A Pākehā artist is claiming copyright over a design used on a Māori themed bouncy castle created by a company known for pushing boundaries with cheeky designs.
Amanda van Gorp, from Wellington, claims she created an original tekoteko design that The Madd Fun Company has used on a bouncy castle.
She has alleged a breach of copyright, and says the design used on the castle is culturally inappropriate. She wants $6000 from Madd Fun, and says if successful she will donate the money to a kura kaupapa Māori or something similar.
Madd Fun owner Dean Jamieson denies he used van Gorp's image, and says her image is very similar to others online.
He also believes it's wrong for van Gorp, who is Pākehā, to claim copyright of a Māori design.
The Madd Fun Company has worked with Ngati Kahungunu to create other bouncy castles, but not specifically the one at the centre of the copyright claims.
The Madd Fun Company made headlines this past week, for a bouncy castle featuring multiple phalluses.
Van Gorp has restated her copyright claims after seeing the extensive publicity the inflatable adult toy gained.
Van Gorp said she drew the tekoteko in 2012, and later uploaded it to public online platform Pinterest.
She has never sold the design, as she is not Māori and felt it would be inappropriate.
In February, van Gorp saw Madd Fun's Māori themed bouncy castle on social media and did a "double-take" at the design on the front.
Madd Fun told her their imagery came from a local designer. A subsequent email claiming copyright infringement was ignored, van Gorp said.
However, Jamieson says he didn't take van Gorp's email "too seriously", not knowing if she was legitimate or not.
"In this day and age, you don't know who's scamming and who's not."
He said the bouncy castle was designed in about 2017 by a friend who had taken inspiration from the internet.
He denied it was an exact copy of van Gorp's illustration.
"Obviously, she didn't design it from scratch because it was identical to some carvings you can get off the internet."
Van Gorp refutes that claim, and also feels Madd Fun should have used a Māori designer with tikanga knowledge.
"I don't think it's appropriate he makes a commercial profit off something that has cultural value."
Jamieson, who is Pākehā, counters that the design on the bouncy castle was triggered by the company's work with Ngāti Kahungunu events, and a desire to offer something with a "more uniquely local flavour".
Another bouncy castle featured Māori patterns designed by someone of Ngāti Kahungunu heritage.
He said it was inappropriate for someone who was not Māori to claim copyright over a Māori design, citing a $6000 claim van Gorp had requested for licensing and damages.
Van Gorp said the sum was determined following legal advice from a firm specialising in copyright law and she would donate it to a kura kaupapa Māori or something similar.
However, van Gorp recognises the cost to her and Jamieson, if the dispute goes to court, and is hoping Madd Fun will withdrew the controversial castle.
"I just want them to do the right thing."
Van Gorp also claimed her design had been used by an English beer company, with horns added to it.
"If I could address both ... I would but I don't think I would get any traction."
She had emailed the beer company and believed the design was no longer in use.
Ngāti Kahungunu events manager Te Rangi Huata became aware of the alleged copyright when approached by Hawke's Bay Today and said they iwi was a "third party" to the issue.
As such, he could not comment on it specifically, though he said tekoteko were "as uniquely distinct as people's fingerprints".
He said non-Māori claiming copyright of Māori imagery was something that would be frowned on but he also believed the culture could be shared if things were "done for the best reasons and in the best way".
In the case of Māori designs being used on bouncy castles, he said the iwi had a long affiliation with Jamieson who did "a lot of good work" by providing those services and many "identified" with the Māori designs.
He felt as people became more aware of different cultures, people were less accepting of cultural misappropriation.
What is copyright infringement?
Intellectual property lawyer Raymond Scott said in general sufficiently original artworks were protected by copyright, which lasts for the life of the artist plus 50 years.
"Whether copyright in an artwork is infringed will depend on whether the work has been substantially reproduced, whether there is objective similarity and whether there has been actual copying. "
Something that looked similar by "pure coincidence, without copying", did not infringe copyright, Scott said.
The threshold for originality was relatively low, but would depend on how different a new design is compared to earlier Māori tekoteko, of which there are many, he said.