AFL under fire for unauthorised use of Aboriginal cultural property in video game
The Pitcha Makin Fellas collective says the AFL’s handling of the dispute has been an insult. (ABC Ballarat: Charlotte King)
A Ballarat-based Aboriginal artist group says it is unhappy with the AFL for refusing to adequately compensate it over the unauthorised use of a guernsey design.
The AFL hosted Dreamtime at the ‘G in Melbourne at the weekend, the high-point of the AFL’s Indigenous round.
In 2016 the work of the Pitcha Makin Fellas artists’ group featured in the same round after the group was commissioned to produce the Aboriginal guernsey design for the Western Bulldogs.
“It was a single-use licence agreement and it was very specific what that single use was for,” said Peter Widmer, the artists’ manager who helped negotiate the contract for the AFL deal.
Fast-forward to May 2017 and the launch of the league’s video game, AFL Evolution.
“One of the other fellas came into the studio and said he’d bought a video game called the AFL evolution,” Mr Widmer said.
“On it he saw the jumper design, specifically which we’d said you can’t use.”
The AFL removed the Aboriginal design as a feature of the game in a mandatory update the following month.
Artists unhappy with payment offered
The Ballarat group said the AFL only offered to pay for the design after the collective issued a letter of demand for payment, and that the league offered one-fifth of the amount requested.
“That’s insulting, absolutely insulting,” National Association for the Visual Arts head Esther Anatolitis said.
“The Pitcha Makin Fellas are known throughout Victoria and Australia; extraordinary guys who do really interesting work.”
Ms Anatolitis the group was entitled to a fair payment for the use of its work.
“Like any artist, they deserve what they have determined appropriate in a negotiation.”
The Western Bulldogs’ 2016 Indigenous round guernsey, which was designed by the Pitcha Makin Fellas artist collective. (Supplied: AFL)
Pitcha Makin Fella artist Peter-Shane Rotumah said the process had left him feeling robbed.
“Most of our culture’s been lost, so it’s important to try and keep hold of what we have, and when we want to share it, we share it,” he said.
Fellow artist Ted Laxton said the group would “fight this as far as we can take it”.
“In the past, white people have done so many bad things to put black people down, try to use them to their advantage. I don’t like that,” he said.
“The AFL is taking advantage.”
Similar issues reported by others, MP says
Victorian Greens MP Lidia Thorpe spent the weekend at the MCG’s Indigenous round.
She has written to the AFL to advocate on behalf of the Pitcha Makin Fellas.
“The AFL need to put a protocol in place that all clubs can follow,” she said.
Ms Thorpe said other Aboriginal artists had reported running into similar issues around intellectual property with the AFL.
“The Dreamtime at the ‘G is such a great symbolism of bringing this country together,” she said.
“To be true to what they’re trying to achieve, then it’s also the back room stuff that they need to sort.
In a statement, the AFL told the ABC “it acknowledged the mistake and removed the guernsey as soon as possible” and it “has made an offer and is looking forward to a settlement”.