The application of copyright to folklore gives rise to several points of conceptual and practical conflict, such as term of protection, fixation, and how folklore maintains its ability to adapt and apply to each new generation when copyright protects against adaptation of protected works. However, the question that forms the focus of this paper is: as copyright is founded on the principle of protecting the rights of the author, what does it mean to suggest that the author of folklore is the state? To explore this, I will discuss how the attempts to delimit disciplinary boundaries by early folklorists constructed the notion of ownership rights in folklore which then gained specific agency throughout the colonial and anti-colonial eras. I go on to discuss why during this period folklore came to accepted by both sides of the colonial divide as the root of the nation’s cultural tradition, and explore how this development led to the claim that a state could legitimately own and regulate the use of folklore. Finally, I explore how the application of copyright concretised this claim and outline some problematics caused by this situation.