Use of the US Flag in Advertising is Illegal

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Especially since 9/11, the American flag has been plastered on everything from beer mugs to underwear, and seeing people wearing it or in car commercials has become a daily occurrence. But what many have forgotten is that the use of the flag in such contexts is expressly forbidden in official US Flag Code.

That’s right– wearing the flag as a lapel pin might be all right, but the bumper sticker on your SUV or those American flag toothpicks is definitely not kosher according to Uncle Sam.
Above: US Flag Code would not approve of this message

According to the subset of US Code which deals with proper care and use of the American flag, “The flag should never be used for advertising purposes in any manner whatsoever. It should not be embroidered on such articles as cushions or handkerchiefs and the like, printed or otherwise impressed on paper napkins or boxes or anything that is designed for temporary use and discard.”

Additionally, the code, which was written in the 1920s and adopted in 1942, states, “No part of the flag should ever be used as a costume or athletic uniform.”

Although these federal laws are rarely enforced, they technically can be, with the punishment up to the discretion of individual states (or by the federal government, if the offense is committed Washington, DC). What’s also not common knowledge about proper flag care according to the code is that the proper way to dispose of an old American flag is actually by (wait for it) burning it, though in a “dignified” manner.

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8 comments on “Use of the US Flag in Advertising is Illegal”

  1. EvilGod says:

    If only its use was policed. The fake patriotism shown in the use of the flag to sell anything dramatically lowers the symbolism of the flag and the real patriotism it engenders.

  2. Joe says:

    Hey dork! Get it right.

    According to the subset of US Code which deals with proper care and use of the American flag, “The flag should never be used for advertising purposes in any manner whatsoever. It should not be embroidered on such articles as cushions or handkerchiefs and the like, printed or otherwise impressed on paper napkins or boxes or anything that is designed for temporary use and discard.”

    The US code section you refer to only covers the District of Columbia. If you’re going to quote the US Code, at least do it correctly.

  3. Russell says:

    Illegal is the wrong word for this offense. While your right that the flag code does exist, there is no punishment that can be handed out for violation. The code states what is good and proper for the use and display of the American flag, including Colors, Banners, and use in conjunction with foreign and state flags, but it is not law. This is precisely why burning the flag in protest, which we have all seen done, is covered by freedom of speech. It’s disrespectful, and a violation of the Flag Code, but not illegal.

  4. Forgotten History Blog Admin says:

    You’re both right. Thanks for catching these mistakes. I need to update this post!

  5. Sam says:

    1st Amendment, for now. It would be tragically ironic to make it “illegal” to use the flag other than how The State tells us, but I’m sure it will happen as the U.S. gets closer to implosion and becomes completely authoritarian. It will never happen here, right? Heads up; history’s record is coming back around.

  6. William says:

    The Obama store is selling products that violate this LAW…

  7. Mitt says:

    based upon the rules I’ve read on your site would you consider flags on an iphone case to be a violation? They will protect a well made chinese iphone I guess.

    http://store.mittromney.com/accessories/cases/photo-iphone-case.html

  8. Mitt says:

    It does show Mitt’s butt in association with the flag so maybe that makes it OK.

    http://store.mittromney.com/accessories/cases/photo-iphone-case.html

Comments are closed.