Information sheets

Permission to use an image (eg. The Aboriginal Flag)

The Aboriginal flag has recently featured in the media spotlight as being subject to copyright and not free for public use. In light of this, we have provided a step-by-step guide on how to seek permission for the use of an image with reference to the Aboriginal flag.

In this information sheet:

Steps to take to get permission to use an image.

Step 1  

Does the image you wish to use need permission?
Before you begin to seek permission to use an image such as the Aboriginal flag, it is important to consider whether the image is in the public domain and free for everyone to use as well as whether your use specific use of the image would need permission.

The Aboriginal flag is not in the public domain and the copyright owner must be approached for its use.

Step 2 

Who is the owner or holds copyright in the image?
You must seek permission for the use of an image from the actual owner of the copyright. This can often be difficult if there are multiple people who have contributed to the work.

The owner of the Aboriginal flag is Harold Thomas and it is subject to copyright.

Step 3 

What are the rights that you require?

  • Do you require and exclusive or non-exclusive license?
  • All exclusive licences must be in writing and signed under the Copyright Act 1968.
  • If you wish to reproduce, publish or communicate and image then you require permission from the copyright owner.

The Aboriginal flag is currently licenced to three companies for exclusive use:

  • WAM Clothing for the right to reproduce the Aboriginal flag on clothing.
  • Gifts Mate for the right to reproduce the Aboriginal flag on merchandise.
  • Carroll & Richardson -Flagworld for the right to reproduce the Aboriginal flag as a flag.

Step 4 

Send a request for permission to use the material and negotiate with the owner.

Once you have established what you wish to do with the image and who you need to seek permission from, make contact with them.

Mr Harold Thomas
PO Box 41807
Casuarina NT 0810
This is the stated postal address for Harold Thomas.

Step 5 

Get the permission in the form of an agreement or in writing.

Not only do you legally require permission signed and in writing for an exclusive licence under the Copyright Act 1968, but it is also important to enforce both parties rights. If the rights of each party is in writing it is harder for parties to be unclear about the agreement.

Need more help?

If you have questions about any of the topics discussed above please contact Arts Law.


The information in this information sheet is general. It does not constitute, and should be not relied on as, legal advice. The Arts Law Centre of Australia (Arts Law) recommends seeking advice from a qualified lawyer on the legal issues affecting you before acting on any legal matter.

While Arts Law tries to ensure that the content of this information sheet is accurate, adequate or complete, it does not represent or warrant its accuracy, adequacy or completeness. Arts Law is not responsible for any loss suffered as a result of or in relation to the use of this information sheet. To the extent permitted by law, Arts Law excludes any liability, including any liability for negligence, for any loss, including indirect or consequential damages arising from or in relation to the use of this information sheet.

© Arts Law Centre of Australia

You may photocopy this information sheet for a non-profit purpose, provided you copy all of it, and you do not alter it in any way. Check you have the most recent version by contacting us on (02) 9356 2566 or tollfree outside Sydney on 1800 221 457.

The Arts Law Centre of Australia has been assisted by the Commonwealth Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body.

Australian Government - Australia Council for the Arts

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