Pride not Profit: sign the petition calling out copyrighting laws on the Aboriginal flag

Did you know that the Aboriginal flag is copyrighted? We’re confused as you are.

An online petition calling for a change to the licensing agreement for the Aboriginal flag almost has 35,000 signatures after two businesses owned by Indigenous Australians alongside the AFL received ‘cease and desist’ warnings over the use of the Aboriginal flag on their clothing products.

An online petition is calling for a change to the licensing agreement around the Aboriginal flag.

WAM clothing, a non-Indigenous brand, have full and worldwide copyright of the flag and have imposed the warnings. They were granted the licensing last October by Harold Thomas, the Luritja man who created it 40 years ago.

The flag was created in 1971 for National Aboriginal Day and has since been a symbol of the Aboriginal people, their identity and struggle.

Permission for the flag to be used must go through Thomas, as he still upholds copyright on the design, however, he maintains three licensing agreements: one for the reproduction of flags, one for objects, and one for clothing.

WAM’s exclusive copyright of the clothing means a non-Indigenous business profits from all sales of clothing items which feature the Aboriginal flag.

The petition was created by Spark Health Australia, an indigenous health and well-being program who have created ‘Closing The Gap’ clothing items featuring the flag in the past. All the profits from the sales of those items go towards programs that assist Aboriginal people.

Their petition statement says:

“This is not a question of who owns copyright of the Flag. This is a question of control.  Should WAM Clothing, a non-indigenous business, hold the monopoly in a market to profit off Aboriginal peoples’ Identity and love for ‘their’ flag?”

North Queensland MP Bob Katter has also called out the licensing rights, imploring Prime Minister Scott Morrison to claim ownership of the flag.

In a statement yesterday, he said:

“It is outrageous that this great symbol which is respected throughout Australia has been used for commercial gain as is the case currently with the Queensland non-Indigenous, privately-owned organisation which currently owns the clothing licence.” 

“Our sporting bodies, our communities, our schools and our businesses should all be able to use the Aboriginal flag without fear of being issued a cease-and-desist notice or threatened with legal action.”

Sign the petition here.