Commonwealth’s $20 Million Acquisition of Copyright to Aboriginal Flag

Clayton Utz worked alongside the National Indigenous Australian Agency’s legal team, representing the Commonwealth, in its negotiations with the Flag’s creator, Harold Thomas, for the transfer of copyright. Corrs Chambers Westgarth assisted pro bono the artist.

The Commonwealth of Australia has acquired the copyright in the Aboriginal Flag, so as to be able to make it freely available for public use.

The Morrison government has paid more than $20m to obtain the copyright to the flag, plus terminate commercial licenses owned by companies which had limited the reproduction of the symbol.

The Aboriginal Flag will be managed in a similar manner to the Australian National Flag. Flagworld will continue to be the exclusive manufacturer of Aboriginal flags, and Mr Thomas will retain his moral rights in the Flag’s design.  The Flag must also be presented in a respectful and dignified way.

Mr Thomas and the Commonwealth have also agreed, as part of the transfer, that all future royalties the Commonwealth receives from Flagworld’s sale of the flag will be put towards the ongoing work of NAIDOC.  The Australian Government will also provide an annual $100,000 scholarship in Mr Thomas’ honour for Indigenous students to further the development of Indigenous governance and leadership.

The Clayton Utz team was led by Intellectual Property partner Cameron Gascoyne (Picture), assisted by partners Jamie Doran and Simon Newcomb and consultant Michael Klug AM. 

The Corrs team was led by Kate Hay and Chrystal Dare and supported by experts across its Intellectual Property, Tax, Corporate and Projects practices including Arvind Dixit, Grant Fisher, Jonathan Farrer, Jared Heath, Rhys Jewell, Michael Carroll, Jonathan Lim, Grace Borg, Jaimie Chapman, Melissa Chuong and Stephanie Johnson. 


Involved fees earner: Jamie Doran – Clayton Utz; Cameron Gascoyne – Clayton Utz; Michael Klug – Clayton Utz; Simon Newcomb – Clayton Utz; Jared Heath – Corrs Chambers Westgarth; Grace Borg – Corrs Chambers Westgarth; Michael Carroll – Corrs Chambers Westgarth; Jaimie Chapman – Corrs Chambers Westgarth; Melissa Chuong – Corrs Chambers Westgarth; Chrystal Dare – Corrs Chambers Westgarth; Arvind Dixit – Corrs Chambers Westgarth; Jonathan Farrer – Corrs Chambers Westgarth; Grant Fisher – Corrs Chambers Westgarth; Kate Hay – Corrs Chambers Westgarth; Rhys Jewell – Corrs Chambers Westgarth; Stephanie Johnson – Corrs Chambers Westgarth; Jonathan Lim – Corrs Chambers Westgarth;

Law Firms: Clayton Utz; Corrs Chambers Westgarth;

Clients: Commonwealth of Australia; Thomas Harold;

Sonia Carcano

Author: Sonia Carcano