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Taonga Could Kill Maori Language

Taonga Could Kill Maori Language

The attitude of a self-proclaimed `Maori intellectual property campaigner' to Sony PlayStation's The Mark of Kri shows nothing was learned from the Lego Bionicle debacle, ACT Maori Affairs Spokesman Stephen Franks said today.

"Maori keen to see Te Reo grow and flourish as a natural living language should be paying giants like Sony and Lego to use Maori words and symbols, not squelching their enthusiasm by demanding exclusive rights and reparations.

"Languages become easier to learn if the sounds are practiced and familiar. Unfamiliar vowel sounds and combinations are filtered out by the mind. That is one reason why many New Zealanders find it difficult to remember Chinese names.

"A language can only live when people want to use it and the words speak to them naturally. Having millions of children using Maori words at their most impressionable age should be a dream come true for anyone who really wants Te Reo to be more than a museum relic bewilders the majority when trotted out at ceremonial occasions.

"This latest protest may simply drive the message home to international businesses interested by Maori culture, that it is not worth bothering. But worse, it shows the spokespeople have not grasped the essence of intellectual property either.

"Intellectual property is designed to reward and encourage the development of innovation. Trying to extract rentals for things that are easily taken from a common inheritance is simply rent-seeking, like sticking a toll barrier on a long-standing public road.

"I fear that the courts may have contributed to legitimising this attitude by accepting the myth that language is a taonga. No self-respecting public official or lawyer in 1840 would have dreamed of making a language a sacred property. Language can only prosper when it is freely shared.

"The recent mutation of `taonga' now imposes a price on Maori as well as pakeha. This should be a warning of what could happen if indigenous plants and animals are given taonga status," Mr Franks said.

© Scoop Media

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