Intellectual Property

Who Owns the Haka?

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For the 30-odd Americans who care about rugby, the pre-game war dances performed by some Oceanic teams are a familiar sight. New Zealand's Ka Mate haka, a traditional dance of the fierce Maori warriors, is a wonderfully frightening thing to witness, especially with hottie Dan Carter up front:

But don't even think about performing it publicly any time soon, lest you receive a friendly visit from the Maori Ngati Toa iwi or an all-expenses paid trip to the New Zealand courts. In the first ruling of its kind, the New Zealand Government gave the iwi, or tribe, intellectual property rights to the haka as part of a multi-million-dollar land claim settlement on February 11. The Ngati Toa ruling declares the Ka Mate the brainchild of Maori chief Te Rauparaha, after his narrow escape from enemies in the 1820s.

It's probably for the best that the Ngati Toa are preventing the world from repeating the haka's story. The first section of the haka—curiously omitted at family events—describes Re Rauparaha hiding under a woman's skirt and sitting mesmerized at her "pulsating cavern."

Maoris said they were tired of companies profiting from the Ka Mate, and the deal was meant to "protect the haka from inappropriate use," said Ngati Toa chief negotiator Matiu Rei. Prime Minister John Keys said the agreement was about "cultural redress…not about a financial issue or an attempt to restrict New Zealanders."

Perhaps that's why Ngati Toa's first target was in England. The Royal Shakespeare Company mimics the dance in its contemporary adaptation of The Taming of the Shrew. In the new version of Bill's play, blokes out on a stag night drunkenly perform the haka with a blow-up doll, and end the sequence by mooning the audience, a practice known as "whakapohane" in Maori.

The idea of awarding ethnic groups or large populations IP rights, patents, and copyrights is picking up in India as well, where the country has set up "a team of Hindu gurus and 200 scientists to identify all ancient yoga positions…and register each one to stop 'patent pirates' from stealing its 'traditional knowledge.'"

India seems particularly irked by Bikram Choudhury, who has received U.S. patents and copyrights on his "original" yoga concept. The Traditional Knowledge Digital Library is a response to numerous individuals in the U.S. who have obtained yoga trademarks, copyrights, and trademarks. It's likely Choudhury will have the same sense of irony as Perez Hilton if/when he decides to take someone to court for "stealing" his ideas.

This interpretation of intellectual property is sure to stifle cultural exchange if it becomes widespread. And do the Ngati Toa really want to deprive the world of the cutest little war dances you can shake a cinnamon stick at?

NEXT: Sag Bashers

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  1. especially with hottie Dan Carter up front

    Superfluous self-outing alert! Adjust your criticism accordingly!

  2. The Royal Shakespeare Company mimics the dance in its contemporary adaptation of The Taming of the Screw.

    Taming of the what? Fess up Jeff, you only read the Cliffs Notes didn't you.

  3. I am in full agreement,
    about Dan Carter being a hottie....

    ......oops.

  4. Chubby Checker must have a shitload of money due him.

  5. Superfluous self-outing alert! Adjust your criticism accordingly!

    What are you talking about? Jeff can be a chick's name.

    "My name's Keitha. It's Keith, with an 'a'. I'm named after me dad."

  6. "Okay, bye Barbara."

    "My name's actually BraBra."

  7. Does this mean no more line dancing? I totally back the Kiwis on this ruling if that is the case. For the greater good, damn you all!!

  8. "She subtly mocked my accent."

  9. For the 30-odd Americans who care about rugby...

    That may be the case if you're only talking about rugby league; if you also include rugby union, that figure would almost certainly at least double. 😉

  10. I went to NZ for a student exchange when I was 16. Most schools have Maori language classes and a Maori culture club. The clubs greet visitors (including our student group) with a Haka. I'm told there are competitions, with prizes awarded for grace, style, etc.

  11. How the hell can you steal knowledge, traditional or otherwise?

  12. "Go away, whakapohanin'!"

  13. EJM, The all blacks play the union game - the league team is called the kiwis, I think. Union is the only game worth getting excited over - IMHO.

  14. Great, I am going to copyright masturbating and all you guys will owe me a lot of money.

  15. Great, I am going to copyright masturbating and all you guys will owe me a lot of money.

    Cold. Dead. Hands.

  16. How the hell can you steal knowledge, traditional or otherwise?

    Hard to steal a non-rivalrous good, but this is yet another spawn of the IP debate. I think we should sue them for stealing our American innovation of retarded applications of IP law.

  17. This has been covered on other sites I read - apparently "authorship" has been recognised, but the courts have already ruled that it is ineligible for trademarking, and it is thought that it can not be copyrighted. So it is likely that they cannot use IP law to claim compensation or limit performance.

  18. You homophobes say what you will, but I'm secure enough in my heterosexuality to admit that Dan Carter is a very attractive man. Sort of Dean Cain without the far away look you get from reading cue cards for years while struggling with the multisyllabic words.

  19. SugarFree,

    What are you on about? Who's Dean Cain? Her name sounds masculine. Speaking of which, who names their daughter Dan?

  20. Sort of Dean Cain without the far away look you get from reading cue cards for years while struggling with the multisyllabic words.

    Stop picking on Dean! He does the best he can!

  21. Naga,

    You just copped to sporting saggy pants in that other thread. Gay > Saggy Pants.

  22. You homophobes say what you will, but I'm secure enough in my heterosexuality to admit that Dan Carter is a very attractive man.

    I think I can confidently predict the response of homophobes: you're gay.

  23. SugarFree,

    Bah! (waves hand dismissively) Away with you and your mathematical symbols!

  24. If this will ultimately result in white performers being banned from hip-hop, I'm all for it.

  25. Stop picking on Dean! He does the best he can!

    You're right. He did have to work with her for years.

  26. Which one is Dan Carter? They all looked pretty hot to me.

  27. Hazel,

    The "hottie" link takes you to a solo picture.

  28. In the first ruling of it's kind, the New Zealand Government gave the iwi, or tribe, intellectual property rights to the haka as part of a multi-million dollar land claim settlement on February 11. The Ngati Toa ruling declares the Ka Mate the brainchild of Maori chief Te Rauparaha, after his narrow escape from enemies in the 1820s.

    So can you still perform the lame new Haka the All Blacks came up with?

  29. The "hottie" link takes you to a solo picture.

    Oh, I see. So Jeff Winkler is gay, huh?

  30. Incidentally: Could the Reason editors stop giving us reasons to move to New Zealand?

  31. Hazel,

    I think the Reason staff have time shares in NZ they wanna sell us. That or they are really big fans of LOTR.

  32. My brother lived in New Zealand for several years, so I'm familiar with the haka. I would have expected the Ka Mate haka to enter the public domain in something less than 200 years, but what do I know.

    The biggest kick I've gotten from a haka was the brief clip they showed in the movie "murderball". That's a documentary of wheelchair rugby, played by a bunch of quadriplegics in wheelchairs. I highly recommend the movie!

  33. Bramblyspam,

    Is that what it's about? I thought it was just a sequel to the god awful remake of rollerball. I'll have to put on my list if only to check it out. But if it sucks you better have a check on the way!!!

  34. Not that there's anything wrong with it, but Rugby fan + crush on Dan Carter == ghey.

    What? You guys never heard of the Chicago Dragons?

  35. Most schools have Maori language classes and a Maori culture club.

    I'm trying to picture a Maori Boy George, but having little luck...

  36. The problem isn't that entities are copyrighting ridiculous things, the problem is that allows and even encourages the copyrighting of ridiculous things. Yoga is a case in point - the Indian government feels that if they do not, someone else will.

  37. I'm trying to picture a Maori Boy George, but having little luck...

    Why? Maoris and Boy George have both been known to eat men.

    (Does that belong in the saggy pants gay thread?)

  38. But don't even think about performing it publicly any time soon

    Two tropes that should be, commes ils disent, way expensive to use.

  39. One has to understand NZ politics here. The various Maroi groups have been concocting new claims for "compensation" for decades. Many of them survive off the state almost exclusively and "settlements" are a growth industry, always inventing new offenses that need compensation.

    John Key is a an unprincipled "conservative" who, under the MMP system, couldn't form a government without at least one party supporting him. His choice was either the Maori Party or the ACT Party, which is libertarian. ACT has principles, National doesn't. A coalition with ACT would be a problem since ACT would want smaller government and Key wants power. So Key formed a government with both ACT and the Maori in it. Key has no intention of cutting government but wants to use it for "conservative" purposes (which means keeping himself in office).

    His goal is a permanent National hold on government and the way he thinks that will happen is to co-opt all of Labour's left-wing policies. That is what he has done.

    I also find the regular comments on this site by people who seem to be bigots rather disconcerting. I sure the hell hope these are conservative a-holes (I am redundant) who troll here and don't define themselves as libertarians. If they want to display their bigotry wouldn't they be better off in Auburn wearing sheets with their neo-confederate, tin-foil hat friends?

  40. Can we countersue because they violated our "Professional athletes acting like idiots in public" copyright?

  41. Joel,

    Unfortunately, that lapsed into the public domain when Mike Tyson was too busy tattooing his face to send in the renewal paperwork.

  42. I also find the regular comments on this site by people who seem to be bigots rather disconcerting.

    Huh? Care to give an example? I think most of those people are being facetious. Havn't seen anything in this thread that seems bigoted to me.

  43. If you kick ass and take names regularly and everyone knows it - like New Zealand - something like the haka is cool and a bit intimidating. But if the American national team did it, say, it would just be sad. (I have a cousin who played for the Eagles, after a professional stint in the UK.)

    Also, the gingerbread haka is brilliant. Slightly terrifying too - the next time I eat gingerbread, I'll be looking over my shoulder the entire time.

  44. This is interesting - I know the Middlebury College rugby team used to do a haka of some sort or another (not the All Blacks one) before games. I may have been involved in some serious IP theft apparently!

  45. I also find the regular comments on this site by people who seem to be bigots rather disconcerting.

    I find you disconcerting.

    Gay Fonz is just getting the gauntlet for being an intern.

  46. "Maybe you are all homosexuals."

    "Boo!"

    "Fox has sunk to a new low."

  47. Are we really sticking with "Gay Fonz?" I personally think "Jeffery Zuckercorn" is funnier.

  48. Re: Jeffery Zuckercorn

    Why didn't someone warn me that deciding not to watch Arrested Development would cripple me in pop-culture discussion for years? (God I hope that's the reference...)

  49. Rugby, the gay man's football.

    A sport for guys that love to pile into a pile of guys, and hold on tight.

    They should all be wearing rainbow jerseys.

  50. Why didn't someone warn me that deciding not to watch Arrested Development would cripple me in pop-culture discussion for years?

    I did, but your prideful ways wouldn't let you hear my pleas. Get thee to Netflix and sin no more.

    Beside, when I hear "Gay Fonz" I immediately think of Gillespie. I know he's overbearingly hetero, but I still go there.

  51. The biggest kick I've gotten from a haka was the brief clip they showed in the movie "murderball". That's a documentary of wheelchair rugby, played by a bunch of quadriplegics in wheelchairs. I highly recommend the movie!

    Your comment is disappointing, because you meant paraplegics. I clicked the link expecting a bunch of Stephen Hawkings doing a computerized war-cry, but soon found my barely suppressed squeals of glee being replaced by an apathetic inspiration.

  52. Those are indeed quadriplegics, not paraplegics. They even go into that in the movie. There are degrees of impairment, and quadriplegics can still have some function in their arms.

  53. Huh, you're right. I thought limited function was termed "paresis," but can now imagine the difficulty in naming one's condition when affected by both (making plegia the better word). Still disappointed in the lack of a computerized Maori chant, though.

  54. If it was invented in the 1820's wouldn't it fall into the public domain by now?

  55. The Haka is one of the great traditions of the great game of rugby (union, not that league rubbish). I was in Sydney last year when the All Blacks played Australia and the atmosphere is electric when the Haka is performed.

    This is my favourite clip
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-fg4FyhZ-Kg

    Sometimes you'll get another Pacific Island team responding, like at the rugby world cup a few years back when the AB's played Tonga. Great stuff

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YOWy1vHrpxo

  56. max hat mentioned it above, but the Indian government has pretty much quashed legal attempts to copyright and trademark yoga poses and traditional medicines and such. They've pretty much said that yoga is for everyone, it is ridiculous for anyone to claim ownership, and so forth. Of course, I read about that on treehugger.com, so it might only be one minister of something or other rather than something truly important. But it's progress of a sort that even a poor place like India doesn't feel a need to be an ass even when there is lots of money to be made.

  57. It should also be noted that the French have one of the world's best rugby teams. I'm having one hell of a time imagining a French haka, but it would probably involve Jerry Lewis impersonations and full-frontal nudity.

  58. I'm having one hell of a time imagining a French haka, but it would probably involve Jerry Lewis impersonations and full-frontal nudity.

    Even worse, mimes.

  59. juris imprudent | March 3, 2009, 10:24pm | #
    I'm having one hell of a time imagining a French haka, but it would probably involve Jerry Lewis impersonations and full-frontal nudity.

    Even worse, mimes.

    If I had been sipping a brew,
    This would have been a screen Spew.

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