Emotiki app causes cultural stir

By Talisa Kupenga

A Māori internet and digital expert is criticising the world's first Māori emoji app Emotiki, calling it culturally insensitive and offensive to Māori. Karaitiana Taiuru says the satirical use of the tiki and using images of people without permission are unacceptable.

Emotiki is causing a stir over allegations that the emojis are offensive, including a new one that Karaitiana Taiuru discovered.

"The main issue is the Māori deity being used to basically make fun of Māori culture and the deity, the fact that tā moko and moko kauae are being used on multiple different faces and the fact that there's possibly one image of a famous activist being used without his permission.”

He says the tiki emojis are inappropriate and that using images that resemble real people both dead or alive is disrespectful. In particular an emoji of Tame Iti and another similar to Dame Whina Cooper and Te Puea Herangi.

"I guess it's like the 'Ka Mate' haka, people could have said the horse bolted on that one as well but Ngāti Toa took the legal route and they've asserted ownership of that. I think this is just another test case for Māori to say 'this is wrong how do we fix it?' We're not protected by a lot of laws because of our indigenous knowledge, but we certainly can raise issues amongst our own people."

This legal expert says the tiki emoji could be a cultural issue, but well-known individuals with tāmoko adds a unique element when dealing with copyright.

Kensington Swan Lawyer Jenni Rutter says, "There's definitely a chance that tā moko are copyright works and they should qualify for copyright works and that there would, therefore, be some issues if they do get copied without permission."

Although Tame Iti was unaware of the emoji he says he has links to Te Arawa and wants to speak to Emotiki's developers.

"Provided there are a substantial reproduction and the right person who owns the copyright in the work brings the proceedings I think there is potential for infringement.

Emotiki developer Te Puia could not appear on camera today but told Te Kāea the characters are generic representations. Tame Iti was proposed to be part of 25 well-known Māori figures to be released later this year and consultation is still underway.