Recoloring RWS tarot


Can I sell a recolored version of the waite smith tarot?

By this I mean, are the cards public domain?


I have a feeling that US Games owns the copyright for the images so I don't think you can, no.


Don't rely on me, but I think they only own copyright to the coloured ones....


You might find this link useful

From what I can gather from this is that the RWS and the PTK went in to the public domain in 2012.

US Games lost their right to enforce their copyright law in 1985, if you wish to claim a new copyright then it must be a have a substantial amount of original creative work added to it, then you have a copyright for your version only.

The only way I see US Games having a successful claim on copyright is if you use any of their decks or copy their card backs or card boxes.
Because their such a giant company and have the monopoly on selling RWS decks they will try to get you to buy a license fee from them to create your deck.

But in my opinion if they did take you to court for copyright infringement I don't think it would hold up in a court of law, as long as you have added your own creative addition to the original Line drawing from 1910, and created your own backs and box design for the deck.

To ease your mind you can also consult a copyright lawyer with whatever creation you come up with the original Line drawings.


This link discussing the copyright of RWS here has been posted on AT quite a few times before. The gist of the link is that most countries have copyright for 70 years after the death of the creator / author, A.E Waite died in 1942 and so copyright should have expired in 2012. But now USGames is saying that it's the date of the commissioned artist Pamela Colman Smith and she died in 1951 and so 70 years is 2021! The blog is legal speculation and no one really knows unless someone challenges it in court but it's going to be very expensive to do that! If you want to recolour it santasser get legal advice!

I have seen some black and white versions of RWS around, I am not sure how they were published but on the other side, some tarot apps have published RWS and forced to remove it in territories with the 70 years copyright still in operation. So most people don't take risks on AT in this area.


That is really a tricky question. In principle the deck should be in public domain. But US Games defends it rights with everything they got and there is a big chance they would send you a 'cease or destroy' order for your decks. Or even take you to court.

You really need to get some proper legal advice if you want to do this.

The Illuminated Tarot was indeed completely redrawn. But the Aquatic Tarot is also a complete redrawing and yet the author has not dared or attempted to get it published. Even though people love it.


I wonder if contacting US Games and asking about it would get you an answer?


I wonder if contacting US Games and asking about it would get you an answer?

I have a feeling that no matter my legal rights, they will say I cannot do it.