cases. Where the courts are struggling to reconcile with our traditional way of holding property and to that of the white laws of property is in where the property goes to in the event of an absence of succession. When a property is left with no one to pass it onto, in our culture it reverts to the care of the clan. In white law, if no one can claim succession then property reverts to the state/government. Then of course, you have to in our case up here in Canada, have to deal with the Indian Act and it's regulations for Indians that die without issue/descendants or Intestate.

I think, with my lawyer hat on, that many folks don't quite understand the white laws of copyright and trademarks enough to know when they are infringing on someone else's works/property. A rather large myth in copyright is if you change the original work enough it is not longer considered an infringement. The reality is that all that has been done is creating a derivative work from an original and without permission from those who own the property, it still is an infringement. This is where I'm going to part ways with agreeing with you.

In the reference above, simply changing the words to a song is not enough to avoid infringing the owner's rights. Nor is claiming that the property had no copyright symbol. This one is my most favourite of all myths as it implies images and works that are not marked are up for grabs for use by anyone. The answer is that this was true in the past, but today almost all major nations follow the Berne copyright convention. For example, in the USA, almost everything created privately and originally after April 1, 1989 is copyrighted and protected whether it has a notice or not. The default you should assume for other people's works is that they are copyrighted and may not be copied unless you know otherwise. There are some old works that lost protection without notice, but frankly you should not risk it unless you know for sure.

As far as changing the words etc Copyright law is quite explicit that the making of what are called "derivative works", that means works based or derived from another copyrighted work and these rights remain the exclusive province of the owner of the original work. This is true even though the making of these new works is a highly creative process. If you write a story using settings or characters from somebody else's work, you need that author's permission. All those fan fiction stories are basically a copyright infringement of the original work. Now, as it turns out, many, but not all holders of popular copyrights turn a blind eye to "fan fiction" or even subtly encourage it because it helps them. Make no mistake, however, that it is entirely up to them whether to do that.

The major exception is criticism and parody. This however, is not a loophole. You can't just take a non-parody and claim it is one on a technicality. The way "fair use" works is you get sued for copyright infringement, and you admit you did copy, but that your copying was a fair use. A subjective judgment on, among other things, your goals, is then made.

Another myth is that if the property belongs to someone of a foreign nation that it is ok, to copy the property. I've heard this one a number of times and it really irks me that an artist/singer/dancer/orator would go to the length to gain this false knowledge and willfully copy another's work rather than simply be creative in another way. There are few countries that do not have a copyright law of some sort. Even at the lowest of the legal echelon, a moral copyright would still win out which some countries include in their laws. A copyright will be created at the time the work becomes tangible and remains in copyright until 70 years (50 if you live in Canada) after their owner's death. Even then, the estate can apply to have the rights continued.

This is where those pesky Europeans that rip off our songs, dances and art could get caught up and that's believing that being in their own country protects them from infringement litigation. If the country you live in was a signatory to the Berne Convention on Copyright, then you'll find your work is protected within the signatory's boundaries. If your work is being sold in foreign countries, it would would be prudent to at least, register your work for a toothier level of damages.

The bottom line is, if you are the copier of such works, you may not be as litigation proof as you once thought and if you are the owner of a work whose copyright has been infringed, you have some fairly strong legal recourse to protect your work.

Some folks even go as far to believe that copyright infringement isn't a criminal offence, they are only partly correct as in some jurisdictions, it becomes a criminal matter when it affects the commercial value and number of copies produced. In the USA for example, it becomes a criminal matter when there are more than 10 copies made and a value over 2500.00 USD. But here's the difference, in a criminal matter the onus of proof is beyond a reasonable doubt - a fairly rigorous standard to obtain. In a civil matter which is where most copyright infringement matters end up, the onus of proof is on the balance of probabilities. Which is a much lower standard and could effectively be described as proving at 51% the facts of the case.

Others believe that if it appears on the internet, it's fair game to copy. Nothing that has been produced or created in the last 70 years (or thereabouts) is in the public domain unless the owner explicitly has put it there. By explicit, I mean you have to see a note from the author/owner saying: "I grant this to the public domain" or words very much like them. Now, granting right to the public domain also means that the owner gives up all reserved rights and has abandoned those rights. If you want to maintain some rights to the work, then look into licencing rights instead. So for example, all those beading examples and patterns one sees posted on forums like pw.com are all copyrighted to the owners (providing they didn't copy it from someone else without permission).

So here's one for those in Europe and elsewhere that steal names, images, dances and songs from First Nations, even if you are charging or not charging for what you have infringed, you are still open to litigation from the owners. If you hurt the commercial value of the work it can attract serious damages being awarded. Selling or not selling the work only changes the amount of damages that can be awarded. Even if you give it away, it's still a copyright infringement.

Copyright is effectively never lost these days, unless explicitly given away. You also can't "copyright a name" or anything short like that, such as almost all titles. Trademark law however, comes into play with names and can be litigated as vigorously as the copyrighted property.

I've been urging First Nations to get busy and get those songs, images, art, techniques and processes and property listed and copyrighted, patented and trademarked as we have done in my territory before they end up in the hands of Europeans, boy scouts and nuagers.

But closer to home, we also have to learn to respect the ownership of another Nation's songs and stop copying them without obtaining a licensing agreement or permission. It seems that we are internally willing to create a cultural mess of ripped off songs, dances and property by not giving credit and gaining permission. Think about this folks... ask yourself why governments and I'm talking about the US and Canadian ones have not stepped up to the plate to stop this cultural theft by Europeans, boy scouts and nuagers? They are afterall, in a fiduciary duty relationship with us. Their Acts and legislation have been around for decades to protect us from ourselves (being facetious here ), yet they do nothing when it comes to our cultural property. My theory is that they do nothing because every time someone rips us off and we become a made in China or Germany Indian, these governments have succeeded with their original mandate to make us disappear.

anyway, my two elk teeth
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Old 12-20-2014, 10:53 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kakeeya View Post
On the thread about the french jingle dancer placing at a powwow, I bet she never got permission to do anything, just made her outfit and started dancing. Some people say that's okay and have no problems with it because they are "respectful". So does it matter if our own people do the same or should they be held to a higher standard because they should know better?

I've been hearing complaints like this for a long time. Some of my Lakota friends were upset that Dine' sundancers and singers translated traditional Lakota sundance songs and started singing them that way at their Dine' sundances. I don't know if it changed or not, but I really doubt it. I know powwow songs are different but that was the only real example that I could compare the topic to.
personally i never heard of a dine sundance

BUT if they exist then sundance songs belong to the creator and the his chosen people (NDNs)

powwow songs and round dance songs are different......someone can own them i dont care............all i gotta say is EVERYONE knows the cozad southern fancy song no matter who sings it (everyone)
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