Progress pride flag’s copyright is Creative Commons

People on social media claimed the flag was copyrighted, but its Creative Commons license only restricts commercial use, which requires the designer’s permission.

Rainbow flags are displayed every June to celebrate LGBTQ+ Pride Month.

The most common symbol of Pride Month, the rainbow striped flag, was designed by Gilbert Baker in 1978. It is in the public domain and has been adopted as the flag representative of the entire LGBTQ+ community.

In 2018, graphic designer Daniel Quasar designed the Flag of Progress, which uses the traditional rainbow flag as a background and places a chevron above it with the colors of the transgender flag plus brown and black to represent LGBTQ+ people of color and LGBTQ+ people living with AIDS or died from AIDS.

But in a now-deleted viral tweet, one person claimed that the Progress Pride flag is copyrighted and the traditional flag is not – making the latter a better option for the community. Others who have made the claim say the copyright goes against the traditional pride flag’s goal of belonging to everyone in the LGBTQ+ community. Many replies in a row pointed out that the people making the allegations were missing key context.


Is the Progress Pride flag copyrighted?



This requires context.

The claim that the Progress Pride Flag is copyrighted needs context. It is copyrighted but licensed under a Creative Commons license which makes it free to use for non-commercial purposes and requires the artist’s permission for commercial use.


Created by Daniel Quasar in 2018, the Progress Pride flag uses a design inspired by other recent reinterpretations of the traditional Pride flag. A 2017 flag made in Philadelphia added black and brown stripes to represent marginalized LGBTQ+ people of color and LGBTQ+ people living with or died from AIDS, and a 2018 flag from Seattle included those colors along with the blue, white, and pink Stripes of the transgender flag.

Quasar said they separated the extra colors from the rainbow flag’s stripes to retain the flag’s original meaning – Gilbert Baker assigned a meaning to each color – and turned the extra colors into a chevron to indicate forward movement and progress yet to be made to show.

After creation, Quasar licensed the flag under a Creative Commons license, which grants people permission to use the design for non-commercial purposes, according to the Quasar Progress Initiative Terms of Service.

Creative Commons licenses are intended to give the public permission to use a copyrighted work. The progress bar is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. This license prevents people from using the design to sell it for profit, requires credit to the creator when using it, and requires people remixing or transmuting the design to license their work with the same restrictions and freedoms.

People who want to use the flag non-commercially don’t need to get permission from Quasar before using it, the Progress Initiative’s website says.

“I really don’t mind at all if you want to make art with the design (please do! I encourage you!) and don’t even need you to do anything about it,” writes Quasar. “If you want to credit me for using the flag, that’s cool but not required.”

Although the terms of use broadly state that people wishing to use the flag for profit should obtain permission before using it, Quasar explains on the website that small businesses and large businesses are treated differently.

“If you are a small business or smaller artist looking to make a profit from the Progress design, please do so!” Quasar writes. Quasar encourages small businesses to reach out to them if they have any questions or would like a free license to use the flag design.

Quasar urges large corporations and developers to contact them via email before selling anything that uses the Progress Flag design.

“This is where the most common request for permission is to keep the flag’s message alive and return support to the community it serves,” explains Quasar.

In a marketing podcast called Input Doc, Quasar said they’ve “staggered” the flag’s approvals in response to “rainbow capitalism” — what they describe as a trend where companies use rainbow imagery to make profits, and then LGBTQ+ -Ignore community after the end of June.

“If you’re a small business or an artist looking to make something you’d like to benefit from, talk to me, I’ll probably give you a free license,” Quasar said. “If a big, multi-million dollar company came up to me and wanted to launch 15 products to make money off the flag, I would want some sort of licensing deal. If you want to monetize something I’ve created in my community, it’s only fair that you give back not only to me as an artist, but to the community itself.”

Creative Commons prevents licensors like Quasar from revoking the legal permissions of the license. This means that anyone who already has a file of the flag can continue to use it non-commercially, even after Quasar has decided it should no longer be included in the Creative Commons.

Permission to use the flag commercially is granted by Quasar and is not part of the legal terms of their license. Quasar could choose to allow people to sell products featuring the flag’s design, although they cannot revoke the licenses already granted. Quasar has given no indication that they plan to stop allowing small businesses and artists to sell progress flagged products.

A number of products featuring progress flag designs are sold on Etsy, an online shop where independent artists sell their work. Some of the products contain a notice on the store page stating that the sellers are licensed to sell parts featuring the design, some contain notices crediting Quasar with the design, and some of the items do not contain any reference to the license still a credit. DC Comics, Target, Spotify, and Lyft have all collaborated with Quasar to use the flag and customizations, including the addition of the intersex flag and Bisexual flagwas created.

The traditional rainbow stripe Pride flag, designed by Gilbert Baker, is in the public domain. According to a blog post by intellectual property expert Natalie Bravo, Baker fought an attempt by the Gay Community Center, where he created the flag, to copyright it.

“All his life he chose never to enforce his ownership under the US Copyright Act of 1976,” Bravo said of Baker’s decision to keep the flag in the public domain. “Baker asserted that the flag should be available for public use and owned by all.”

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Text: 202-410-8808 Progress pride flag’s copyright is Creative Commons

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