Still tracking copyright for Rider Waite Tarot Cards

'Is it legal', 'can I do this' type questions and discussions.
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Helenoran462
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Still tracking copyright for Rider Waite Tarot Cards

Post by Helenoran462 »

The original thread on this subject can be found here

Dear Andy-

I am still going around in circles with trying to optain permission to use the images of the Rider Waite deck as illustrations in my novel... it's become quite the challenge! :?

I did contact Mr. Semken as you advised me to do , and I received a very kind reply back from him. To surmise his email, he advised me to contact Random House since they are the agents for his father's estate; he said he was sorry but he didn't know exactly which department to get in touch with.
I did have a look at their website and rang one of their numbers in London, but the person I spoke to didn't have any idea who I should contact or what I should do next. Not long afterwards this pandemic business started and so the legalities have all taken a back seat for the time being. For now I'm just going through and editing my book, but I do keep doing searches online for any more information. I'll have another go contacting Random House next week. In some ways I'd just like to throw up my hands and say 'publish and be damned!' but I think any publisher might take a dim view of that. Even self-publishers would probably be wary of being held liable for infringing copyright, especially with US Games involved.

I do wonder if a self-publisher might still be willing to print a dozen or so copies for me, provided I promised not to sell them? I have family members who are getting on in years, and I'd really like to be able to give them a copy... I don't want to hang about waiting until 2022 when these illustrations enter the public domain and leave it too late.

Anyway, that's where things stand at the moment- I'm still plugging away tidying the book up, sorting out my illustrations and double-checking punctuation. Even once all that is done, I still need to get it in the correct format for publication, so plenty to keep me busy. Mr. Semken said probate was due to be sorted soon on the estate, so maybe I'll have more luck with Random House the second time around!
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AndyJ
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Re: Still tracking copyright for Rider Waite Tarot Cards

Post by AndyJ »

Hi Helen,

Glad to hear you are still chipping away at this. It's a shame Mr Semken wasn't able to give you the necessary permission. As for Random House, you could try going in via this page on their website as that should put you in touch with the staff who handle rights and licensing. You will need to scroll down to the UK section. The bad news is this pair of sentences which appear in the FAQ section:
Please allow up to 10 weeks to receive a response. It may take us longer to respond during busy periods.
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Helenoran462
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Re: Still tracking copyright for Rider Waite Tarot Cards

Post by Helenoran462 »

Hello, Andy- I thought I'd give you a brief update...

I had a little bit of too-ing and fro-ing with Random House- despite me sending them detailed emails explaining exactly what I was asking and explaining why I couldn't use their online request form, I received several auto-generated emails telling me to fill in the form (since an original copy of the Pictorial Key to the Tarot is difficult to find, I could not supply them with the page numbers of the images I was interested in nor the isbn; and it's not one of their listed publications anyway.)

I finally got an actual person to reply to my emails on July 14th, and she provided me with a different form to fill in... then on the twenty-third of July I was told it had been forwarded to their archives team, so that's where things still stand at the moment! :?
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Re: Still tracking copyright for Rider Waite Tarot Cards

Post by AndyJ »

Hi Helen,

Thanks for the update. At this rate, the copyright will have expired before you actually find someone at Random House who can agree to your request! Well done for sticking at it. Funnily enough I saw a feature on the Guardian website the other day which gave examples of the many interpretations of tarot cards. Most of them had the requisite copyright acknowledgement, but when it came to the Coleman Smith version of The Sun, there was no copyright information given.

Andy
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LitzB8
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Re: Still tracking copyright for Rider Waite Tarot Cards

Post by LitzB8 »

Hi,

Has anyone had any further developments or contact names for the Copyright issue with RW cards? I would like to reproduce and although I cannot find anything that says the copyright is still in place, I want to be crystal clear.

Thanks.
Nick Cooper
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Re: Still tracking copyright for Rider Waite Tarot Cards

Post by Nick Cooper »

As per this and the previous thread, the UK copyright in the basic non-coloured illustrations expires after 31 December this year, but any user relying on that would be advised to to source as early an edition of The Pictorial Key to the Tarot as possible from which to copy them.
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Re: Still tracking copyright for Rider Waite Tarot Cards

Post by MrsTwosheds »

Hi Helen et al

Have just seen this (just a few years late!).

You probably know this already (and I am probably barking up the wrong tree) but there is a coloured version of 43 of these cards available ‘royalty free’ via Dover Publications, which you can use ‘for graphics and craft applications, free and without special permission, provided that you include no more than ten in the same publication or project’. At least, I think they are the same cards - they are called ‘The Waite-Smith Tarot’ in the book, but they look the same.

They can be found in a Dover Publications ‘Electronic Clip Art’ book, published in 2010, called ‘The Art of Tarot Cards’. It comes with a CD Rom (which probably won’t work on a new iMac - ours doesn’t) but is useful nonetheless. There are lots of other tarot cards from different sets, too. You can still get the book secondhand, if not new - I believe there are twelve copies on Amazon at the moment, although there is a review on there that mentions the ‘abysmal quality’ of the cards. I use Dover Clip Art stuff all the time and have been really pleased with it, although perhaps my requirements are not as exacting as yours may need to be for publishing purposes. Abysmal or otherwise, it may be an indication as to the whereabouts of the copyright, at least!

Hope this helps

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Helenoran462
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Re: Still tracking copyright for Rider Waite Tarot Cards

Post by Helenoran462 »

Thanks for this response; sorry I've not replied sooner but I'm still living in hope Random House might get back to me. (laughs hysterically)

I might send them another email... "Eagerly anticipating your reply with bated breath" kind of thing. :shock:

Unfortunately the Dover Book wouldn't work for me, because I'm going to need more than ten images of the cards... and they've got to be good quality. I think Random House are just going to drag it out for as long as they can; what makes it worse is that I also need to contact them about quoting a few lines from one of the Flower Fairy poems by Cicely Mary Barker but I can't be bothered... they've been so uncooperative that I'm feeling like it's all a bit hopeless, to be honest. :(

I know that the cards will be free and clear come Dec. 31, 2021 but I'm honestly starting to believe they're in the public domain anyway because of the way they've been stonewalling me. That might be a dangerous attitude to take, but I think if they owned copyright they would SAY so. Or maybe I'm just getting frustrated by it all.
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Re: Still tracking copyright for Rider Waite Tarot Cards

Post by AndyJ »

Hi Helen,

Thanks for the update, even though there appears to have been no progress whatsoever. Sadly I suspect they just can't be bothered, either because they don't actually know whether or not they own the rights, or possibly because the end of the copyright term is so close, they don't think it's worth their time to sort the matter out. I really don't think Covid is a reasonable excuse, because this sort of thing could be handled even by staff working from home.

As far as the quotes from Cicely Mary Barker are concerned, I suggest you just proceed using the exception in section 30 (1ZA). I watched an very interesting presentation on Youtube the other day by Professors Lionel Bently and Tanya Aplin (two highly respected academics in the IP world) in which they proposed that the quotation exception as embodied in the Berne Convention should be applied much more liberally, and that publishers usually take too narrow a view about what is 'fair'.
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Helenoran462
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Re: Still tracking copyright for Rider Waite Tarot Cards

Post by Helenoran462 »

Thank you for that link, Andy! I will sit down and watch the video... I think I'm covered by (1ZA)c where it says "the extent of the quotation is no more than is required by the specific purpose for which it is used..."
I only make use one line of one of the poems, and the scenario is that my main character, (who is a child at the time) recites the line when she comes across the relevant flower in a garden... only she misunderstands some of the words and substitutes 'puppies' for 'poppies'- so it's not an exact quote.

I don't give acknowledgment fully, because although the books are mentioned by title the characters don't discuss the author's name... it seemed too clunky to work it into the dialogue.

As to the Rider Waite cards... I'll try Random House one more time. Thanks to the current situation with Covid, there's certainly no rush.
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Re: Still tracking copyright for Rider Waite Tarot Cards

Post by Nick Cooper »

I would suggest that you fully attribute the (mis)quote, either on the copyright page, or in any foreword or acknowledgements page you include. Even a footnote on the actual text page would work.
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