Going Pro: Why You Should Avoid Posting Mainstream Tarot Images On Your Blog

avoid posting mainstream tarot images on your blog
Cosmic Journaling Oracle

If you are a professional Tarot reader hosting your own website, then you are probably aware of the usual copyright and fair use regulations, which you need to adhere to, so you won’t find yourself getting sued.

However, you might not be aware that most of the mainstream publishers of tarot and oracle decks, such as US Games, Lo Scarabeo and Llewellyn, expect you to pay them a licence fee, if you are monetising your blog, i.e. charging for readings or getting paid for other products and services.

This is important for you to bear in mind, if you regularly blog about decks (reviews, unboxing videos etc.), demonstrating spreads, posting tutorials or simply just post an image on your Instagram.

Perhaps you are thinking that this is covered under the fair use policy, but you need to realise that this is open to interpretation, especially if you are a professional using your website as your business hub.

Before you get yourself into a tangle and wonder, if you are a copyright criminal by posting a card of the day, here’s something very simple you can do:

Avoid posting mainstream tarot images on your blog and social media.

Personally, I have just quit this voluntary marketing position I held with the mainstream publishers for years promoting their decks, while all I get in return is threats of court action, because I am making a living as a Tarot reader.

I am sick of arrogant publishers, who defend their copyright very aggressively, antagonising their customers (a lot of them professional tarot readers!) along the way.

The solution is beautifully simple:

Collaborate with self-published artists, who love the opportunity to have their decks promoted while their images enhance and prettify your blog posts.

I don’t need to go into detail about how tarot blogs and social media have led to a considerable increase in deck sales, yet these publishers want us to pay for “product placements”.

What the big publishers seem to forget:

Professional readers, who have been in the business for years, run well-known blogs and have a big subscriber list, are influencers.

How many tarot or oracle decks have you bought, which were recommended by your favourite blogs or Facebook pages?

Here’s an idea:

It is time for Tarot readers to demand payment from the publishers to feature their decks on their websites. 

After all, it’s advertising!

If publishers wanted to run a TV commercial, they’d have to pay for it, so if I did a YouTube video review about one of their decks and demonstrate how well it works in a reading, then I want to get paid for it, too Cool

Perhaps you think I’m crazy, but as you know we sometimes need to let go of outdated attitudes and beliefs, the traditional thought process that says “it’s always been this way”.

To be honest, payment for me doesn’t necessarily mean money; a little gratitude would be enough, and – lo and behold! – a surprise gesture of a free tarot deck as a token of appreciation would send me over the moon.

But no, instead I have court action threats looming over my head in the form of the publishers’ “terms”. Not nice!

Heck, I don’t need to promote their decks. Instead I collaborate with people, who value my support and in return support me – win / win !

So, ditch those mainstream decks from your blog and start supporting self-published indie artists.

In my next post, I will introduce you to my Top 10 self-published tarot decks I love using on my website and social media.

Warmest wishes,

Christiane

 

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23 thoughts on “Going Pro: Why You Should Avoid Posting Mainstream Tarot Images On Your Blog”

    1. Thank you, Louise! Fortunately, this didn’t happen to me, but other fellow tarot readers were threatened by one of the big ones, and another one was sued (in the US). Why could the publishers not ask them to take the images down? The threat of court action however is hanging over us all, as long as we use the images on our professional blogs. This doesn’t apply to anyone writing a tarot blog as a hobby without any monetisation.

      Yes, you will be much safer not using their images any more. It’s sad, but thankfully, there is lots of choice out there 😉

  1. This is shocking to hear! Some of us are really happy that people talk about and show our work because without people sharing our work it’s much harder to get the word out about our projects.

    These publishers are going to shoot themselves in the foot

    1. That’s right, James. Many tarot bloggers with established blogs are professionals. They charge for their services, but at the same time they provide free content for their readers containing card images of a variety of decks. This isn’t about stealing anybody’s work; it’s done with the sole intention to promote it and support the creators. Just like the artist, I also need to make a living and happen to make it with my tarot website, but I don’t see why I should have to pay for the privilege to show a couple of images in a promotional post. I’m not tarot.com, just a little sole trader scraping by 🙂

  2. Hello, Just read your article and I can also add that if you use a musical meme like a sarah mclachlan tune on the front of your website publishers have a full time staff to search the web for unauthorized use and a friend of ours had to pull the tune or pay the fees and luckily did not have to pay a pirate fine. So we have learned to get the permissions and use public domain images and keep them on file. BTW it is my understanding that the Rider-Waite images are public domain so they are safe for web and teaching but things may have changed in the past several years. Just a couple of thoughts

    1. Thank you for your comment, Raymond. Yes, music is also protected under copyright, and if you want to feature a specific tune on your website, you will always have to pay for it. I believe there are some open source tunes you can use without paying a fee, although I don’t know any links at the moment I could suggest.
      Regarding the Rider Waite images, the original 1909 images may be in the public domain, but if you buy the deck printed by US Games, then these cards are under copyright.
      I believe that the black and white Rider Waite illustrations in Waite’s book Pictorial Key to the Tarot are in the public domain, but if anyone know differently, please let me know 🙂

    1. Thank you, Patricia. Yes, thanks to more artists going their own way and producing the most wonderful decks, it is so easy to leave the conventional publishers behind 🙂

    1. No, I never said that. What I am trying to highlight is that the terms and conditions of the publishing houses mentioned above imply that because my website is of a commercial nature, I need to pay a fee, if I want to post images of spreads, videos, etc. using their tarot and oracle decks.

      I would also have to ask for permission, which images I am allowed to use and how many each time, when I want to post an image including social media. Here is a statement from Lo Scarabeo:

      “…as long as images are posted on a personal blog, unboxing videos, deck reviews and more generally on any non-profit page, the only requirement we have is the acknowledgement of our copyright, with a line like ‘(C) Lo Scarabeo srl. All right reserved’.

      If, on the other hand, images are going to be published on websites selling reading services or for any other commercial use, we require a regular licensing contract to be signed with Lo Scarabeo….”

      This statement was kindly requested and provided by Alison Cross on the TABI forum.

      I have talked about the threat looming over my head set by these terms, as my website is a business. And because I see these terms a threat, I have never created videos with their decks, nor will I use them in any form on my website again. I’d rather collaborate with independent artists, who don’t mind that I make a living as a tarot reader, and who even allow me to use their images in my ebooks.

      Please note that my aim with this post is to stand up for honest, professional tarot readers, who love sharing beautiful images in the correct manner (with accreditation etc.), but who don’t want to be penalised for it by the publishers, only because they monetise their websites.

      I hope my explanation has made my position clearer for you, Ciro. If you need to know more, then please do get in touch again. Thank you for your comment.

  3. Good morning and thank you so much for posting about this.

    I read an article last week about this and it certainly seems like one heck of a mess.

    I went ahead and deleted my ‘Card of the Days’ using RW on some of my Social Media sites. I went ahead and decided to create my own deck and the Major Arcana Cards that I’ve chosen should be here today that I’ve created and can’t wait to see how they turn out. They’re going to have a historical theme to them.

    I do believe the images from the 1909 are still public domain and can be found on Wikipedia. Last I looked, it had the copyright as saying…

    “Copyright holder was Arthur Edward Waite. Pamela Coleman Smith was just doing an artist’s ‘work for hire.’ She was paid for her work and was not the copyright holder. – a 1909 card scanned by Holly Voley (http://home.comcast.net/~vilex/) for the public domain, and retrieved from http://www.sacred-texts.com/tarot (see note on that page regarding source of images).
    Tarot card from the Rider-Waite tarot deck, also known as the Rider-Waite-Smith deck.
    Permission details

    No longer under copyright in US (and arguably not in the UK either).”

    So, I would guess that means as long as it doesn’t have the little “U.S. Games” thing on the card it should be okay?

    But, yeah, looks like I’m going to go the self-publish route as well as supporting other Indie Tarot Creators. We gotta have each others’ backs, right?

    Thank you so much for posting this article and hope you have a great weekend!

    ~Susan

    1. Hi Susan, I’m glad you’ve mentioned the Rider Waite deck.

      Believe it or not, but there is the story going round, that US Games are trying to extend their copyright on the RWS deck by basing it on Pamela Coleman-Smith’s year of death. This would let the copyright expire in 2021.

      But yes, original prints from the 1909 edition of the deck should be in the public domain, and I’m glad you’ve posted some links to the public domain images.

      It’s a great idea to create your own tarot images, and please do share them with us, once you’re ready 😉

      Thank you for posting your comment, and have a great weekend, too 🙂

      1. Thank you! So far, it’s been quite productive. Just put the finishing touches on my Indie Deck at The Game Crafter and it should be shipped the 26th – So excited!

        I did the Major Arcana first through another site and liked the way it looks rough draft wise so can’t wait to see what TGC does for my concept.

        Out of curiosity, do you know if you could use those Public Domain photos of RW from 1909 to create a Deck for themselves on their own back? Just wondering because that way, people could still make/have a RW deck on hand that’s not really involved with US Games.

        Just a thought and thought I’d ask if you knew. 🙂

        1. That sounds exciting indeed, Susan! Can’t wait to see your deck 🙂

          With regards to creating your own printed copy of the original 1909 RWS edition, I assume (which is often a bad thing ;)) that you can do this for personal use, but I’m not 100% sure.

          The wrong people to ask would be US Games, as they very vigorously protect their copyright for the RWS. But perhaps if anyone, who reads this knows any better, I’d love to hear.

    2. Hey Susan, this is Mary the other side of Crossroads Tarot Consulting, Raymond was the original poster her. I think (based on my graduate work studies, Raymond’s education as well) that as long as the 1909, without any color variation (modulating the art work by US Games), should be fine and open source use. We avoided this mess by contacting the original creators of the various decks we use (that are still among us) for permission to use in media, written form as well as photo. By doing this we not only allowed the creators of their decks some loci of control, but also it gives them free advertising and exposure to up and coming tarot users of the decks out there, and maybe some sales on the back end.

      1. Great idea to ask the artist directly, but I’m wondering if this could pose a conflict of interest between the artist and their publisher. Once an artist has signed up with a publisher, they also have legal obligations towards the publisher. In theory, this could develop into another legal mess. But as long as you have written permission by the artist, then at least you have something to defend yourself with, in case you get approached by a publisher. Thank you for posting, Mary.

  4. Great commentary! Unfortunately, this is why traditional publishing is losing ground. They should embrace whatever press they get… good or Bad … I think promoting the indies is a great idea, I’m on board.

    1. Yes, it will be interesting to see how traditional publishing will change over the coming years, bearing in mind it is so easy to self-publish nowadays. Thank you for your comment, Larsen. Have a great day 🙂

  5. I am very interested to know if anyone has been approached by the major publishers about this matter, either with a cease and desist letter or some other threat of legal action. While I think copyright is so important and I understand that the law can be interpreted in this way, for a publisher to actually take action on that seems very misguided – not to mention a fundamental misunderstanding of how viral media works! I work as a bookseller (as well as a professional tarot reader), and by the time I see sell-in sheets from Llewellyn or US Games or whoever, I’m usually already familiar with new releases because people have been talking about forthcoming decks and sharing images online.

    I’m wracking my brains to think of the last time I ordered a deck for the shop or for myself that I didn’t find out about through other readers sharing images on social media, and I honestly can’t think of a single one. User images of tarot and oracle decks online make sales for these publishers, so while it is vital to protect the artist’s copyright, I think it’s a huge mistake for action to be taken against readers to this degree.

    Interesting to note, though, that Us Games’ instagram (@usgamesinc) is solely populated by reposts of other readers’ images of their decks. They have previously reposted one of my images, and I am a professional reader so could be expected to pay licensing to share that. I’m not sure if they have been involved in enforcing these kinds of policies, but if so, their legal and marketing departments clearly don’t talk to each other! Thoughts on that, anyone?

    1. You are so right about the value of social media and the impact it has on deck promotion and sales, Marianne. And publishers are totally happy with that, if the website / blog you run is of a non-commercial nature.

      There have been some lawsuits in the past, threats and cease and desist letters. If you google “US Games Rider Waite copyright enforcements”, some info should come up. Also, this topic has been widely covered on the Aeclectic tarot forum.

      From what I’ve noticed is that because of the sheer number of tarot websites and blogs out there, it is hard for publishers to enforce their copyright terms, but occasionally they seem to pick a few people out, who then get into trouble.

      I have also heard from other professional readers, that permission to post some images was refused.

      This is exactly why I’ve written this post. Nothing is clear. Publishers are beginning to embrace the social media movement while at the same time persisting on enforcing outdated copyright rules.

      It seems like the industry is going through a transition, and until it is resolved, professional tarot readers just need to be careful with what images they use on their websites.

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