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The law and ethics of ‘cultural appropriation’

Siems, M

The law and ethics of ‘cultural appropriation’ Thumbnail


M Siems


Cultural appropriation is often defined as the ‘taking of intellectual property, cultural expressions or artefacts, history, and ways of knowledge’. Despite this apparent link to intellectual property, legal issues are only rarely mentioned in the current debate. Thus, to start with, this paper aims to fill this gap in identifying the possible bases in existing laws that may, at least in principle, justify claims of unlawful behaviour. As far as ethical considerations are concerned, the paper then notes a deep divide between those who fully endorse the notion of cultural appropriation and those who are resolutely opposed to it. This paper aims to give fair consideration to both sides of the argument, suggesting three categories of potentially unethical conduct. On this basis, the paper finally revisits possible legal responses from a normative perspective.


Siems, M. (2019). The law and ethics of ‘cultural appropriation’. International Journal of Law in Context, 15(4), 408-423.

Journal Article Type Article
Online Publication Date Dec 13, 2019
Publication Date Dec 31, 2019
Deposit Date Feb 27, 2020
Publicly Available Date Feb 28, 2020
Journal International Journal of Law in Context
Print ISSN 1744-5523
Electronic ISSN 1744-5531
Publisher Cambridge University Press
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 15
Issue 4
Pages 408-423


Accepted Journal Article (922 Kb)

Copyright Statement
This article has been published in a revised form in International journal of law in context This version is published under a Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND. No commercial re-distribution or re-use allowed. Derivative works cannot be distributed. © Cambridge University Press 2019.

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