Tarot Copyright Essentials 5/5 (4)


Tarot Copyright Understanding copyright regulations related to Tarot and rules of mass publishers allow you to avoid copyright infringements.

  1. Current Legislature (2019)

For new Tarot cards creators, there are two important conventions: the Berne Convention (BC) and the Universal Copyright Convention (UCC).

Under BC:

  • Authors shall have, in Berne signatory countries, copyright protection for their works amounting to ‘national treatment’ i.e. the same rights which those other countries grant their own nationals and governed by the same domestic laws.
  • Protection is not subject to any formalities (for example registration in the US).
  • Copyright starts when the work is created (or fixed in material form) for the rest of the life of the author plus a minimum of 50 years from the death of the author unless domestic laws allow for a longer period (e.g. 70 years in the US and EU).

UCC contains the same key principles as BC, but the minimum term of copyright is the life of the author plus 25 years.

  1. Historical decks

The Rider-Waite-Smith (RWS) Tarot deck:

  • Author: Dr Arthur Edward Waite
  • Artist: Pamela Colman Smith
  • First Publisher: William Rider And Son of London,
  • Year: 1910
  • Copyright status: Is under copyright (US trademark No. 1-640-623,1991, and sub-license)
  • Copyright foundations: The cards were first published in 1910 under exclusive license by A. E. Waite’s publisher Rider & Co and were subsequently republished by the successors of Rider & Co, Hutchinson Publishing Group.

The Thoth Tarot deck:

  • Author: Aleister Crowley
  • Artist: Lady Frieda Harris
  • Publisher: AGM/AGMuller
  • Year: 1977
  • Copyright status: Is under copyright
  • Copyright foundations: The images will remain in copyright until 2032 (Lady Frieda Harris died in 1962). According to the Berne Convention and current EU and UK copyright law, the work passes into the public domain 70 years after the death of the author.

The Marseille Tarot deck:

  • Author: Unknown
  • Artist: Unknown
  • First Publisher: Pierre Madenié of France
  • Year: 1709
  • Copyright status: In the public domain
  • Copyright foundations: N/A

The Sola Busca Tarot deck:

  • Author: Nicola di Maestro Antonio of Florence
  • Artist: Unknown
  • First Publisher: Wolfgang Mayer of Germany (reprinted in 1998)
  • Year: 1491
  • Copyright status: Is under copyright
  • Copyright foundations: The images will remain in copyright; the copyright holder is currently the Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities of the Italian government (Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan).

Tarot Copyright

The detailed guidelines of copyrighted Tarot cards images reproduction issued by the mass producers, including U.S. Games Systems, Inc., Llewellyn Worldwide, Lo Scarabeo, and Schiffer is available here

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