(Image obtained from benebellwen.com)
A subject that has intrigued me since becoming a serious beginner in the study of Tarot has been around copyright, fair-use, writing and referencing and how to give proper credit where credit is due. On a post I published in February, I used a Tarot spread called The Four-Chambered Heart spread. It appeared in a book by Sasha Graham entitled 365 Tarot Spreads, and while it appeared on the July 9th page, I thought it was appropriate for a Valentines Day reflection. A dear compadre in Tarot advised me that she had created that same spread many years earlier on her blog and I was dismayed that she may have been usurped of her creative work. Clearly the spreads featured on the 365 Tarot Spreads book did not reference where the spread layout (and the card position meanings) originated from and I know from being an avid Pinterest user, that many Tarot spreads are created by people who use these spreads on a proprietary basis. For example, this spread posted on Pinterest was created by Emerald Lotus:
Here’s where my assumptions around Fair Use come into play:
- If I were to publish this graphic to my blog as a Week Ahead Spread and not reference Emerald Lotus Divination as the source, I’m guilty of copyright infringement as this image was obtained from their site.
- If I were to create my own image using the same layout and the same card position explanations and called it my own Week Ahead Spread, I’d be guilty of copyright infringement.
- If I were to create my own image using the same layout but changed the card position explanations and called it My Week Into the Future or The Next Seven Days spread, that’s where I get a little hazy on the whole copyright thing.
So one of the issues for me is, how many deviations from the original do you need to distance yourself in order for it to not be copyright infringement?
Clearly, Tarot spreads are a grey area because it is sometimes difficult to know who created the spread. For example, is this the spread they are known for (like some of Crowley’s spreads?), and even then, if the person is dead (like Crowley) would anyone come to sue you if you renamed the THOTH Tarot spread as something else and changed up the card meanings? Probably not, but you’d likely accumulate some bad Karma for not referencing the person (the Beast) whose original creation you are using.
Another area of interest is the subject of Art work used for Tarot card decks. Now most decks feature original artwork as part of a collaboration between an artist and a deck creator/author but usually the deck creator is a Tarothusiast whose vision for their own deck is something they want to bring to the public. Many of these decks start out as Kickstarter projects that garner interest in the deck and they allow people to preorder and thereby fund the decks creation. This generates a lot of excitement and is a great way to preview the creative process of the decks creators. The explosion of new decks being created and in development has led to the need for a clear understanding of the differences between Creative Commons, Copyright and Fair Use.
The Deviant Moon Tarot by Patrick Valenza is a deck that doesn’t appeal to all Tarot readers, but the integrity of the artist and his dedication to his art deserves recognition for the Deviant Moon Tarot being 78 unique artistic creations. Not all deck creators are as dedicated to their process or the integrity of their work. Some just want to make a quick buck and it often shows in their product.
Which is why…..
I’m a very fussy person when it comes to Tarot artwork…In order for a deck to appeal to me, I need it to have several things in order for me to buy it. The art needs to be visually appealing (color, composition, subject matter, clarity of images etc..) and does it suit my mood and purpose? I’ve bought several decks on impulse only to have opened them up and been thoroughly disappointed in them. Some decks I don’t care for the colors (too hyperchromatic), some decks have had poor reproduction quality of the images and they just looked cheap, others had great artwork but were so similar in their colors from card to card that they were hard to tell the difference between them. As you can tell, I tend to appreciate decks with original artwork more than decks with photoshopped images as I feel the artists vision for the card is 99% of the magic of the card. (See the ETA Tarot deck image below)
Where I get stuck is when decks use images they didn’t create and did very little to alter (if anything) from the original. This presents a grey area for me as well because some of these decks use artwork from the Renaissance period, or from famous artists (Gustav Klimt) who can no longer claim copyright infringement, but perhaps the trust, or museum housing the artwork might take issue? Or what about Tarot readers showing the cards on their blog as part of a deck review or reveal when a new deck comes on the market? Does that constitute an exhibition of sorts?
I honestly don’t know enough about it to know what the boundaries are which is why this course offered by Benebell Wen is so exciting for me.
Not only would it shed light on some of these questions, but it would also help guide me better in my writing on the subject of Tarot, and help me maintain ethical boundaries should I decide to take my reading to another level.
Benebell introduces the need for every Tarot reader, artist, writer and videographer to take this course:
If you’re a professional tarot reader, get this course to make sure you’ve been covering all your bases in terms of copyright, making sure you’re not infringing on people’s copyrights, how to spot copyright infringement, and copyright infringement defenses, including how to determine what is fair use and what’s in the public domain.
Having now worked with too many artists and writers who think it’s fine to sell their legal rights without actually knowing what they’re giving away, seeing how so many in our creative fields know so little about copyright law or are fed misinformation, and hoping to offer an accessible online course that will empower you with otherwise specialized knowledge, I wanted to make the price point of this course accessible.
Benebell Wen has again offered an incredible amount of information to guide you through the murky waters of Copyright and Fair Use and helps you understand what you need to know before entering into contracts or publishing material that you have worked hard to produce and want to protect from others infringing on your rights.
She is literally giving away her knowledge on Copyright law for the generous price of $17 USD. If you are serious about your Tarot business or you are simply looking to expand your knowledge this is wealth of knowledge for a minimal investment. I plan on taking this course myself so that I may have another tool to help me build on my writing and maybe artistic endeavours in the future.
To take part in the online course please see the link HERE