What you should know about posting images here

Major Tom

I post this thread following recent reports of attempted theft and theft of images/ideas.

You must know that your work is at risk when you post it to the internet. It is unfortunate that this is a real risk.

There are however, certain steps you can take to protect yourself. I invite anyone to add to this thread with their advice.

My advice is to document and register.

Here's two useful links for those in the UK:



I propose to give this thread a few weeks or so to allow plenty of time for contributions. After this unspecified period of time I intend to edit the thread and make it a sticky at the top of this board. I may contact contributors regarding their contributions. Anyone of course is welcome to contact me directly regarding this or with any concerns they have about the Tarot Deck Creation Board.

Major Tom
Moderator Tarot Deck Creation Board.


Oh, what a timely and useful thread. Thank you, Major Tom.

My own experiences with copyright violations have involved text, and legal assistance became necessary. The attorney told me that (at least in the US), ability to document the first appearance of a creation (for example, a post on this forum) is not a legal guarantee of ownership; in order for a copyright to be legally valid, whatever one has created must be formally registered with the US Office of Patents and Trademarks.

It is also important to remember that an idea thief can steal not only an image someone else has created, but the concept behind it. In this instance, it is even more difficult to prove copyright violation, but it is still possible if the image has been registered, since an idea is considered "intellectual property."

Major Tom

Astraea said:
The attorney told me that (at least in the US), ability to document the first appearance of a creation (for example, a post on this forum) is not a legal guarantee of ownership; in order for a copyright to be legally valid, whatever one has created must be formally registered with the US Office of Patents and Trademarks.

Thanks for this Astraea, but the attorney did not give you the correct information.

A useful link for our US Friends:


If you follow the link for general copyright questions you find:

"When is my work protected?
Your work is under copyright protection the moment it is created and fixed in a tangible form that it is perceptible either directly or with the aid of a machine or device. "

Any post made here is automatically copyrighted. :)


Wow -- the attorney told me that the forms for fixing a copyright are downloadable from the government website and it costs $35 per item to register. I followed up with a phone call to the Patent and Trademark office, and they confirmed the attorney's advice. The rationale (as it was presented to me) is that, simply because a creation appears with a date affixed to it in some manner, doesn't mean that the person claiming copyright didn't streal the material from an undated source (and thus manipulate the facts).


i was just wondering. how would one present digital documents to the said offices to acquire their necessary copyrights? is the work presented, say in some image format in a cd rom (digital medium) considered as such, "tangible"? :)


Blue_Fusion, I don't know -- the only scenario I have experience with involves the printed word, with copies of those articles being sent by snail mail to the appropriate office. Presumably, you could do the same with a printout of an image or CD, but that's just speculation on my part. My own incident happened two years ago, and perhaps the Internet as a developing publication medium has caused the laws to be revisited. One thing is certain -- this area of law is very complex.

Edited to say that there are attorneys nowadays who specialize in copyright applications of Internet law (which is something of an oxymoron, considering what a new frontier this is). To be on the safe side, it would probably be wise for anyone who wishes to protect his or her work on-line to contact such an attorney and ask a few basic questions. I spoke with three attorneys initially and settled on one, and none of them charged me to answer questions about copyright law in my initial phone call.


Patents and Trademarks are different than copyrights. At least in the USA.

A copyright covers the actual art that's produced (soon as your name or a copyright symbol is written on it -that indicates it's yours, yet for full coverage to be legally protected you need to file a form VA with the copyright office, it's $30). Getting a copyright number assigned to it gives you a solid standing in case you have to go to court. (A copyright lawyer charges at least $175 an hour, but consultations are free). They have info on digital copyrights at the copyright site online, you only have to send a form of it to them with the filing fee--you can do a hard copy printout, send a CD, a video, whatever. They just need a copy. Once you have something you physically sell, if it's done on printed paper, just send a copy of that. If you make changes to the thing (say you change three cards in a deck) you send them an update, it doesn't have to be refiled or anything. Dollmakers go through this all the time with molds & limited editions. One thing--if you file BEFORE the item is made sellable to the public, you only send one copy. If you file AFTER you start selling the item, you have to send two copies. I filed my Ferret Tarot just after I sold the first one so I had to send two decks. It takes about 3 months for them to send paperwork back to you with the numbers, but you're covered soon as you drop the envelope with the item & form in the mail to them.

The forms are over here: http://www.copyright.gov/forms/ go down to form VA for visual arts & click on that. There's a long form (if you're doing the work for another, or if someone else is involved you need the long form) and a short form (if it's your creation to sell, then use this). And they have all sorts of instructions with it. They're very easy to fill out. It took me under 3 minutes to do the short form.

A patent covers an idea, usually for a physical item, or the actual 3-D part of a physical item. Like the locking system in a particular brand of snow ski, or the outer appearance of a brand of cell phone or pager. It's harder to quantify patents since they cover a wide range. You can't patent a book, for instance, that would be a copyright. But if you have an idea like the Chicken Soup for the Soul books, THAT'S a patentable thing. It's a concept that forms around something specific.

A trademark is a logo or sign you use for your business (like the NBC peacock, the Nike squiggle line, the Aunt Jemima lady).

You probably can register a tarot deck under a patent, but you won't get the coverage against theft you would have if you'd registered it with a copyright. For art, you need the copyright.


Hudson, you seem very well-versed in such matters. Thank you so much for what you've clarified here. (I just hope the copyright system there is similar to the one here in the Philippines LOL). Hmmm, i've yet another question to ask. If your work is copyrighted in, say the US, would that same copyright hold true internationally (in any country will that copyright be upheld)? :)



Aw I just went through it with the Ferret Tarot in October and with one of my original dolls two years back. Had to get a copyright lawyer to keep my doll from being made by an unscrupulous person who tried to get me to ok his making them for free then tried to make them on the sly (he bought one & tore it apart for the pattern, then had 5,000 made in China, two months later). So that's how I know these things so far.

That, and the dollmakers list I'm on has been going over the copyright stuff on molds, resin dolls & polymer clay faeries, the discussion there has been running all week. Dolls fall into the same category for copyright as tarot decks do. When I was talking to the copyright lawyer she was the one who explained the differences in copyrights, patents and trademarks, and what was better to have for legal recourses.

Other countries may do things differently, but are probably similar to the laws here, more or less.
Good question about if it covers against infringement by other countries, I had to go back to the government site to check that out. Here's the statement they had on the site:

Question: Is my copyright good in other countries? ---
Answer: The United States has copyright relations with most countries throughout the world, and as a result of these agreements, we honor each other's citizens' copyrights. However, the United States does not have such copyright relationships with every country. For a listing of countries and the nature of their copyright relations with the United States, see Circular 38a, International Copyright Relations of the United States.

Circular 38a is here: http://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ38a.pdf

The Philippines is on it with several dates.