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Training Program

WIPO provides intensive, hands-on training to indigenous peoples and local communities on how to safeguard their music, performances, art, designs and other traditional cultural expressions (TCEs).

The aims of the program are to assist communities to create intellectual property (IP) rights in their cultural heritage (in the form of digital photographs, audiovisual material, sound recordings and databases), exercise control and make informed decisions on access and use by third parties. It also offers the potential for communities to draw income from the commercialization of their cultural assets, if they so wish and in a way that corresponds to their values.

The training has been offered in partnership with The American Folklife Center (AFC) at the Library of Congress and the Center for Documentary Studies (CDS) at Duke University. Donations for the program can be made through WIPO’s IP Development Matchmaking Database.

Video: Digitizing Traditional Culture in Kenya.

Components of the Training Program

  • Hands-On Technical Training on Documentation: Training on cultural documentary techniques – includes project planning, research ethics, use of recording equipment and archiving and cataloguing of cultural heritage material.
  • IP Training: Demonstrates how practical benefits can be derived from the IP system and the usefulness of owning and managing IP rights over aspects of cultural heritage.

Program resources

Database of existing TCE codes, guidelines and practices

Examples of codes, guides, policies, protocols and standard agreements relating to the recording, digitization and dissemination of intangible cultural heritage, with an emphasis on intellectual property issues.

Surveys of Existing Practices, Protocols and Policies

Surveys of existing resources and practices relating to the safeguarding of, access to, ownership of and control over cultural heritage.


Recordings of Mongolian TCEs (excerpts from "Mongolian Folkore", 2009; © Intellectual Property Office of Mongolia).

Professor Wim van Zanten of Leiden University on prior and informed consent in ethnomusicology.

Case Study: The Maasai Pilot – A Success Story

In 2006, following a request from a Maasai community in Kenya, WIPO undertook an exploratory mission with the International Labour Organization (ILO) to identify their needs and explore assistance possibilities.

Two years later, a pilot program with the community and the National Museums of Kenya was launched in collaboration with the AFC and CDS. A follow-up course took place in 2009, where the trainees were instructed on how to use recording equipment.

The WIPO-UNTV video Digitizing Traditional Culture in Kenya (on YouTube) tracks the efforts of two trainees in their quest to document the TCEs handed down by generations of elders.

In 2011, the program was run with the Maroon and Rastafari communities in Jamaica, taking into account lessons learned from the Maasai experience.

Why the Cultural Documentation and IP Management Training Program?

Indigenous peoples and local communities the world over have seen their cultural heritage used without their authorization or acknowledgement. Now they are exploring how best to protect their heritage while at the same time preserving, promoting and passing it on to future generations as well as maintaining control over its representation to the world.

Digital technologies provide communities with fresh opportunities to document, record and disseminate expressions of their traditional cultures. Yet, these can leave cultural heritage vulnerable to unwanted use and exploitation by others. Often the community is left without any recourse, because most elements of cultural heritage are treated as “public domain” by conventional IP systems. The training program is a way to ensure that communities can record their cultural heritage without ceding authority over the use of the recordings.

Proper IP rights management can prevent misappropriation and misuse of recordings of TCEs in line with the safeguarding, promotional and commercial strategies of the communities and institutions.

WIPO guides communities and institutions on how to establish, identify and manage IP rights, including how to manage information about each recording, rights holder(s) and any usage rules, including rules derived from customary laws and practices.