As you may have heard, there is a dispute going on of late around the use of the Aboriginal flag.
The Australian Aboriginal Flag was designed in 1971 by Aboriginal artist Harold Thomas, who is descended from the Luritja people of Central Australia and holds intellectual property rights to the flag's design. The flag was originally designed for the land rights movement, and it became a symbol of the Aboriginal people of Australia.
Two decades later several other artists came forward claiming to have created the artwork, however Mr. Thomas established his claim to authorship as the original artist behind the flag in 1997. According to the Australian copyright law, he must grant permission before the image is reproduced by anyone else. In October 2018, Mr. Thomas decided to grant exclusive commercial reproduction rights to a third party company with a questionable history, meaning that in order to use the flag’s image for commercial purposes, individuals and companies must pay royalties.
Recently that company began sending out cease and desist letters to organisations that had been using the flag without royalty payment, which has been ruffling some feathers, to say the least. And this brings us more or less up to date.
So what do we at Life Apparel make of all this?
Although we acknowledge Mr. Thomas’ right to the original artwork, we believe that the flag has evolved over time to become something much greater than just a design. It has become a powerful symbol of unity, of community and of acknowledgment of the Aboriginal people as the traditional owners of this land.
We think that enforcing copyright of such a powerful and well-loved symbol against those individuals or businesses seeking to use it to express their cultural identity, solidarity or sympathy gives rise to justifiable resentment. We feel that the flag should be shared freely for those to use respectfully as they wish, just as any other flag in Australia. The flag should belong to the people, and continue to bring us closer, rather than divide.
[ sources: guardian.com.au | pmc.gov.au | wikipedia.org ]