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Rural Kiwi library takes US corporate to task

Wednesday 23 Nov 2011 11:23 a.m.

A tiny New Zealand library service is taking on an American corporation it says has snatched its computer system and trademarked its Maori name.

The Horowhenua Library Trust developed an open-source software programme called Koha 12 years ago which is used free by hundreds of libraries, churches, schools and companies around the globe.

But the rural trust says US firm LibLime has been granted provisional rights to the name Koha by the Ministry of Economic Development.

It claims the company plans to adapt the Koha system for its own private client base, without sharing its adaptations with all the other users.

"Here we've been sharing this incredible resource for free with the world for so long and along comes this massive company that just barges in and tries to take us," the trust's head of libraries, Joann Ransom, told NZ Newswire.

"We just can't stand by and let this happen."

She said she was shocked the ministry had allowed a Maori word, especially one effectively celebrating freedom, to be trademarked by a foreign firm.

"I'm offended as a Kiwi that this American corporate (that) doesn't even do business in this country wants to trademark this word. How can we let this happen?"

She said LibLime had long been involved with Koha, building a big business around installing the programme into US public libraries. But since a buyout by archive software giant PTFS, it had been making more aggressive attempts to adapt and claim ownership of the community software.

"We've been fighting this for two years but they don't seem to get the message - we're not for sale. We can't be bought. We're owned by libraries and organisations everywhere so hands off."

The trust has three months to lodge an objection.

Ms Ransom said over $5000 had been donated in the last 24 hours and an intellectual property lawyer had offered his services to the cause.

NZN

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