On Tuesday and Wednesday, the bisexual advocacy group BiNetUSA used their Twitter account to reach out to bisexual activist Jayne B. Shea asking her to “get in touch so we can discuss your use of the bisexual pride flag without any money going to our organization,” LGBTQ Nation reported. BiNet USA followed up with a tweet stating that “The copyright of the flag is solely BiNet USA’s.”
In a series of tweets, BiNet USA also called out HRC and Target for using the image of the bisexual pride flag, according to The Mary Sue. The organization asked the HRC to stop using the bisexual pride flag in their communications and as a Zoom background. They also threatened Target with legal action for selling products with the bi pride flag on them saying, “Where is our cut?” The tweet mentioning Target insisted that the use of the bisexual pride flag requires approval by their organization’s board.
The group also asked Twitter users to alert them of unlicensed uses of the bisexual pride flag. Later, they threatened legal action against people and organizations that use the flag without their permission.
LGBTQ Nation and The Mary Sue both reported that the backlash against BiNetUSA from Twitter users was swift and harsh. Several Twitter users responded to the tweets saying that it’s impossible for one organization to own a symbol of an entire community. Others responded saying that an organization couldn’t copyright the colors involved in the flag.
Several prominent voices in the LGBT community including, authors and activists, jumped in on the conversation. Bestselling author Roxane Gay just in to express her shock at BiNet USA’s claim.
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
Other Twitter users chose to focus on the validity of the copyright claims. The Mary Sue investigated the group’s claim and discovered that the flag was originally created by Michael Page, who worked with BiNet USA back in the 90s. Their information indicates that Page intended the flag to be a symbol for the bisexual community.
The Mary Sue’s investigation also revealed that flags typically cannot be copyrighted and the image of the bisexual flag on Wikimedia Commons says that the image is public domain.
BiNet USA claimed in another tweet that Page had given them different information about the use of the flag and told Shea they would be willing to go to court to resolve the issue. However, old tweets from the BiNet USA account, which were uncovered by Twitter users, seem to indicate that the former stance of the organization was that the flag was a symbol that belonged to the community, not its creator.
According to The Mary Sue, BiNet USA may be facing financial troubles, which may be the reason they suddenly chose to try and enforce their alleged copyright.
BiNet USA’s Twitter has now been deactivated.