This a very odd situation so please read closely. I have been organizing a community-wide project in the fanbase of a video series where various artists can volunteer to draw and submit their art in the form of tarot cards for a complete deck (any minors 17 and younger who are participating are required to receive their parents written permission to submit their art.) These artists are going to be credited in the form of an included booklet with each deck, which all artists have agreed is adequate. I have been given written permission from the creator and copyright holder of the video series to run this project and sell the completed deck on the agreed condition that 100% of the profits go to charity. I do not believe I have any need to file a copyright as the source material is not mine, we are simply using it with permission. It should also be noted that this is not going to be sold forever, rather it is a limited edition deck that, once the preorder listing expires, will never be sold again. As for writing the copyright footer on the physical box, how would I write this out? I've seen online examples such as "© 2020/2021 ExampleName" but I'm unsure if that would transfer to a physical product. I am also unsure if I should write any copyright information on the listing itself (likely through Etsy, since it's cheaper and more secure). If so, how would I do that? Any help is appreciated, thank you!

  • in some way, this reminds me of Magic cards: each card should bear the artist name...
    – Trish
    Commented Feb 22, 2022 at 20:33

1 Answer 1


Interesting project, it reminds me a bit of the Fantasy Showcase Tarot deck, organized by Bruce Pelz, each card by a different artist. see also https://www.etsy.com/listing/1138714395/fantasy-showcase-tarot-vintage-bruce But to get to an answer ...

In the US, the use of any copyright notice has been option since the 1976 Copyright act became effective in 1978. 17 USC 401 provides that:

(a) General Provisions.—Whenever a work protected under this title is published in the United States or elsewhere by authority of the copyright owner, a notice of copyright as provided by this section may be placed on publicly distributed copies from which the work can be visually perceived, either directly or with the aid of a machine or device. [emphasis added]

(b) Form of Notice.—If a notice appears on the copies, it shall consist of the following three elements:

(1) the symbol © (the letter C in a circle), or the word “Copyright”, or the abbreviation “Copr.”; and

(2) the year of first publication of the work; in the case of compilations or derivative works incorporating previously published material, the year date of first publication of the compilation or derivative work is sufficient. The year date may be omitted where a pictorial, graphic, or sculptural work, with accompanying text matter, if any, is reproduced in or on greeting cards, postcards, stationery, jewelry, dolls, toys, or any useful articles; and

(3) the name of the owner of copyright in the work, or an abbreviation by which the name can be recognized, or a generally known alternative designation of the owner.


(d) Evidentiary Weight of Notice.—If a notice of copyright in the form and position specified by this section appears on the published copy or copies to which a defendant in a copyright infringement suit had access, then no weight shall be given to such a defendant’s interposition of a defense based on innocent infringement in mitigation of actual or statutory damages, except as provided in the last sentence of section 504(2).

The rule is the same in every country that has joined the Berne Copyright Convention or the WTO's TRIPS agreement, and that is almost every country in the world.

So no notice at all is required. But a notice can be of value even though it is not legally required. It makes it clear that the work is under copyright, it documents the publication date (which is useful for a limited edition) and it makes it hard for an infringer to claim not to have realized that the work is protected by copyright, I think it also feels more professional.

Each individual card would be copyrighted by the author (artist) of that card. But the deck as a whole is what copyright law calls a compilation or a collective work, and as such there is a copyright on the deck as a whole. Both copyrights should ideally be mentioned in a notice. (Both copyrights exist whether there is a notice or not, and whether they are registered or not.)

If there is a name for the organization that is issuing and selling this deck, that could be used in a notice. Say it was called "The Seaside Tarot Project". Then a reasonable copyright notice would be:

Deck copyright © 2022 Seaside Tarot Project; individual cards copyright © 2022 by their individual authors. All rights reserved.

(The last line could be omitted if space is limited. It adds little.)

If the is no organization name to use (note that it is trivial to create an unincorporated voluntary association for such a purpose), then a notice could cite you as organizer:

Deck copyright © 2022 Ryan {name}; individual cards copyright © 2022 by their individual authors. All rights reserved.

Either form makes it clear that the individual artists retain the rights to their individual art, which I gather is the intent here. A similar notice could be used in an online description of the deck, such as on etsy.

The question says:

I do not believe I have any need to file a copyright as the source material is not mine, we are simply using it with permission.

I suppose that by "file a copyright" you mean "register the copyright". Registration is not required, but has some advantages. In the US it is needed before a suit for infringement can be brought, and if it is filed before any infringement occurs, statutory damages are available. Such damages which can be anywhere from $750 to $30,ooo per work infringed, or if the infringement is "wilful" up to $150,000. Statutory damages do not require proof of actual monetary damages.

There is a fee for registration. For "Registration of a claim in a group of unpublished works" the US fee is $85. Other US fees can be found here. More information on the US copyright registration process is here.

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