Foster v Mountford: cultural confidentiality in a changing Australia

Christoph Antons*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Foster v Mountford is a case, which belongs to the period when Australian courts were finding their identity in deciding intellectual property disputes. As the first decision in Australia taking into account Aboriginal customary rights to culturally defined notions of secrecy, it is a landmark case in Australia. It symbolises a shift from assimilation policies based on the notion of Australia as ‘terra nullius’ at the time of ‘discovery’ towards a growing understanding of Aboriginal customs and associated rights. As a case dealing with anthropological publications, it has to be seen against the background of anthropological paradigms at the time and the emergence of the academic discipline of anthropology in Australia. However, the case has also significance beyond the borders of Australia. In an ongoing debate about violations about indigenous cultural secrecy and “rights to cultural privacy”, the case has been regarded as one of the few legal actions examining such violations.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationLandmarks in Australian intellectual property law
EditorsAndrew T. Kenyon, Megan Richardson, Sam Ricketson
PublisherCambridge University Press (CUP)
Number of pages16
ISBN (Print)9780521516860
Publication statusPublished - 2009
Externally publishedYes


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