Sámi fágagirjjálaš čálliid- ja jorgaleaddjiidsearvi
Saemien faagalidteratuvran tjaelijijih jarkoestæjjajsiebre
Sáme fágagirjásj tjállij- ja jårggåliddijijsiebre

Sámekopiija and indigenous rights in the Nordic countries
Sáhkavuorru IFFRO (International Federation of Reproduction Rights Organization) seminaras Aotearoas (Odda Zealanddas) 3.11. 2006 "The Value and Protection of Indigenous Knowledge and the Collective Management of Indigenous Rights"

Harald Gaski:

First of all I want to thank the organizers of this seminar for the invitation! Secondly I want to thank IFFRO for granting Sámikopiija an associate membership as the first indigenous peoples` organization within IFFRO. This is an honor and an obligation on behalf of the indigenous world. Let me also take this opportunity to extend Mr. John Solbakk`s best regards to the conference. He was originally going to be here to represent Sámikopiija.

Over the last thirty-forty years indigenous peoples have taken inspiration from each other. There have been a number of festivals and conferences since the end of the 1970s where groups have met and exchanged experiences and created a new political and cultural platform for the indigenous movement. Because the cultural dimension always has had a prominent position in indigenous politics, most political conferences have also functioned as cultural meeting places, with performances by musicians, dancers and poets. In that way, one can say that culture and politics to a large extent have acted hand in hand for indigenous groups in recent decades.

For Sámi artistic expressions the international encounters with other indigenous peoples in similar cultural situations, were educational as well as reinforcing, and resulted in an internationalization of Sámi arts, which in its own mode contributed to the establishing of an alternative world stage for performances of globalized indigenous cultural manifestations. Time doesn’t allow me to delve any further into the historic and theoretical implications of this challenging Alter Native indigenous movement, but my assumption is that we will see a growing interest in and production of world histories that take aim at literature, music, and visual art seen from the indigenous peoples’ perspective. This will be a fourth world alternative to the existing definitions of world classics in these fields.

My main topic for this talk is to say a few words about the way the Sámi people in the Nordic countries have organized the work to administer and safeguard our cultural heritage and the right to be compensated for the use of our traditional knowledge and symbols. Let us first look at some of the symbols, while listening to the traditional Sámi singing, called juoigan. I have put together a small slide show that will take you to the area where I live. You will see it both in snowy conditions and in summertime. You will also see several drawings and paintings by the most renowned Sami artist, the late Nils-Aslak Valkeapää, who towards the end of the show will recite one of his own poems. The poem is very relevant for the discussions we are having here, but I won’t say anything more about it now; you may listen to the reciting in Sami, while you can read the English translation on the screen. There are also images of two Sami goddesses, one who takes care of the mothers, and one who protects the males. You will also see photographs of traditional Sami shaman drums, one that is intact, and one with a torn membrane. A lot of these figures and images are being used today, both in the tourist industry, by silver smiths, even by Norwegian TV, where the goddess who protects women, is used as the opening picture for a nature program series on NRK. But now I`ll let the slide show ”speak for itself”.


In 1992 Sámikopiija was established as a Reproduction Rights Organisation (RRO) to represents Sámi rightsholders in Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia. The member organisations are: Sámi Artists Association, Sámi Writers Association, Sámi Book and Newspaper Association, Association for Sámi Theatre, Sámi Non-fiction Writers and Translators Association, Association of Sámi Composers and Sámi Journalists Association.

The objectives and purpose of Sámekopiija is stated in Chapter 1:

§ 1.1 Sámikopiija is a professional body for organizations that represent Sámi creators of copyrighted works which are subject to reprographic reproduction and other forms of secondary use. Sámikopiija is a non-profit organization.

§ 1.2 Given its objectives, Sámikopiija’s tasks are to:

1. Collect information and propose measures to promote the interests of rightsholders;

2. Co-ordinate the claims of member organizations, negotiate and contract agreements on their behalf;

3. Sign agreements with other RROs to negotiate and conclude agreements, and to claim remuneration on behalf of Sámikopiija when this is expedient;

4. Manage and distribute remuneration and compensation for reprographic reproduction and other types of secondary uses of copyrighted works;

5. Exchange remuneration and compensation with bodies representing non-Sámi rightsholders."

Sámikopiija`s members organize Sámi rightsholders in Finland, Sweden and Norway. Several of the organizations also have Russian Sámi members. It must be emphasized that users do not consider Sámi intellectual creations produced in another Nordic country to be products of foreign origin. It is, for example, not uncommon that a book written by a Sámi author living in Sweden or Finland, is published by a Sámi press in Norway, supported mainly by funds from Norway.

Sámi users in all three countries, Norway, Sweden and Finland, constitute the target group for those who create copyright-protected material for the Sámi market. It is this, the "cross-border use" of Sámi copyright-protected material, which, in the view of Sámikopiija implies that existing agreements which regulate the use of and remuneration for the rightsholders in and between the organizations in the Nordic countries do not sufficiently protect the interests of the Sámi rightsholders.

Lately Sámikopiija has incorporated traditional knowledge into its portfolio. In November 2004 Sámikopiija received accreditation to participate as an observer in the sessions of the Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore, which is a WIPO / World Intellectual Property Organization committee. Sámikopiija’s steering bodies have decided to give priority to the issue of “indigenous peoples’ traditional knowledge related to copyright”, and made this an independent project in its activities. A publication based on this project, is right around the corner. The book will deal with a lot of topics in connection to Sámi traditional views and values. One natural topic to look closer at is the way Sámi handicrafts and traditional religious symbols are being exploited for profit by non-Sámi people. Also the position of Sámi healing practices, folkloristic material like the specific Sámi singing, yoik, myths and stories, are being scrutinized.

The objective of the work in WIPO is to establish an international regime that accepts that indigenous peoples’ traditional knowledge needs protection against undesirable commercial exploitation. For Sámikopiija this means that the organisation is preparing extensive documentation of relevant Sámi knowledge that has been or can be exposed to undesirable commercial exploitation by foreign interests. The Resource Centre for the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is participating as a member in the resource group for the documentation work. Sámikopiija will bring along this documentation in its involvement in the WIPO Committee .

Since 1994, Sámikopiija has had a "reciprocal agreement" with Kopinor, the Norwegian Reproduction Rights Organization. The agreement guarantees formally that the Sámi rightsholders in Norway get one per cent of the net remuneration Kopinor claims annually. Since 1994, the Norwegian agreement has generated about NOK 13 million in remuneration revenues for Sámi rightsholders i Norway. At present, this agreement is the only one that guarantees that remuneration for the photocopying of Sámi copyright-protected material will go directly to Sámi rightsholders.

The Norwegian Ministry of Culture assumes that remuneration claimed in Norway must be reserved for Norwegian citizens when grants are awarded. This means that only Sámi rightsholders living in Norway can apply for stipends and support from the funds established by Sámikopiija`s member organizations; namely the "Sámi Artists` and Authors` Fund" and the "Sámi Non-fiction Fund".

Sámi organizations have practised another distribution policy, and allocations from the fund have not discriminated between members on the basis of the country where they reside, even though Sámikopiija has no control over Sámi-generated remuneration revenues in Sweden and Finland. Material produced by Sámi rightsholders is used throughout the Sámi language and cultural area, regardless of "country of origin". Even the term "country of origin" is somewhat misleading, given the realities of the Sámi world, as previously mentioned by the example of a Sámi living in Sweden or Finland, but still publishing her or his book in Norway. Nor is the use of textbooks and fiction defined or impeded by national borders.

Sámikopiija and its member organizations had hoped the agreement with Kopinor in Norway would form a pattern for dealing with Sámi copyright issues in Finland and Sweden. The topic has been addressed on several occasions. Although reactions thus far have been negative on the part of BONUS Presskopia in Sweden and Kopiosto in Finland when it comes to Sámikopiija`s primary aim, Sámi rightsholders do not consider the case closed yet. Our hope has been, and continues to be, that the reproduction rights organization Sámikopiija will be granted a certain amount (for example 0.5-1 per cent), earmarked as the Sámi share of the remuneration claimed by the RROs in Sweden and Finland.

There is, of course, no doubt about the fact that remuneration is claimed on behalf of Sámi rightsholders in Sweden and Finland as well. The issue is that those funds are not managed by Sámi rightsholders themselves. The Sámi organizations are of the opinion that in these postcolonial times the indigenous peoples own organizations should handle the distribution of funds to the Sámi associations, which would in turn use the funds for organizational and human resources development, and for grants to their members. That is, the Sámi would like to maintain the established collective management of the rights and distribution of the compensation to which we are entitled in the three Nordic countries in question.

Simply put, the question being posed by Sámi rightsholders is:

What must be done in order to transfer the management to Sámekopiija of all copyright-related issues concerning Sámi rightsholders throughout the Sámi language and cultural area in the Nordic countries? Since the RROs in Sweden and Finland are unable, or unwilling, to try to solve the problem, the question is what the legislators can, or will, do about it?

Currently, a draft to a Nordic Sámi Convention text is under discussion in the Nordic countries. An expert group submitted a proposal 16 November 2005 to the Ministers responsible for Sami affairs in Finland, Norway and Sweden and the presidents of the respective Sami parliaments in the same countries. The proposal for the Convention consists of 51 articles divided into seven chapters. The overall objective of the draft Convention is to affirm and strenghten the rights of the indigenous Sámi people with particular emphasis on securing and developing Sámi language, culture, livelihoods and society. The expert group proposes that the Convention should be subject to ratification by Finland, Norway and Sweden, and that ratification should not take place until the three Sámi Parliaments have given their approval.

Article 31 concerns traditional knowledge and cultural expressions. It reads:

The states shall respect the right of the Sámi people to manage its traditional knowledge and its traditional cultural expressions while striving to ensure that the Sámi are able to preserve, develop and pass these on to future generations.

When Sámi culture is applied commercially by persons other than Sámi persons, the states shall make efforts to ensure that the Sámi people gains influence over such activities and a reasonable share of the financial revenues. The Sámi culture shall be protected against the use of cultural expressions that in a misleading manner give the impression of having a Sámi origin.

The states shall make efforts to ensure that regard is paid to Sámi traditional knowledge in decisions concerning Sámi matters.

In article 13 symbols of the Sámi people are discussed. The whole article reads:

The states shall respect the right of the Sámi to decide over the use of the Sámi flag and other Sámi national symbols. The states shall moreover, in cooperation with the Sámi parliaments, make efforts to ensure that the Sámi symbols are made visible in a manner signifying the Sámi’s status as a distinct people in the three countries.

The question remains: Will a ratification of the Convention create any changes in the way Sámi reproduction rights are being treated in the Nordic countries? Will the Convention strengthen the rights of organizations like Sámekopiija to really make it able to represent all the Sami people in “managing and redistributing renumeration and compensation for secondary uses of copyrighted Sami works”? Will the collective aspect of the politics of Sámekopiija ever get recognition in an individualized world, where each and everyone only is occupied with his and her own economic interest? Is there any room for an alternative way to consider cultural rights that will be more in accordance with the indigenous peoples’ traditional way of valuing culture as a common treasure for everyone?

Ođasmahttn 06.02.2007
Almmuhan: Mihkku Solbakk