|Thursday 09 August, 2001
Maori push for legal protection to control use of their cultural heritage
Protection of intellectual copyright of the culture and designs of indigenous peoples is a hot issue all over the world.
In a recent example in New Zealand, Maori groups threatened legal action against the toy firm Lego which they claimed had copyrighted Maori language and images for use in toys.
Lego denied the claims.
Tattoo artist Inia is experiencing high demand for his work. He says that about 80% of his customers are Maori, 20% aren't Maori. Inia says demand is still growing:
"This art form seems to touch people in a way similar wherever you go.
"I realized that when I did films like The Piano and Once Were Warriors. When I did the work there I couldn't believe it - I had these people coming from Spain and all these other places going 'wow that work was beautiful'. It is like people from all over can appreciate that."
Tiki O'Brien runs a design company and an international website promoting Maori artists. He says he has seen dramatic change during the three years that she has been in business:
"I have to turn work away because no one wants to see another McDonalds or another Kentucky Fried Chicken. What they do want to see is something that is unique in their country, and a more Maori specific touch to their branding."
|"People want to see something that is unique in their country, and a more Maori specific touch to their branding." Tiki O'Brien |
As aspects of their culture and design become more and more popular, it becomes increasingly important that Maori are consulted in use of their heritage and can profit from commercial applications.
John Hackett is an Intellectual property lawyer at A J Park in Auckland:
"There are a number of situations where there have been misuses of things like the haka war dance and Maori words. Maori is concerned about this and are looking at ways that they can stop it.
"But in New Zealand we don't have specific indigenous rights legislation.
"The copyright law does not protect the Maori situation where they have created something. Their concept of ownership is such that the rights carry on forever in perpetuity, whereas copyright in the original artistic works that are created under copyright last for 50 years after the death of the author"
Finding legal protection to control use of their cultural heritage is a problem for many indigenous people worldwide.
New Zealand's finance minister, Michael Cullen, says the government is taking the issues seriously:
"We have got the bill on trademarks legislation coming up into parliament in the very near future and that will be dealing specifically in part of it with the issue of protection of Maori intellectual property through the trademark system.
"So those issues are important and a way of generating the ability for greater economic returns out of Maori culture and Maori tradition."
But Lawyers say separate protection for indigenous intellectual property is vital so that traditional Maori owners can be guaranteed financial returns when cultural works is used for commercial purposes.
|"These issues are important and a way of generating the ability for greater economic returns out of Maori culture and Maori tradition." Michael Cullen |