Protecting Artists’ Work – can WE help?

Published by Alison Cross on

When I’m creating a blog post here at Thrones Towers, I like to illustrate it with one or two card images.

Sometimes it’s the image that’s important, rather than the card.  For example, if I am blogging about masks, I might search for a Tarot card that shows a mask: I’m not concerned whether it’s the 10 of Swords or The Magician.

Other times, I might be talking about a specific card or even a specific card in a specific deck: Would any Page of Wands card would do? Let’s pick some nice ones!  Or maybe I need the Page of Wands from Alexander Daniloff’s Tarot specifically. So, let’s go get him!

What do I do?

I would like to tell you that I go to every artist and ask for their permission to use their cards in my blog posts, but I don’t.

That’s not because I don’t respect the artists that have created this work, but if I asked for permission for everything, I stand the risk of being refused or (worse?!) ignored and then unsure about whether I ought to proceed or not.  Should I ask EVERY time I want to use a card from that artist’s deck? Sheesh, Alexander Daniloff is going to get really sick of seeing my name pop up in his inbox!

There has been some discussion on other platforms about what constitutes ‘fair use’ and I regard my blog as ‘fair use’:  I am not selling the images.  I am not passing them off as my own work.  I am commenting on the artwork or I am (I hope!) using the artworks to help with understanding the Court Cards – so they are a sort of learning tool.

On the other hand, if I wanted to create, for example, an e-book, I wouldn’t DREAM of using an artist’s work without their permission and would expect to pay them (and possibly also the publisher) for the privilege of being associated with their artwork.

Yet artists are finding their work popping up in unexpected places.  It can be entire copies of their hard-crafted decks, such as happens with sad regularity to the creative powers at +Baba Studios.  Will Worthington’s work, for example, has been found on giant-sized poster artworks.

Taking someone’s work, their livelihood and making money from it without paying the genius behind the paintbrush?  That’s not on.

There are grey areas though – what about when you sell a reading to someone and want to include a scan of the cards used in the layout?  What about if you want to use an artist’s work in the header of your blog?  *cough* Or your avatar on facebook?  Or pin an image in Pinterest?

I think that both artist and admirer have a role to play in protecting the artist’s work.  Artists could create FAQ pages on their websites or blogs which outline what uses of their work they deem acceptable for free use (eg blog headers, avatars, newsletter header images etc)  and that for all other uses, admirers should expect to pay a fee (on business cards, in training materials etc)  And those FAQ pages would grow as more innovative uses for their artworks are put forward to them (would it be free to use a card’s image as the basis for your new tattoo, for example?!)

We, as admirers of an artist’s work, can play a part in protecting our artists by watermarking every image that we use.  And when I say ‘watermark’ I mean any marking directly to the card image with the artist’s name, source and website. Take a look at Nimue, illustrating this blog post.  She’s gorgeous, isn’t she? She’s by Will Worthington and anyone using this image will see that.

Marking artworks in this way will:

1  Prevent unauthorised use of YOUR scanned card image by an unscrupulous downloader.
2  Act as an advert for the artist if the image IS used (eg pinned on Pinterest) or shared on another blog
    because any viewer will immediately know who the artist is, where the card comes from and the url
    for the artist’s site.

Adding a caption beneath the image on your blog is not enough, it’s not protecting that piece of art.  It doesn’t travel WITH the artwork to any another site.

We LOVE these artists, let’s do what we can to protect their work πŸ™‚

Alison Cross

The Tarot's Court Cards are my specialist area.Β  They talk to me. Not LITERALLY though ....


Inner Whispers · 26th April 2013 at 5:16 pm

Thanks for an inspiring post, Ali. Okay, you've convinced me to do this for more than just self-published decks πŸ˜€ However, I still won't do it on Llewellyn decks, as it specifically goes against their legal requirements for bloggers – stupid, but there you go!

Anonymous · 23rd April 2013 at 5:13 pm

Thank you for this, Alison. I had not thought about using a watermark before but will endeavour to do so now.

For Lenormand on my blog I tend to stick to the Cartamundi version, as it’s one I know I can use for my course as it's free, and there is credit to that and the other decks on my blog (including the DruidCraft).

I do think we have a role to play as the bloggers; I’m always happy when people tell me, for example, they’ve gone and got the Wildwood or the Cartamundi petit-Lenormand, but I guess if we contribute to desiring a deck we must, by virtue of the same beast, help protect against bootleg decks.

Alison Cross · 23rd April 2013 at 4:41 pm

Carla – are you mac or pc?

Carla · 23rd April 2013 at 4:18 pm

Tell us how to make a watermark, please. It's a major breakthrough for me to even scan.

    Inner Whispers · 26th April 2013 at 5:14 pm

    You can do it using free on-line software at, then it doesn't matter if you're Mac or PC πŸ˜‰

Anonymous · 23rd April 2013 at 4:16 pm

Many thanks to Sharyn for the Lo Scarabeo link. I was just going to go find out for a card image I want to use in TABI tracker.

RE the protection: I agree, Alison, that the easiest way for us to properly display people's images is if artists/publishers give us a FAQ or policy statement so we don't have to bug them all the time. I know Llewellyn insists on approving each image, but most have more blanket policies that make it possible to use multiple images over time as long as you are not profiting from them directly. I like Worthington's FAQ; it gave me just the info I needed to post two of his Wildwood cards on my site without wondering if I'm doing the right thing.

I think as long as we are giving proper reference and not profiting directly from the images, it should be fair use. Not sure I want to put watermarks on really old deck images, like the RWS or Thoth, but you've got me thinking I should make sure they are on images for more recent decks. You are right, Alison; captions are not really sufficient.

Sharyn Mallow Woerz · 23rd April 2013 at 1:35 pm

Not too long ago Ric @ Lo Scarabeo announced they had a new policy for using their card images., their former policy was 6 images could be used.

It is spitting in the wind though. I called a newspaper editor on copyright issues a few years ago and his actual words were "I found it on the web so anyone can use it. Sad from someone who should know much better.

stitcheranon · 23rd April 2013 at 12:45 pm

It is difficult. I know if we use another persons research in the world of Academia, as long as we correctly reference them and state it is their work then we are fine. It isnt plagurism: we are just using their results to support our own and we are giving them credit for it. I think we should be able to use them on blogs and things as long as we reference them: I am pretty sure they have made sales through somebody else showing part of of their work somewhere; and you arent asking for commission are you πŸ˜‰

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