Forty-three tukutuku panels (a distinctive art form of the Maori people of New Zealand) woven by artists from around the country hang in the UN headquarters in New York. The United Nations has agreed that the artists retain copyright in the works, which is a departure from its usual practice.

The government has stated that the negotiation for retention of copyright by the artists is a reflection of New Zealand's commitment to the rights of Maori artists, as signified by New Zealand signing the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) in 2010.

Article 31 of UNDRIP maintains that indigenous peoples have the right to maintain, control, protect and develop their intellectual property over their cultural heritage, traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expressions. It also requires the government to take effective measures, in conjunction with Maori, to recognise and protect the exercise of these rights.

The negotiation by the government that the copyright in the works be retained by the artists is a positive step towards appreciating the value of copyright in Maori artworks and recognition of the rights granted under UNDRIP.

However, copyright in new artworks created by Maori artists is an automatic consequence of New Zealand's copyright law.

To demonstrate the government's commitment to recognising Maori IP rights, as articulated in Article 31 of UNDRIP, it would be a positive step to see moves towards exploring protection for existing, older works.

Hope remains of an official government response to the recommendations of the Waitangi Tribunal in the Wai 262 report and further steps being taken to recognise Maori IP rights in New Zealand.

For further information on this topic please contact Lynell Tuffery Huria or Laura Carter at AJ Park by telephone (+64 4 473 8278) or email ( or The AJ Park website can be accessed at

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