November 21, 2002

An article at wired is detailing a Lego fansites problems with online Maori partisans that object to the Lego Group's (mis)appropriation of Maori words to be used in one of their product lines...

New Zealand lawyer Maui Solomon wrote to Lego on behalf of three Maori tribes objecting to the use of the Maori words. "It was an unauthorized use of traditional names and language, and it was an inappropriate use" Solomon said. "There had been no consultation, no prior informed consent. And it's a trivialization, especially when you are using names like Tohunga (Maori for priest). So there are cultural and moral issues."

While I support the struggle of indigenous peoples against capitalist hegemony as much as the next guy, I still find myself saying "WTF?"

The last time I checked languages and cultures are not intellectual property that you have to get permission from [who?] to use or reference in your painting, novel or carbonated beverage product...

Don't get me wrong. I think plundering cultures for exotic words, concepts and textures is pretty weak in general, but I also question whether you should have to clear it with [who?] before you do it... and then I ask [who?]

Who has authority over a culture? Who has the sign-off authority? Do the japanese have to ask the editors of the OED for the ok before they put nonsense english on t-shirts?

No, and they shouldn't have to... as much as I despise the Disneyfication of the globe where every culture can be distilled into a funky new version of the american (post)nuclear family, I also can't abide by a world where nationalists attempt to claim ownership and unilateral control of their own language. All lanuage is in the public domain, by definition, ad astra.

Why live in a world where everything is true and nothing is permitted?

Posted by illovich at November 21, 2002 04:29 PM
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