10 votes

'Free the flag': Aboriginal businesses told not to use Aboriginal flag over copyright

Here's a secondary news article (web-based): 'Free the flag': Aboriginal businesses told not to use Aboriginal flag over copyright

Here's the original news article (it's a PDF document from this website): ‘Our’ flag raises questions

1 comment

  1. kdtsh Link
    This is what’s really important here. Although there’s a lot to be said for Indigenous people being able to use their flag for any purpose they like, the fact is that the copyright holder here...

    [Harold Thomas] still holds copyright on the design, and permission for its use must go through him.

    He allows non-commercial operations that give health, educational, legal and other assistance to Aboriginal people to use images of the flag for free.

    But the Luritja artist has licensing agreements with three companies; one to reproduce flags, and the others to reproduce the image on objects and clothing.

    This is what’s really important here. Although there’s a lot to be said for Indigenous people being able to use their flag for any purpose they like, the fact is that the copyright holder here knows that the commercial use of this flag can and often will amount to a commodification of Indigenous culture. One need look no further than the incredible amount of money the NRL and AFL make during their Indigenous rounds - while awareness is important and you can’t fault these organisations for not doing a lot to support young Indigenous women and men in these sports, the fact is that there are a lot of kickbacks for a lot of people from the proceeds of the sale of merchandise featuring the Aboriginal flag. Having a fine-grained control over how the flag can be reproduced for commercial purposes can help mitigate over-commodification.

    Whether this should apply to small-time Indigenous business owners is between the copyright holder and the particular business. I’d say that the copyright holder has granted exclusive license to manufacture clothing with the flag on it because it’s easier than managing licensing for many businesses. It might be that he needs to reconsider that approach. But on the other hand, maybe he’s sceptical about ‘profit for purpose’ - if there’s no difference between this and not-for-profit companies that contribute to Indigenous causes, then why not be a not-for-profit? And, if there is a difference, then what’s the catch?

    5 votes