It isn’t quite as easy as this. If it is assumed that the copyright owner agrees to sell/transfer the copyright to a public organisation for unfettered use, then compensation would need to be paid to the copyright holder and anyone who has a licence or agreement for its commercial use. The waters would be muddied as some businesses which may have commercial rights may claim that this agreement leads to the profitability of their business and the claims could be potentially very expensive.
Also, not everyone has a price. There are many people (a small percentage of the population) which don’t have a price which they are willing to sell property. This could be due to a range of different reasons including emotional/sentimental /religious attachment. This is why all levels of government have compulsory acquisition powers which allows it to still acquire property, when a settlement price or a reasonable price can’t be reached. In working in an organisation which had such powers, a physiologists once explained why some won’t sell and I recall the example of how much would you sell one’s sight (eyes) for. The discussion amongst a group ended up that no-one was willing to sell their sight as even if one did sell for say $1B, one would not enjoy the rewards associated with the proceeds of the sale. While this was not directly about owned property like copyright (and more about live’s enjoyment), it explained the behaviour of why some chose not to sell property at any price.
While running a crowd funded scheme to raise the money may seem admirable, it is unlikely to provide a resolution and may be seen as forcing the hand of the copyrighter…strengthening the copyrighter’s resolve.
It is also appears that it is the copyright owner that wishes to strongly protect his interests…
In 2010 Thomas was involved in a dispute with Google over its intended use of a 12-year-old Australian girl’s artwork incorporating the Australian Aboriginal Flag into its logo. Thomas refused to allow Google to use the image featuring the flag after negotiations over compensation failed, resulting in a modified design in which the flag was not used. Thomas claimed that Google had opened negotiations with a request for free use of the flag and, while he allowed free use to non-commercial operations that gave health, educational, legal and other assistance to Aboriginal people, he charged a fee to commercial operations. He described Google’s subsequent offer as a “pittance”.
Thomas has since given exclusive commercial rights to three companies, "one to reproduce flags, and the others to reproduce the image on objects and clothing.(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harold_Thomas_(activist))
The media recently has attacked the licencee of the copyright, blaming the licencee for being zealous in relation to protection of copyright rights. I appears from information available publicly that it in fact could be the copyright holder who has the very strong conviction.
Also, maybe the copyright holder uses any funds raised to improve the living standards/lifestyle enjoyment of the rest of his people. This may or may not be the case would could also affect any decision to acquire.
As there has not been any issue for 24 years and may never be an issue in the future if organisations and individuals abide by the copyright requirements, then they may not be any problem in the future. In some respects, it is a storm in a tea cup created by someone who wants a bit of the profit pie.
The indigenous community may have issue with this as this may allow non-indigenous to also use the flag freely. This may be known and unintended consequences of free use of the flag by all.
With the currently arrangements, there appears to be some control over who has the right for its use.
This is a very good point and wonder why this has not occurred. Maybe the elders are happy with the existing (past 24 year) arrangements can can see no reason to change.
Why elders aren’t adverse to the existing arrangements I don’t know but it could be because their activities and the use of the flag would possible fall into the category of a non-commercial operation…allow their free use of the flag.