Balinese jewelry artisans lamented the fact that foreign entrepreneurs had copyrighted hundreds of the country's and the island's traditional jewelry designs, thus, placing the rightful heirs of those designs in a weak legal position.
"There have been some cases in which our artisans faced legal suits because they made jewelry based on traditional motifs and designs which apparently had been patented by foreign businessmen," head of Silver Jewelry Artisans Association, Nyoman Patra, said Saturday in Denpasar.
One of the cases involved John Hardy, an American businessman, and his former employee, Ketut Deni Aryasa. Hardy took Aryasa to court accusing him of stealing his design.
Hardy accused Aryasa of copying the Batu Kali Kombinasi motif. The motif, according to Patra, was based on a traditional Balinese motif.
"We are really concerned about this situation, which is why we have been trying to find out more about which motifs and designs have been patented by foreigners," he said.
The association found that there were around 600 motifs and designs, all based on Indonesia's traditional arts, that have been registered by Hardy as his copyrights.
"And there are 1,200 more designs that are still in the process of copyright certification," he added.
The registered motifs include the Palu motif that the Balinese used to apply on their bokor (brass bowls); Jawan Keplak silver jewelry motif that has been known for hundreds of years in Celuk, Gianyar; the Tulang Naga motif from Pulo village in Lumajang, East Java; Batik Kawung motif that is mostly used by batik makers in Yogyakarta and Surakarta; and the Dayak motif from Kalimantan.
The copyrights for all those motifs have been registered in both Indonesia and the United States.
"That is why we are gathering representatives from artisans and designers in Bali today to talk about this situation because the action of these foreign businessmen has limited our space of creation," he said.
I Kadek Sosiawan, an interior designer, said Balinese artisans had not copyrighted the motifs and designs because they considered them the collective heritage of the Balinese people.
"Those motifs and designs were created by our ancestors and have been used for hundreds of years," he said.
He added that Indonesians, especially Balinese, could not let one group or one person take control of the values that have been passed down from generation to generation on the island.
He suggested all artisan associations form a united front to protect Indonesia's cultural heritage.
Gde Sumarjaya Linggih, a Balinese legislator with the Commission IV at the House of Representatives in Jakarta, said he would assist the artisans and designers in bringing their concerns to the central government.
"This kind of problem will appear again in the future because most of our traditional motifs and designs were created a long time ago while intellectual property rights are only recently being introduced to our country," he said.
He added that Indonesian people did not pay sufficient attention to administrative procedures like intellectual property rights.
"Most of us only focus on working and creating, ignoring the important administrative matters pertaining to the creations," he said.
Such negligence has opened opportunities for foreigners who are more educated in these issues to take advantage of the country's cultural heritage, he said.
"We really need to make a list of our cultural heritage and register their copyrights soon to prevent similar cases from happening in the future," he said.
Nyoman Patra expected artists and designers from other regions in the country to join the Balinese artisans to cooperate with each other in finding a solution to the problem.