We use cookies to provide you with a better experience. If you continue to use this site, we'll assume you're happy with this. Alternatively, click here to find out how to manage these cookies

hide cookie message
80,259 News Articles

Microsoft accused of language piracy

Chileans beat drum over Windows violation

Microsoft has been accused of "intellectual piracy" over its launch in October of a Windows language pack in Mapudungún, a Mapuche language spoken by about 400,000 indigenous Chileans.

The language pack, available from the company's website, is part of Microsoft's language localisation scheme, which has seen it create Windows interfaces in languages such as Mohawk, Quechua, Inuktitut and Maori.

The Mapudungún project, however, has put Microsoft in the middle of a battle over the control and preservation of Mapuche culture. Mapuche representatives attempted to sue Microsoft on human rights grounds in the city of Temuco this month, but the court ruled the case should be considered in Santiago. A judge there will decide in December whether to try the case.

Lautaro Loncon, a Mapuche activist and coordinator of the Indigenous Network, an umbrella group for several ethnic groups in Chile, told CNN the case would be taken to Chile's supreme court or an international court of human rights, if necessary.

The Mapudungún translation was carried out under a deal with the Chilean government, but traditional Mapuche authorities have objected to the plan since it was first announced in 2005. While acknowledging Microsoft's good faith in the matter, their argument is that Mapudungún is an essential part of Mapuche cultural heritage and decisions about it should be made by the Mapuche themselves, who weren't consulted and didn't participate in the development process.

The Chilean government was happy to appoint specialists to create a Mapudungún grammar for the software, but fails to educate Mapuche children in their own language, and doesn't allow the Mapuche to create their own educational system, Mapuche authorities said.

The tribe is campaigning to have Mapudungún recognised as an official Chilean language, fearing that otherwise it will end up dying out.

Aucán Huilcamán, from the Mapuche organisation the Consejo de Todas las Tierras (Council of All Lands) and an attempted presidential candidate in the 2005 Chilean elections, criticised the project last year. "I'm not against the internet. But Mapudungún is part of our cultural heritage and it is us who should decide whether or not it appears on the internet," he told OpenDemocracy.net.

IDG UK Sites

12 cheapest smartphones of 2015: The lowest-cost smartphones you can buy in the UK. Best budget...

IDG UK Sites

Samsung: King of the Androids (or MWC, at least)

IDG UK Sites

Get free stock photos with Vince Vaughn in them

IDG UK Sites

Apple Maps vs Google Maps comparison review – has Apple done enough to beat its biggest rival?