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The Tarot Reader’s Guide to Copyright

By May 12, 2016Tarotpreneurs

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One of the most common questions I hear from Tarotpreneurs is, “Do I need copyright permission to publish Tarot card images and other content on my website, blog, Tarot readings, materials, etc.?”

You see, what many professional Tarot readers don’t realise is that there are laws about what you can and can’t publish on your own platform, especially when it comes to other people’s content.

It doesn’t matter whether you have a Tarot website that only your mum has ever visited or you have a website with millions of visitors every year – you need to respect copyright laws.

So today, I’m setting the record straight and answering your questions about copyright. This is my personal guide to copyright so that you can avoid the nasty consequences of being tracked down or worse, taken to court, for copyright infringement.

(Note: I’m a Tarot reader and a successful business owner, but I am NOT a lawyer and therefore this post does not represent legal advice.)

When it comes to copyright and Tarot, what is OK and what is not OK?

Let me make it really simple for you…

Do not:

  • Use Tarot card images on your blog, readings, eBooks, teaching materials, etc. without permission
  • Copy word-for-word Tarot card meanings for your blog or Tarot readings without permission
  • Use images found on Google search or other people’s websites without permission

(Do you see the common theme here? You need permission!)

Do:

  • Ask for permission in writing
  • Provide attribution (only after you have permission)
  • Create your own images, photos, content – it will be so much more personal and meaningful anyway

How do I get copyright permission?

First, find out who owns the copyright.

For Tarot cards, it is usually the publisher of the deck. Look for the © sign – often on the cards or in the Little White Book.

For text and content, it is usually the website owner or author.

For images, you may need to do some extra research to make sure you know exactly who owns the copyright. In some cases, it may be the website owner, but in many cases, it is a stock photo company in which case you need to go straight to the source and purchase the image.

Once you know who owns the copyright, request permission.

Email the copyright owner and give the following details:

  • What content you want to use
  • How you plan to use it
  • Where it will be displayed
  • If it is for commercial or non-commercial use

If you are requesting permission to use the Rider Waite images, contact US Games here.

Make sure you have the copyright permission in writing so that if you are questioned about copyright in the future, you have evidence to show that you were granted permission.

You may also have to display attribution – a short sentence to indicate you have copyright permission and who the content belongs to.

Do I have to pay for copyright permission?

In some instances, no. In other instances, yes. It is completely up to the copyright owner to decide if there will be a fee for copyright permission.

You might be wondering how much you have to pay. Again, that is up to the copyright owner. It might be $50 or it might be $1000+. Be prepared!

What if the owner doesn’t give their permission?

Then don’t use it. Plain and simple.

Find another publisher, or make your own.

Do I really have to do it?

If you’re ‘bootstrapping’ it and barely scraping by as it is, you might be wondering if it’s even worth getting copyright permission.

Here’s my view: It doesn’t matter if you have just 1 visitor a year or 3 million visitors a year – you need to get copyright permission.

If you violate copyright, you can be taken to court and required to pay significant fines.

I don’t know about you, but I would prefer that doesn’t happen!

So yes, it is worth it. And it’s part of being an ethical Tarot business owner.

Take Action

Look at your website and other materials you use in your business. Are you using images, content, videos, etc. that are not your own? Have you requested copyright permission to use each and every one of them? If not, do it now. It will save you a lot of pain and hassle later down the track.

Got any other questions about Copyright? Ask in the comments below!

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36 Comments

  • Martin Smith says:

    You say make your own image, but of course, taking a photo of a card could also infringe copyright.

    • Brigit says:

      You can take your own photo. But if the photo is of a specific card, you’ll need to get copyright permission for using the image of the card (even if it’s your own photo of the card). Hope that makes sense!

  • N Didier says:

    Yes. I am confused. So, if I take my own pictures of the Tarot cards I use this can be a copyright infringement?

    • Fiona Benjamin says:

      Yes, this is copyright infringement- you can’t take a photograph of the cards and use them without permission from whoever owns the rights. Most mass produced decks have some sort of FAQ section that will give permission to use the cards for non-commercial purposes, with given credit (hence why so many RWS images are used) but that is at the discretion of the publisher.

      • maria crane says:

        I think the simplest solution this and what I have done in the past is to purchase stock photo images. They have permission to sell these images for commercial use. Just be sure it’s a reputable outfit like “Shutter Stock” .

  • Virginie says:

    Hello, thank you for this terrific post. I still have a question. What if you take pictures of a deck you actually own. Do you still have to ask permission of the editor? The pictures and setting on it are completely mine. Thanks for your feedback.
    Love and light from Belgiul, Virginie

  • Chris says:

    Having done a lot of work with educational websites, there’s also a 3rd option: if the image is altered significantly, it’s generally no longer the copyrighted image. Though, this falls loosely under “create your own.” Safer to to check on them.

  • Pedro André says:

    Hi! Excellent and useful post. I understood all the specifics on publishing material on a website,and that lead me to another question, how about Instagram? Are we allowed to post pictures with our tarot cards?
    Thank you
    Pedro

    • Fiona Benjamin says:

      Generally, as long as it is for non commercial purposes (you are not selling that specific Instagram image, you are just displaying the cards) you are fine- BUT, again, check with the person who owns the rights. Most mass produced decks are okay with it as long as it’s non commercial and I’ve never seen an indie tarot deck creator get upset over it. Their respective FAQ section will usually cover it.

      However, it’s more of a “no one is really going to say anything about you posting it on Instagram” type of deal than a black and white rule.

  • Rash says:

    Really informative post! Quick question: Usually for publications, snippets are okay to use in the context of a review (this is even stated in some). I would think this would still be the case for a deck review, would it not? Ah, second question: Did you get blanket permission for the RWS images on your site or did you have to request permission for each. and. every. pic? Good grief…I hope it was the former.:-) Thanks again for the post!

    • Brigit says:

      Snippets are generally OK, so long as you give attribution.

      Also, I suggest contacting US Games for the specific details of RW copyright permission.

      • Rachael says:

        Brigit, I was hoping to know the same thing– whether you have permission to use the RWS images because your site is purely educational, or whether you had to pay their fee. The reason

        I’m asking is because I *did* contact US Games after hearing of a fellow Biddy Tarot reader having luck with them (they even gave them a brief bit of copy to always paste with any used images); however, after waiting a very long time to hear anything back from them, they told me I would have to pay a (not insubstantial) fee to use the images– they never mentioned the attribution copy or any alternative.

        I have opted out for the time being (of using the images and of paying). I thought if the image was not for sale, and was being used for non-commerical purposes, that I could use them. I was trying to do the right thing by asking, but I have heard plenty of stories of US Games being scammy about that particular copyright.

        Any personal insight?

        • Brigit says:

          Every situation is unique, so it’s best to go directly to US Games and explain how you intend to use the card images.
          There is also the idea of ‘fair use’ with copyrighted materials, which suggests you can use copyrighted materials for educational purposes without requiring permission. I recommend seeking legal advice for this, as I’m not a lawyer.

  • For those interested in even more information about copyright, Theresa Reed writes a detailed and comprehensive post about intellectual property which addresses the less talked about issue of when someone uses your content on their site: http://www.thetarotlady.com/handling-online-plagiarism-without-losing-your-cool-or-your-spirit/ For those of us who have tarot blogs and pro sites, it’s important to note that web copy can be stolen as well as tarot images. When I was a new tarot blogger, I found this post/link round-up particularly useful in navigating the dos and don’ts of copyright infringement and it gave me a lot of insight into the perspective of creators and publishers in the tarot field. It can be hard to know, at first, what counts as flattery and what counts as plagiarism. I offer this link to supplement the copyright info given here.

    • Brigit says:

      Yes, unfortunately there have been a number of occasions where the content on Biddy Tarot has been reproduced elsewhere without permission. It’s frustrating, especially when it’s a direct copy.

  • Bouncy says:

    What if the cards are just in the photo? For example, a table with cards, crystals, fancy table cloth? I can’t understand how that would be infringement. That would be like Pepsi or Coca Cola going after you for taking a photo of a soda can, which I can’t imagine.

    • Brigit says:

      Bouncy, it comes down to ‘fair use’ and what’s acceptable depending on the country you’re located in. It’s a complex topic and I suggest doing some extra research to find out exactly what’s OK and what’s not, depending on what you’d like to use the images for.

  • Gyspyrose1960 says:

    Thank you so so much for your information. I thought that you had have permission about during other people stuff but wasn’t for sure until now. But it only makes fence that you would that’s why it’s copy writes. I really liked your info. Thanks

  • Deirdre Mac Gowan Lindfors says:

    Thanks a lot for all the info. Very helpful!

  • Elizabeth says:

    Thank you so much for this! I’m a photographer and graphic designer and always on the lookout for people stealing my images. It’s so refreshing to see someone educating folks about proper use of images! It’s always surprising to me that people think other’s art is free, yet would be horrified if I walked into their house and took something they had worked hard for.

    Not to confuse anyone – but you can also look for Creative Commons images – see creativecommons.org for more info. There are a few degrees of CC, some allow commercial use, some not. You still have to be careful – especially if it’s a photograph of someone else’s work. I would want to make sure the photographer has legal rights to use (and distribute) the images.

  • DF says:

    Does this count for images from the standard Rider-Waite deck? I thought those images were in the public domain seeing as they were published originally over a century ago. Thanks.

  • If someone were to create an entirely different idea which incorporates Tarot and Astrology in some unique way, do you know if individual copyrights are necessary for the images (cards) created as well the narrative/description/instructions?

    Thanks

    H Berrien

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  • Emma says:

    Quick, very-specific question: If I were to design/illustrate an original image inspired by, let’s say the three of swords from the RW deck, to use on a business card or website as a logo, would that still require permission from US Games? Thank you, Brigit, for everything! Your card interpretations are brilliant, and I’m grateful to have your site as a resource.

  • John says:

    Does anyone know how long it typically takes to get copyright approval from US Games Inc to use RW images. I sent a completed form a month ago and followed up with an email but have so far heard nothing.

    Thanks
    John

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  • Bob says:

    The interesting thing is that there are quite a few ‘copyright owners’ who do not legally own the images that they claim to. How does one verify that you are actually buying a right that is backed up by provenance and authentication? Sometimes these ‘copyright owners’ will go so far as to try to sue someone who has reproduced one of ‘their’ images. Again, how can I get an authentication from the (c) owner?

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