The organization BiNet USA is demanding payment for use of the bisexual pride flag – the pink, purple, and blue striped banner common at LGBTQ Prides all over the world.
On Twitter, the organization’s official account asked bisexual activist Jayne B. Shea to “get in touch so we can discuss your use of the bisexual pride flag without any money going to our organization.”
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BiNet USA also asked Shea to remove the flag from her social media accounts and website. On her site, she sells T-shirts and other products with various designs that use the colors of the bisexual pride flag, like unicorns or the word “visiBIlity.”
“We know this is a lot so we hope we can work a new deal,” the organization cheerily tweeted.
In further tweets, the organization asked people “to help us out” and report unlicensed uses of the bisexual pride flag.
“The copyright of the flag is solely BiNet USA’s,” the organization claimed.
According to Randy Young’s “Flags of the World” website, the bisexual pride flag was created by activist Michael Page for BiCafe’s anniversary party in 1998.
In a personal correspondence to the website, Page said that his flag was “simply an evolution of the pink and blue triangles,” an earlier symbol for bisexual pride that wasn’t scalable, so he designed what we know today as the bisexual pride flag.
The website attributes a trademark for the flag to Page in 1999. The nature of that trademark – and how it made its way from Page to BiNet USA – is not explained on the website.
In 2006, an image of the bisexual pride flag was uploaded to Wikimedia Commons and tagged with “Michael Page” as the author.
“This image of simple geometry is ineligible for copyright and therefore in the public domain, because it consists entirely of information that is common property and contains no original authorship,” Wikimedia Commons says.
“It’s a shame that so many years went by before the younger generation of bi activist went and looked into it, but #biprideflag is meaningful and it’s ours,” BiNet USA wrote in another tweet, referring to the organization itself and not bisexual people in general with the word “ours.”
In another tweet, the organization threatened a “legal letter” to people who use the flag without authorization.
Almost all the responses to BiNet USA’s tweets were negative. Some criticized the group for attempting to own a community symbol.
This is ridiculous. You don’t have a monopoly on those colors. What the hell are you doing? I thought this was an advocacy group.
— roxane gay (@rgay) April 29, 2020
I made this one for me pic.twitter.com/GpAN2aXIk5
— 🦈 an ENTIRE ASS whale shark 🦈 (@winzigerwalhai) April 29, 2020
Well this is a new take on the "bisexuals are greedy" stereotype
— Josie Kendamu (@JosieKendamu) April 29, 2020
Others questioned the group’s ownership of the flag’s colors.
You don't own the Bi Pride colours. They were on the triangles long before the flag was made.
— Closeted Mennonite (@ClosetedMenno) April 29, 2020
youre gonna claim to copyright a trio of colors? three CMYK/HSV values?? ones not connected to a brand but an identity… are you for real?
— pixely dog™️ (@balkanfur) April 29, 2020
A search of the Copyright records of registration don't show any. Can you provide proof to your claim that you have a valid copyright? Otherwise, at this point in time, you might just be opening yourself up to a rather large, say, class action, countersuit?
— Alexander Hollins (@AlexanderDSoSo) April 29, 2020
Even though you guys may have designed the flag itself, you can't claim that combination of colors for protection. They existed in the "biangles" symbol before the flag was created. Besides, claiming a color palette as "yours" is just ridiculous.
— 🌻 Sky Nero 🌻 (@skynero19) April 29, 2020
funding support from LGBTQ funds. That you are trying to copyright our communities flag is deplorable. Stop this, please.
— Cee, Fi'nix 🇪🇺🏳️🌈 (@phoenix_7_9) April 29, 2020
Update: Twitter users have dug up a 2018 tweet from BiNet USA that casts doubt on the group’s claim to ownership of the flag. In the tweet celebrating 20 years of the bisexual pride flag, the group said that flag creator Michael Page said it “officially belongs to the entire bisexual community.”
Michael told @thefayth that the flag officially belongs to the entire bisexual community and intentionally was launched to provide bisexual+ people a sign we could call home, and know we're not alone. Thank you Michael Page! #BiPrideFlagTurns20
— BiNet USA (@BiNetUSA) December 5, 2018
An archived article from biflag.com that the site claims was written by Page in 2016 says, “The Bi Pride Flag is the only bisexual symbol not patented, trademarked, or service marked.” Page also provides instructions for recreating the flag on the site.
Meanwhile, BiNet USA has continued to tweet about their ownership of the flag. The group is telling the Wikimedia Foundation, which owns Wikimedia Commons, that their statement that the flag “is ineligible for copyright and therefore in the public domain” is “wholly inaccurate” and that Page “is not bisexual and doesn’t want to be associated with the flag.”
“Michael Page” is queer and an ally to bi+ communities. He launched bicafe to help support visibility but told @thefayth in conversation he was shocked BiNet USA wasn’t making money on the flag. How can we when everyone thinks it belongs to no one?
— BiNet USA (@BiNetUSA) April 29, 2020
In another tweet, the group claimed that it needs money from the flag in order to ensure a “future” for their organization.
“We can’t depend on gay money as it means we must self-silence in return for it,” the tweet said.
So we talked about it, and we want to ensure that there’s a future for @BiNetUSA outside of @thefayth personal funding since 2004, and celeb support since 2017. We can’t depend on gay money as it means we must self-silence in return for it. Bi flag = money for bisexuals
— BiNet USA (@BiNetUSA) April 29, 2020
Update: BiNet USA’s Twitter account appears to have been deleted.
Editor’s note: A previous version of this article incorrectly referred to the Wikimedia Foundation as the Wikipedia Foundation. We regret the error.