Template talk:Non-free flag

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Other opinions?[edit]

This template currently states that « national, governmental, or historical flags are ineligible for copyright and therefore in the public domain because they consist entirely of information that is common property and contain no original authorship ». How well-established is this, legally (I confess my crass ignorance in this matter)? I can certainly understand that this kind of flag cannot be trademarked (unlike a corporate flag), and it seems obvious that any flag that has a simple design (solid stripes of colour, basically) cannot be copyrighted because it is readily reproducible with minimal effort and negligible skill. But any flag that bears a coat of arms is bound to require no small amount of skill in its preparation --isn't that copyrightable?

A practical consequence of this issue is that, if indeed national, governmental, or historical flags are ineligible for copyright, then it is all right to systematically copy all of the flags in the World Flag Database to the [http://commons.wikimedia.org/ Wikimedia Commons. In which case, why does the World Flag Database proclaim «  ©2005 The World Flag Database & Graham Bartram; Flag Drawings © Graham Bartram, portions © The Flag Institute & Mario Fabretto »?

Urhixidur 19:31, 2005 Jan 24 (UTC)

The assertion in the template is incorrect. Images of flags can be copyrighted. David Newton 22:30, 25 Apr 2005 (UTC)
Art. 6ter of the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property does not say that state flags are ineligible for copyright protection [1]. Art 6ter only concerns trademarks. The title is clear "Marks: Prohibitions concerning State Emblems, Official Hallmarks, and Emblems of Intergovernmental Organizations" [2]. Until someone provides a source asserting the copyright ineligibility of state flags, I have changed the wording of the template to a view that might be more conform to the legal reality. --Edcolins 20:13, August 31, 2005 (UTC)

City flags?[edit]

How about city flags? Cities are decidedly smaller than nations (well, usually), and it's unclear whether they are copyrighted or not in many cases. —Mulad (talk) July 1, 2005 00:52 (UTC)


I gave this template a nice touch, by adding Image:Flag_copyright.png to it. It's one of the distinguishing images that have been done, and maybe I'll get to some more at some point. All will go to the Wikimedia Commons so any project can use it if needed. Wcquidditch | Talk 16:22, 6 November 2005 (UTC)

Nice pic! – Quadell (talk) (bounties) 01:02, 28 January 2006 (UTC)

Copyright redux[edit]

I'm bumping this up because I think it's an important issue to determine. Are flags copyrighted? How can we know for sure? – Quadell (talk) (bounties) 01:02, 28 January 2006 (UTC)

Note that the CIA displays countries' flags on their website without a copyright notice. Even new flags (example). – Quadell (talk) (bounties) 01:05, 28 January 2006 (UTC)
While we're on the topic, if I create an image of a flag, does copyright reside in my version of the image, or would it fall under Bridgeman Art Library Ltd. v. Corel Corporation as a faithful reproduction of a two-dimensional thing? There seems to be some disagreement on this point as well. JYolkowski // talk 19:38, 28 January 2006 (UTC)
I think it would fall under that, but for example if you used SVG, I think the code you used would be subject to your own coypright (assuming you typed it out yourself). ¦ Reisio 20:16, 28 January 2006 (UTC)
Anyone have an answer to the original question though? I would think that they are three possible answers, but I have no idea what's the correct answer:
  • There's some law that explicitly places flags in the public domain. I'm not aware of any such law, and even if there were, would it apply to state flags? Local flags? Family flags?
  • Flags don't count as artistic works or simple flags don't contain enough creative work, so aren't copyrightable. This of course would raise the question of what constitutes "simple".
  • Flags are copyrightable just like anything else. Since most flags are first published without a copyright notice, most flags from before 1989 are not copyrighted in the U.S., and all flags from 1989 and later are.
JYolkowski // talk 23:11, 31 January 2006 (UTC)
The CIA flags are in the public domain, since they are works of the US Government. However, they are woefully inaccurate, IMHO. FOTW images are non-commercial, but will most likely be cited for fair use by others :(, same with images from Flags.net. My main goal with this template, now, is to make this obselete and make people use more specific tags. User:Zscout370 (Return Fire) Fair use policy 00:02, 1 February 2006 (UTC)
I don't think the CIA flags are works of the U.S. government. If the flag designs are copyrighted (the way coats of arms often are), then the fact that the CIA made the individual image file doesn't make them free of copyright. (This is similar to if you drew a picture of Kermit the Frog - this would be a violation of Jim Henson's copyright, even though you created the image.) So the question is whether the flag designs are copyrighted or not. I know that FOTW and Flags.net claim copyright on the flags on their site, but I doubt that's a valid claim, for the same reasons. – Quadell (talk) (bounties) 13:49, 1 February 2006 (UTC)
Hmm...it depends on the country, right? The reason why I ask is that some nations state that no is allowed to hold the copyright of national symbols (this is the case in BY, RU, KZ, KG, LV and others) but some make no mention of it. And, while there should be a category for flag images, we should try to have people use another copyright template, since I do not think there is a blanket license for flags. User:Zscout370 (Return Fire) Fair use policy 14:37, 1 February 2006 (UTC)

Whether flags generally are public-domain or not (I thus far have seen no provision to indicate that they are), the rationale of Bridgeman vs. Corel is definitely applicable to any third-party versions of the flags that attempt to reproduce the preexisting flag design without adding creative touches of their own. Publication in the CIA World Factbook is irrelevant per se, since those versions would be covered under Bridgeman, but the fact that they don't include specific copyright notices is an interesting and possibly relevant point.

One thing for sure is that many flags' copyrights have expired by now. The flag of France, for example, is clearly PD. It's only recent ones we have to worry about. —Simetrical (talk • contribs) 04:49, 2 February 2006 (UTC)

The flag of the Republic of Georgia, according to http://www.sakpatenti.org.ge/eng/e-index.html, the National Intellectual Property Center of Georgia, is in the public domain. Article 8 of the Copyright Law says that the state symbols are in the public domain, including arms, flag and anthem. User:Zscout370 (Return Fire) Fair use policy 05:31, 2 February 2006 (UTC)

Here's my take on this: We want to make sure to follow copyright rules for two reasons: one, we want to protect Wikipedia from any liability, and two, we want to make sure Wikipedia stays absolutely free. But on the other hand, we want to avoid copyright-paranoia. In this case, it's hypothetically possible that national flags are copyrighted by the individual nations (or by artists in those nations) - but it seems rather unlikely that they are. If they are, this copyright is never enforced; even the U.S. Government uses the images without attribution. In this case, I would find it unlikely in the extreme that Wikipedia would be prosecuted for using a nation's flag. It's difficult even to imagine. And I don't think it seriously limits the "free" nature of Wikipedia. I'd like it if we just made a blanket statement like the following: "It is believed that the designs of all national flags are in the public domain. Upon evidence to the contrary, we will revise our position." And then just tag them all without having to worry about a country-by-country analysis. I would be quite comfortable with this. Otherwise, I can see ourselves unable to use the flag of, say, Ghana, simply because we can't figure out its copyright situation - and no one's bothered to clarify this because everyone before has just assumed it to be PD. Comments? – Quadell (talk) (bounties) 13:31, 2 February 2006 (UTC)

While I am willing to go through country by country, I still think as for tagging flag images, we should take the Commons route: just ID the image as a flag and have the copyright determined separately. If someone makes a flag and wants to GFDL it, then he or she should be able to. I will show you want I want to do with this flag image tag in the next few days and hours. User:Zscout370 (Return Fire) Fair use policy 14:53, 2 February 2006 (UTC)
You can't GFDL an image if you don't own the copyright. If the flag design is copyrighted, then any implementation is an infringement, even if you made it yourself. And if the design isn't copyrighted, then we can just use the CIA's version. – Quadell (talk) (bounties) 16:56, 2 February 2006 (UTC)
If the design isn't copyrighted, actually, we can use anyone's version, by the logic of Bridgeman vs. Corel. —Simetrical (talk • contribs) 04:27, 3 February 2006 (UTC)
I basically agree with Quadell. The copyright holders don't give a damn, the flags can be very useful for things that won't fall under fair use (mainly decorative purposes), and if someone does object, we can always take them down and avoid liability in any case under the DMCA. —Simetrical (talk • contribs) 04:27, 3 February 2006 (UTC)
And if flags have to fall under fair use, then having a flag on an article is probably the best FU use that I can see. User:Zscout370 (Return Fire) Fair use policy 04:32, 3 February 2006 (UTC)

US Flags[edit]

Is the tag PD-US-flag a valid copyright tag? I've seen it on various state flags, but not all of them, and I could not find any other specific references to the copyright status of US flags. MiLo28 16:56, 16 March 2006 (UTC)

Quoting Bridgeman[edit]

Per discussion with User:Mikegodwin, the wording has been changed slightly. -- Avi (talk) 16:34, 28 February 2008 (UTC)