Copyright Laws and Card Making

Dana Hinders
If you plan to sell your handmade cards, make sure you obey copyright laws.

If you're planning to start a home based craft business, it's important to understand the link between copyright laws and card making.

About U.S. Copyright Law

Copyright is a concept that allows the original creator of an artistic work, whether it's a movie, book, painting, or handmade greeting card, exclusive rights to the product in question. Copyright laws are an important part of what makes it possible for creative individuals to make a living from the sale of their intellectual property.

Although copyright law may sound insignificant when compared to other legal offenses, a violation that involves more than 10 unauthorized copies and a value of over $2,500 is actually considered a felony. However, you can still violate copyright law even if you don't charge for your product - the amount of money involved only affects the damages that can be awarded in a civil suit. Therefore, it's smart to have at least a basic understanding of the importance of copyright before beginning any type of creative business endeavor.

A Guide to Copyright Laws and Card Making

When discussing copyright laws and card making, it's important to distinguish between how to obey the law when creating products to sell and how to product your own personal intellectual property.

Obeying Copyright Law in Your Own Work

To obey copyright law when creating your own handmade greeting cards, remember the following tips:

  • Don't copy the work of another artist without permission.
  • A short quote is typically not copyrighted, but don't use a quote on your card design without the correct attribution.
  • Never assume that something is in the public domain. When in doubt about whether or not it is legal to use a particular item, always check. Clip art, fonts, and graphics downloaded from Web sites usually have a terms of use form attached that says if the product is for non-commercial use only. Companies that sell rubber stamps often have a published Angel Policy that explains whether or not you can sell handmade items that include their products.

Protecting Your Original Designs

While it's certainly important to make sure you follow all applicable copyright laws when creating your own card making projects, you may want to investigate ways to protect your original designs as well. If you are trying to start a card making business, having a unique product is an essential part of your livelihood.While you don't need to include a copyright notice on your designs to be entitled to legal protection, many people feel a notice is an easy way to discourage others from the inappropriate use of your card making projects. If you want to add a copyright notice to your work, the correct form is "Copyright [dates] by [author/owner]."

If you believe someone has violated copyright law by inappropriately using your original work, it's not always necessary to contact a lawyer immediately. Since many people do not have good understanding of copyright law, a polite but firm letter to the offending party will often be effective in resolving the matter.

Additional Information

To learn more about copyright laws and card making, LoveToKnow Crafts recommends visiting the following helpful resources:

  • Fairs and Festivals explains derivitave works, works for hire, and other common copyright concerns for artists.
  • U.S. Copyright Office takes a look at why copyright law is important to protecting the livelihood of artists and designers.
  • Online Art Magazine has an informative essay about essential copyright law concepts, as well as links to resources that provide additional information.

Patents, Copyrights & Trademarks for Dummies is also a useful reference book for card makers, since it explains legal concepts in easy-to-understand language.

Copyright Laws and Card Making