In a year that’s already moved past “dumpster fire” and is fully into “landfill inferno” territory, one more piece of absolute madness has surfaced. BiNet USA, a non-profit bisexual advocacy group, has declared themselves the sole copyright owner of the bi pride flag- yes, THE WHOLE FLAG. They’ve even begun publicly tweeting queer creators with copyright infringement threats.
It sounds absolutely ridiculous that a BISEXUAL ADVOCACY GROUP would start attacking small creators for using a pride flag, but that’s exactly what BiNet USA is doing. Take a look:
Hi @JayneBShea! We at BiNet USA are asking you to get in touch so we can discuss your use of the bisexual pride flag without any money going to our organization. Thanks for removing the flag from your site, socials or work. We know this is a lot so we hope we can work a new deal!
— BiNet USA (@BiNetUSA) April 29, 2020
Jayne B Shea is an LGBTQ+ activist who sells merch on a website and at Pride events. They started creating bisexual-specific items after finding very little on offer at Pride events. They’re a community creator making things for other community members… so why is BiNet USA going after them?
On the surface, the group is pretending this is about “fighting commercialization” of the bi pride flag. They did tag Target in a post asking why they sold bi flag items. Who knows, maybe they started with good intentions?
However, attacking small artists and creators has swung public opinion pretty strongly against BiNet USA. Most concerning to me is the Twitter post where they urge LGBTQ+ community members to report any “unauthorized usage” so BiNet can get their pound of flesh.
Sure, because what the community needs is to promote distrust within our ranks.
As a point of fact, the bi pride flag was created by Michael Page. He was a volunteer for BiNet USA but not under contract to them in any way that should transfer copyright to them. He specifically stated that it was NOT copyrighted, saying in the BiFlag.com introductory article, “The Bi Pride Flag is the only bisexual symbol not patented, trademarked or service marked.”
The community is also bringing this up:
I worked on a number of things w Michael Page in the late 90s. I assure you that he not only created the flag, but wanted it to be used freely & widely. He encouraged creative use of it by anyone who wanted to use it to positively represent our community. BiNet does NOT own it.
— Seymore Love (@LoveSeymore) April 29, 2020
So how does BiNet USA claim ownership of this? They claim that it was created by “a collective” specifically to be the intellectual property of their group. They don’t even mention Michael Page or offer any proof that he transferred ownership to them.
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. We also owe Wendy Curry and GG Raven Wilbur too for the flag; but credits go to BiNet USA.
— BiNet USA (@BiNetUSA) April 29, 2020
Now, Target is not going to have a problem with this. Their lawyers will easily smack down any lawsuits BiNet USA puts out. Not only did the flag’s creator not want it copyrighted, the flag itself doesn’t meet US copyright standards.
On top of that, you have vigorously defend a copyright to hold it. Even if the group did hold it and it was something that could have been copyrighted, after 22 years that copyright has been long since been abandoned.
However, small fan artists and queer creators are going to suffer from this. They’re the ones who don’t have the money or the legal savvy to fight this. They will be scared into stopping usage of a flag which belongs to the bisexual community, not a group.
That’s not something we need right now, when a lot of creators are losing money from cancelled conventions. Online art sales are the only thing keeping those creators going. A lot of them will just drop their Bi Pride prints to be safe.
Imagine a world where you can’t have geeky Pride swag because small creators can’t afford the licensing fees and big creators aren’t interested in catering to your fandom.
This is a betrayal from a group that should be proudly supporting bisexual creators. We look forward to a statement from BiNet apologizing for their overreach and its effect on the community.4
Update (29 April 3:01pm): Reader Terra Joy has found this “aged like milk” Tweet from BiNet themselves:
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
Update (29 April 5:24pm): Looks like BiNet USA has deactivated their Twitter and is actively tidying up their Facebook page to pretend this never happened. You can still see people leaving reviews, but the most recent post up is from April 5.
While looking for more context on how a group that’s done great things would even consider this move, we found this interesting thread from a former board member:
As a former VP and board member for @binetusa, I’ve seen Faith Cheltenham do a ton of very important work for the bi+ community. I’ve also watched her single-handedly destroy the nation’s longest-standing bi+ advocacy org and it’s time to talk about that.
— Beth Sherouse, PhD (@DrGBeth) April 29, 2020
Update (29 April 7:50pm): As it turns out, it seems like BiNet USA has been planning this for a while. Two accounts were created in March and have not yet Tweeted: @CollectiveBi and @binetcollective . While it’s not sure these are backup accounts… it does seem a little odd that they have were so quick to ditch their Twitter after the very natural outcry against their behavior, then had these accounts standing by.
Are you an artist who’s gotten a cease and desist letter or a threatening Tweet from BiNet USA? We’d love to hear from you! Reach out to us on Twitter at @TheGeekiary!
Khai is a writer, anthropologist, and games enthusiast. She is co-editor (alongside Alex DeCampi) of and contributor to “True War Stories”, a comic anthology being published by Z2 Comics. When she’s not writing or creating games, Khai likes to run more tabletop RPGs than one person should reasonably juggle.
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