‘It belongs to everybody’: Australian authorities buys rights to Aboriginal flag for $14 million

2022-01-25 13:09:40

Australia’s authorities has purchased the copyright to the Aboriginal flag, making it freely obtainable for public use and ending a longstanding battle over the design.

In a deal value greater than 20 million Australian {dollars} ($14 million), Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s authorities secured the rights from Indigenous artist Harold Thomas, who created the flag over 50 years in the past.

The settlement means the flag can now be reproduced on clothes, merchandise, sports activities jerseys or artworks — with out permission and freed from cost. In an announcement, Morrison mentioned the flag had been “freed,” including that his administration had “sought to guard the integrity of the Aboriginal Flag, in keeping with Harold Thomas’ needs.”

The crimson, black and yellow design has been acknowledged as an official flag of Australia since 1995. However it turned the topic of a industrial dispute when an organization that licensed the picture from Thomas started demanding fee from varied organizations utilizing it, together with a well being charity, a number of clothes manufacturers and Australia’s Nationwide Rugby League.

A 2020 parliamentary inquiry, which supported authorities efforts to accumulate the rights from the artist, described the licensee’s actions as “heavy-handed” however “fully authorized.”

A man holds the Aboriginal flag at a rally in Sydney, Australia.

A person holds the Aboriginal flag at a rally in Sydney, Australia. Credit score: James D. Morgan/Getty Photos

A “Free the Flag” marketing campaign, based in 2019, referred to as for an finish to the unique licensing agreements. It gained help from a number of high-profile Aboriginal Australians, together with former Olympian Nova Peris.

In an announcement, minister for Indigenous Australians, Ken Wyatt, described the flag as an “enduring image near the guts of Aboriginal individuals,” including: “Now that the Commonwealth holds the copyright, it belongs to everybody, and nobody can take it away.”

Designed by Thomas forward of an indication in Adelaide in 1971, the flag has since change into an emblem for Aboriginal Australians and is commonly seen flying from authorities buildings. The design’s yellow circle represents the solar and the black stripe symbolizes Indigenous individuals, whereas the crimson portion pertains to each their blood and the earth.
Harold Thomas, designer of the Aboriginal flag, pictured in 1994.

Harold Thomas, designer of the Aboriginal flag, pictured in 1994. Credit score: Craig Golding/The Sydney Morning Herald/Fairfax Media/Getty Photos

In an opinion piece revealed within the Sydney Morning Herald on Monday, Thomas described the flag as a “deeply private” paintings.

“Once I created the flag, I created it as a logo of unity and delight,” he wrote. “That delight we have now for our identification that harks again to the birthing of our dreaming, to the current existence and past. And we humble ourselves and provides homage to all that has been created and left for us.

“The flag was by no means supposed to be a political platform. Sooner or later, the flag will stay, not as a logo of battle, however as a logo of delight and unity.”

Thomas additionally revealed he had minted a digital copy of the flag as an NFT, or non-fungible token. He mentioned he intends to maintain the digital token on “an ongoing foundation, on behalf of Indigenous communities.”

Ongoing questions

The deal was welcomed by the opposition Labor Social gathering, with shadow minister for Indigenous Australians, Linda Burney, utilizing a TV look on Sky Information Australia to precise her “huge sense of aid” that the flag was “let loose.”
However others questioned the timing of the deal, which was introduced the day earlier than the nation’s more and more controversial nationwide day, Australia Day. Writing on Instagram, Indigenous artist Rachael Sarra accused Morrison of “diverting the narrative so come (January) 26 he can declare to be a hero.”
The Aboriginal flag projected onto Sydney Opera House on Australia Day in 2021.

The Aboriginal flag projected onto Sydney Opera Home on Australia Day in 2021. Credit score: James D. Morgan/Getty Photos

Lidia Thorpe, senator for the Australian state of Victoria, in the meantime questioned whether or not the flag’s copyright ought to be held by the nationwide authorities, somewhat than the Indigenous neighborhood. “It is a win for grassroots individuals who fought for our proper to make use of our flag, however I am nervous that it isn’t going into neighborhood management,” she tweeted. “The Aboriginal flag belongs with Aboriginal individuals.”

Morrison’s workplace mentioned in a information launch that Thomas will retain “his ethical rights” over the design. And whereas the flag has been freed for private use, the textile printing agency Carroll & Richardson Flagworld will “stay the unique licensed producer and supplier of Aboriginal Flags and bunting.” Royalties from these gross sales will go in the direction of the Nationwide Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee (NAIDOC), with the federal government additionally saying a brand new 100,000 Australian greenback ($71,000) scholarship in Thomas’ honor.

In an e mail to CNN, the Nationwide Indigenous Australians Company confirmed the multi-million-dollar determine consists of each the payment paid to Thomas and “funds to the licensees for termination of their licenses.”

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