Albert Namatjira: copyright estates and traditional knowledge

Rimmer, Matthew (2003) Albert Namatjira: copyright estates and traditional knowledge. Incite.

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Albert Namatjira was Australia's first Indigenous professional artist. He adapted Western-style painting to express his cultural knowledge of the Arrernte country, for which he was a traditional custodian. In his lifetime, Albert Namatjira achieved great acclaim for his exceptional ability as an artist. However, after his untimely death, he was ignored by the mainstream Australian art world, because of the aesthetic prejudices and social policies of the time. A recent exhibition entitled Seeing the Centre: The art of Albert Namatjira (1902-1959) curated by Alison French has sought to redress this neglect, and provide a retrospective of his work.

The exhibition has brought to light that the copyright in the artistic works of Albert Namatjira has not been passed onto his family descendants. In June 1957, Namatjira entered into a copyright agreement with John Brackenreg, the owner of a publishing company by the name of Legend Press, and the associated Artarmon Galleries in Sydney. It was agreed that Legend Press would pay royalties to Namatjira for the sole right to reproduce all of his paintings. Following Namatjira's death in 1959, the administration of his estate passed to the Public Trustee for the Northern Territory Government. The Public Trustee of the Northern Territory Government authorised the sale of Namatjira's copyright to Legend Press in 1983, thereby ending the ability of the descendents of Namatjira to benefit from on-going income from the reproduction of his works.

Senator Aden Ridgeway of the Democrats has called on the Federal Government to enter into discussions with the Northern Territory Government to buy back the copyright in Albert Namatjira's works. He argued that exclusive control of the use and reproduction of his works should be restored to his descendants, as well as the receipt of all financial benefits that result from the use and reproduction of his works under copyright protection. The Senator said: 'By doing this, we will all be rewarded, because finally, belatedly, we will be showing Albert Namatjira the reverence that he has always deserved. We will be protecting his legacy for future generations'.

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ID Code: 86801
Item Type: Other
Refereed: Yes
Keywords: Intellectual Property and Innovation Law Research Group
ISSN: 2202-347X
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Law
Current > Schools > School of Law
Deposited On: 21 Aug 2015 07:52
Last Modified: 06 Oct 2015 05:19

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