Google’s doodle boo boo?

Google removes Aboriginal flag from winning Doodle 4 Google entry

Last year 11 year old Jessie Du won Google’s Doodle 4 Google competition with her entry ‘Australia Forever’. Displayed on Google’s homepage for Australia Day, the doodle features Australian animals formed into the letters g-o-o-g-l-e.

Attentive Google visitors soon noticed that something was missing. Jessie’s original entry included the Aboriginal flag but this has been removed from the image on Google’s homepage. But before readers start throwing around the ‘R’ word, here’s Google’s explanation:

You may have noticed that the Google Doodle on the homepage today is slightly different to Jessie’s original entry, because that one contained copyright imagery that we weren’t able to publish on the homepage today. However, I think you’ll agree it’s still absolutely beautiful, and inspires lots of wonderful ideas about the Australia of our future.

The Aboriginal flag is protected by copyright. In 1997 the Federal Court of Australia recognised Harold Thomas as the flag’s author. The flag may only be reproduced in accordance with the provisions of the Copyright Act 1968 or with the permission of Mr Harold Thomas.

Update: Asher Moses at the Sydney Morning Herald has the story including an interview with Thomas:

Thomas, who lives in Humpty Doo in the Northern Territory, said he refused only because Google did not approach him in a respectful way and had demanded to reproduce the flag without charge.

"I said well you can use it but there’s a fee component and the [Google] person said: ‘Oh we can’t do that, we can’t pay for it, we’ll have to ask the girl to change it [the logo] if we have to pay for it,’ " Thomas said.

"So ever since that time we’ve been argy bargying over how we should go about it and in the end it was a pittance offer so I decided why bother?"

Another update: Dogs like to dig holes.

Yet another update: Valeri at Typeboard has more, including a comment from Jessie.

But wait … there’s more: The BBC has picked up the story. But they’re a little confused about the origins of the Aboriginal flag:

Mr Howard designed the flag in the 1970s as a symbol of the indigenous land rights movement in Australia.

They mean Mr Thomas.

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7 Responses to Google’s doodle boo boo?

  1. thekaratekid says:

    I think it seems quite ridiculous on behalf of both parties concerned that the Aboriginal flag could not be used in the Google doodle. And sends a message again of the great divide. I think it is sad that the adult world has curtailed a young girl’s vision for her Australia. What a shame.

  2. Pingback: Typeboard

  3. Jacques Chester says:

    Google’s policy is not to pay for these sorts of things. They didn’t choose the winning entry directly, but they did choose to obey the law. It’s a storm in a teacup.

  4. Mr T. says:

    The people that have come out looking badly is Mr. Thomas and the Aboriginal Movement. They have adopted a symbol for which someone has copyright. That beggars belief.

  5. Jacques Chester says:

    I don’t know about that — having copyright can also prevent exploitation of the symbol. In the opensource world trademarks are used for a similar purpose.

  6. Peter Patton says:

    Surely this article misses the real issue. And that is that January 26 is Australia Day, not Aborigines Day. How could Google even think of such an offensive gesture?

  7. Equality says:

    I don’t agree with what you said Peter Patton. Aboriginies are part of Australia! They were before we were and yet we treat them like they are the outsiders, when really we are the ones that don’t belong. Australia is their home, and forever will be.

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