Copyright and Ownership of Indigenous Sound Recordings

ENRICH Webinar Series


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February 28, 2023
3:00pm - 4:30pm Eastern Time (US & Canada)

Who owns the copyright of a sound recording? Who owns the voices and sounds of a forest? How are some voices and sounds protected, and others erased in the law? What happens when sound recordings enter the public domain? How does the Music Modernization Act (2018)  affect Indigenous sound recordings? What recourse do Indigenous communities have to protect their rights over ceremonies, songs and narratives documented by ethnographers and now being digitized and widely circulated? What happens when songs and Ancestors come home again?

Like other extractive technologies, sound recordings were weaponized as tools of settler colonialism to appropriate Indigenous voices, songs, oral histories and traditional knowledge. These field recordings, soundscapes, aural mappings were taken, circulated, archived and appropriated often without full and informed consent of Indigenous peoples and stored in institutions outside Indigenous control.  Join us as we bring together tribal attorneys, experts on decolonial archives, and Tribal Historic Preservation Officers to discuss examples of these forms of archival violence, as well as legal and extralegal solutions to these problems.


Passamaquoddy Labels in Use

Watch this video to see how the Passamaquoddy tribe worked with Local Contexts to apply Labels to their traditional knowledge.

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This recording was made with the expressed permission of the panelists for educational purposes only. ​​The views expressed at, or through, this site are those of the individual authors writing in their individual capacities only – not those of their respective employers, or communities as a whole.Legal Advice

The information provided on this webinar does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice; instead, all information, content, and materials are for general informational purposes only. Specific nuances can dramatically change the legal outcome in a specific situation. Consult with a lawyer directly before taking legal action.

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Local Contexts Project: ENRICH 2023 Webinar Series



Dr. Trevor Reed Headshot

Dr. Trevor Reed

Dr. Trevor Reed (he/him) is an Associate Professor of Law at Arizona State University’s College of Law, where he teaches courses in Property, Intellectual Property, and Federal Indian Law. Dr. Reed’s research explores the impacts of intellectual property law on individuals and societies, currently focusing on the relationships between creative production and Native American sovereignty.  Reed is advancing community-partnered projects to assist Indigenous peoples in reclaiming their cultural expressions and traditional knowledges while also supporting their local modes of creation and innovation. Reed received his J.D., Ph.D. (Ethnomusicology), and M.A. (Arts Administration) from Columbia University; and BM (Music Composition) from BYU.

Dwayne Tomah Headshot

Dwayne Tomah

Dwayne Tomah (Passamaquoddy) (he/him) is a Language Keeper, he is a teacher of the Passamaquoddy language and culture. He is the youngest fluent speaker of the Passamaquoddy Tribe and has served on the Tribal Council. Dwayne has worked with the Library of Congress on translating the Passamaquoddy Wax Cylinders. These recordings are the first recordings in the world of Native languages. They were recorded in 1890 by Jesse Walter Fewkes, who borrowed the device from the inventor Thomas Edison. Dwayne has also been involved in repatriation and Land Back issues. He shares historical truth regarding The Doctrine of Discovery by an Indigenous perspective

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