December 11, 2023

‘It’s not appropriate’: Lawyer slams Oxford English Dictionary for including Māori kupu

Watch: Lawyer slams Oxford English Dictionary for including Māori kupu.

A leading Māori intellectual property lawyer is criticising the inclusion of kupu Māori in the Oxford English Dictionary.

The dictionary’s publishers announced earlier this month they would include dozens of words in te reo Māori in its latest update.

Koha (gift or offering), kōrero (conversation), and e hoa (friend) are among the words added because, the dictionary said, they are some of the te reo Māori words adopted by Kiwis and have had a “profound and lasting impact” on the way we speak. 

Lawyer Lynell Tuffery Huria (Ngāti Ruanui, Ngāruahine) told The Hui host Julian Wilcox the move was inappropriate.

“Our kupu are turning up in the Oxford Dictionary – part of the English vernacular. It’s not appropriate for our kupu to be in the Oxford Dictionary at all. Because we are just being more and more assimilated and that’s not what we want,” Huria said.

The managing partner of Kahui Legal was joined on a panel on The Hui by Taaniko Nordstram, co-founder of Solders Road Portraits, and AI ethics and data sovereignty expert Dr Karaitiana Taiuru.

Nordstram has had her image stolen and used in different ways online for more than a decade. It was even used on a porn website without her knowledge or consent and she has still been unable to get it removed.

“I have had a few experiences where my image has ended up being painted or resold on websites that I definitely would not want to be associated with.

“It’s not a nice experience. There is mamae, shame, embarrassment, there’s hurt.”

Nordstram told The Hui host of her fear and embarrassment at having to tell her mother what had happened. 

“I was really worried about telling my mum and letting her know that my image was used in this way on this site, as well as my whānau members.” 

Huria told the programme dealing with unscrupulous websites was difficult.

“Sometimes you can’t track them down, you can’t find out who the owner of the website is, they don’t have contact details.”

She said the intellectual property legal framework was not built to deal with issues of mamae and mana.

Dr Karaitiana Taiuru said new technology like AI and ChatGPT made the landscape more dangerous for Māori who had their images online.

“I think the appetite has always been there ever since the first colonisers came to New Zealand. It’s just that the internet makes it so much easier to access.”

Huria said there were some protections for Māori in the Patents Act, the Trademarks Act and the new Plant Variety Rights Act, but they don’t go far enough.

The Wai 262 report recommended that a commission should be established to regulate activity and to guide people on where to get consent. But the Government had not considered it. 

Dr Taiuru said there have been some successes.

There had been “horrific” cultural appropriation by beer labels in the United Kingdom previously but “tens of them” were removed from the market through action which had both national and international support.

He said the cost was worth it.

“The other cost by not doing it is that we will just see appropriation being normalised. It will just become so prolific that we won’t ever be able to stop it.”

He called for a Chief Māori Digital Officer to be appointed to work with the Prime Minister, with government departments and all the main IT companies in New Zealand to help regulate cultural appropriation.

Made with support from New Zealand On Air and Te Māngai Pāho.

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