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Tarot Card Copyright

Tarot copyright.

The Tarot and the Public Domain


The Tarot cards have their European origin in the Renaissance, so they are as such part of the public domain. But what about the Rider-Waite Tarot cards that I allow myself to use on this website? Well, from the year 2012, they're free as well.



       On this website I use both the images and the texts of the Rider-Waite Tarot card deck, which is by far the most popular one. It's my favorite, too - at least until I find the time to make my own version.

       It was published in 1909 and has been reprinted countless times since. The deck was designed by the occult writer A. E. Waite (1857-1942) and the artist Pamela Colman Smith (1878-1951). Rider was the name of the original publisher.

Arthur Edward Waite        European copyright laws stipulate that an artistic work becomes part of the public domain 70 years after the death of the author. So, for Waite (see the photo) it's the case the very year I write this: 2012. For the illustrator Colman Smith it happens in another nine years, but she is not accredited as an author. She was an illustrator who received a fee on delivery and that was it.

       Therefore, from this year on, both the text and the images of the Rider-Waite Tarot card deck are copyright free. In other parts of the world, for example the USA, the copyright period is even shorter. To my knowledge, there is no country where it's longer than 70 years.

       Therefore, we can expect to see a lot of use of the Rider-Waite Tarot in different media, from now on. My website is an example of it, although I started working on it before I knew of this circumstance. Just pure luck, I guess.


Post-mortem Copyright

I'm a writer, myself, so I agree with the copyright principle, at least during the lifetime of the artist: If money is made on his or her art, then of course a substantial part of it should go to the artist and any such business must have the approval of the artist.

       About prolonging that copyright 50 or even 70 years after the author's death, though, I'm not equally convinced.

       Very often it leads to problems, when relatives start to have a say about the art in question. Either they gladly sell it to circumstances the artist would never have associated with, or they suddenly censor the art in some sort of misguided care for the reputation of the artist. Very often they fight among themselves about the control of the inherited copyright and its revenue.

       Usually, the ones profiting the most on the prolonged copyright are the lawyers.

       Anyway, regarding the Rider- Waite Tarot card deck, this dilemma is over. Probably, it will result in the work of Waite and Colman Smith continuing to spread and receive appreciation for many years to come. I'm sure they wouldn't mind that.

       More on the Tarot copyright issue at Sacred-texts.com.





The Book

Tarot Unfolded. Book by Stefan Stenudd. Tarot Unfolded

This book focuses on the Tarot card images and their allegorical symbols. Several spreads are introduced, as well as the meanings of all the 78 cards and their pictures. The book will help you find your own intuitive way of making inspired Tarot card readings. Click the image to see the book at Amazon.

More about the book here.

My Other Websites:


I Ching Online

The 64 hexagrams of the Chinese classic I Ching and what they mean in divination. Try it online for free.


Complete Horoscope

How predictions are done in classical astrology with the full horoscope chart. Many examples.


Creation Myths

Creation stories from around the world, and the ancient cosmology they reveal.


Other Books of Mine

Your Health in Your Horoscope. Book by Stefan Stenudd.

Your Health in Your Horoscope

What the horoscope says about your health, according to the old tradition of medical astrology. Click the image to see the book (and Kindle ebook) at Amazon.


Life Energy Encyclopedia. Book by Stefan Stenudd.

Life Energy Encyclopedia

Qi, prana, spirit, pneuma, and many other life forces around the world explained and compared. Click the image to see the book at Amazon.


Stefan Stenudd, Swedish author of fiction and non-fiction. Stefan Stenudd


About me

I'm a Swedish author. In addition to fiction, I've written books about the Tarot, Taoism, astrology and other metaphysical traditions. I'm also an historian of ideas, researching ancient mythology. Click the image to get to my personal website.

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