Canberra, Jan 25: The Australian government has acquired the copyright to the Aboriginal flag for US$14 million (€12.3 million), making it free to fly without the threat of legal action.
This marks the end to a long-term dispute which had restricted sporting teams and Aboriginal communities from reproducing the image.
The Aboriginal flag has been recognized as an official flag of Australia since 1995, flown from government buildings and embraced by sporting clubs.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the government had “freed the Aboriginal flag for Australians.” He added it could now be used in apparel, on sports grounds, and in other medium “without having to ask for permission or pay a fee.”
“Now that the Commonwealth holds the copyright, it belongs to everyone, and no one can take it away,” said Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt in a statement.
.@ScottMorrisonMP and I are proud to announce the transfer of the Aboriginal Flag copyright to the Commonwealth.
In reaching this agreement, all Australians can now freely display & use the Aboriginal Flag to celebrate Indigenous culture.
— Ken Wyatt (@KenWyattMP) January 24, 2022
The announcement came on the eve of Australia Day, a national holiday.
Why was the Aboriginal flag disputed?
The flag was designed by Aboriginal artist Harold Thomas, and had become a symbol of demonstration and protest for Australia’s Aboriginal people.
“I hope that this arrangement provides comfort to all Aboriginal people and Australians to use the flag, unaltered, proudly and without restrictions,” said Thomas.
In the last 50 years, there had been intense debate about the flag’s use after Thomas had given rights to companies to use the flag on their products. One of these companies, WAM Clothing, sent cease and desist letters to organizations such as the Australian Football League, for using the Aboriginal flag on clothing.
The government has now paid to terminate the licences held by the companies.
As part of the deal, a scholarship has been set up for Indigenous students for $100,000 in Thomas’ name.