The Ministry of Justice and Human Rights is speeding up the drafting of a bill designed to protect the country’s cultural heritage following a public outcry over the use of traditional Balinese dance images for a television show on Malaysia, an official said on Monday.
Speaking at a news conference, the ministry’s director general for intellectual property rights, Andi Sommeng, said his office was currently working with several academics to formulate the new bill, which he hoped would be forwarded to the House of Representatives for further deliberation in December.
“A lot of our traditional knowledge and art forms have been used by foreign countries for commercial purposes,” Andi said. “Others shouldn’t profit from what is rightfully ours. We need this bill to protect our cultural heritage from exploitation.”
Earlier this month, the Discovery Channel acknowledged that it had wrongfully featured the pendet dance of Bali in a television advertisement to promote its program “Enigmatic Malaysia.”
Critics also urged the government to protect the dance against what they called intellectual property infringement.
However, the director general said that the dance should not be protected under intellectual property rights, which is limited, but be given the full protection of a registered cultural heritage.
“Intellectual property rights only last for a certain time unlike cultural heritage rights,” he said, adding however that current international agreements did not provide sanctions against infringements.
Edi Sedyawati, a history and cultural professor at the state-owned University of Indonesia who was involved in formulating the bill, said that Indonesia should look to the success of the Dutch during colonial times in properly documenting and studying Indonesian culture.
“The Dutch have a complete catalog of basic patterns of batik,” Edi said. “They know where the designs come from and the philosophy behind each one.