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New Zealand’s Intellectual Property Concerns


New Zealand’s Intellectual Property Concerns

“The Mark of Kri” from Sony Computer Entertainment provokes strong reactions.

Don’t let corporate multinationals shrink wrap and sell our unique culture!

A PlayStation 2 game called “The Mark of Kri” has generated a great deal of genuine feeling and concern about the ways in which unique cultures can be exploited as a source of carnivalesque imagery – and a young New Zealand man, Kingi Gilbert, is standing up to be counted and to bring world attention to the issue of protecting Maori traditional knowledge and cultural heritage.

Kingi Gilbert (26) has travelled extensively representing New Zealand Tourism, most recently as part of a cultural performance group in Brazil two years ago. He is now on holiday in New Zealand from working in Cambridge, United Kingdom with an independent games development studio. Last month Kingi Gilbert wrote an open two page letter to executives of Sony Computer Entertainment in Japan, USA, Europe and New Zealand. In the letter and subsequent email, he wrote that he was concerned about the “inappropriate and upsetting usage of New Zealand Maori imagery in the PlayStation 2 game, ‘The Mark of Kri’.” Media coverage provoked a swell of support for Kingi’s stance.

The Sony website included promotional material such as:

“Strip to the waist and cover yourself in Maori-esque tattoos, because after watching our gore-drenched vid barbarian chic will be all the rage”

“Set in an ancient Maori-inspired world of swords and sorcerers…But it’s not all about running around like a Polynesian Conan smacking people with sharpened bits of metal.”

Kingi Gilbert wrote the letter in the context of his daily living within his Maori heritage.

“Our family, over generations, has been educating people/organisations about our particular Maori tribal traditions, customs and past-times. We are well established with Trade Development bodies in New Zealand, we also have strong links with the Auckland Museum and many tourist businesses operating out of New Zealand and internationally. We are proud to have established a business community that provides education and information on aspects of our tribal life, particularly holiday programmes to international students. They live in and experience life in a traditional setting, called ‘Marae’. We perform traditional songs and dances for tourist education. We go to schools and help teach Maori language and past-times. We are also involved in National Performing Arts competitions that promote and uphold Maori culture within the New Zealand community, called ‘Kapa Haka’.”

Kingi Gilbert said that in 1991 a claim was filed with the Waitangi Tribunal to seek recognition and protection of Maori cultural and intellectual heritage rights in relation to Maori traditional knowledge and intellectual property (Wai 262 Claim). He has now asked the Department of Courts to place his letter to Sony on the register of inquiry for Wai 262 claim.

Mr Gilbert said Sony specifically uses the words Maori-inspired, uses the traditional weapon of a taiaha (in an incorrect manner) and did not seek ANY form of consultation with experts on Maori heritage.
”The fundamental concerns are ethical issues surrounding branding and corporatism. Sony has taken the essence of an indigenous culture and regurgitate it in a medium that is reflective of their globalisation ambitions, or their corporate culture. Sony have 'hitched a ride' on New Zealand’s heritage with absolutely no concern or respect for New Zealand Maori, or the real lives of New Zealanders living here and overseas.“

“Not everyone is always concerned with monetary wealth and business matters. I believe that most people in New Zealand have an appreciation of Maori culture. If New Zealander's saw people making fun out of the Haka I think they would feel they had the right to express their disappointment?

Mr Gilbert said he was not daunted by the size and power of a global corporation like Sony, and attack from political opportunists.
”The reality is slowly but surely creeping on, that giant corporations have seized upon multiculturalism in the same way that it seized upon youth culture in general, not as a market niche but as a new source of carnivalesque imagery. The biggest export from America is entertainment and its needs an ever changing, uninterrupted supply of street-styles, edgy music videos and superstars. Culture should never be handed over to brand masters such as Sony or Lego so they can shrink wrap it and sell it.”

Kingi Gilbert said he was not even going to look at the wider issues of content.

“Let people judge the value of these computer games for themselves. ‘The Mark of Kri's’ shelf competitor 'Grand Theft Auto:Vice City' sold aproximately 1.4 million copies in the United Stated in two days. In this realistic game of Florida gang life players can have sex with a prostitute in a stolen car, kill the prostitute with a baseball bat, shoot and kill innocent bystanders, and get chased by the police. Why should we suffer to see New Zealand’s heritage competing with such products? What does it do to the image of crime? Computer games are influential in the education of young people, there are surely ways to show more respect and creativity in the development process than to inflate negative social experiences.”

Kingi Gilbert said that he, along with other concerned New Zealanders of all descent and ethnicity, was working with the World Intellectual Property Office and the Ministry of Economic Development to develop databases and systems to protect traditional knowledge and cultural heritage in the public arena.

Ends

For more information, copies of relevant documents, addresses of relevant web sites, and media comment please contact Kingi Gilbert on phone 09 489 1598. Email: kingi@whakarongo.com

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