|The Lovers as inspired by|
The One I Love
Dear Rich: I am creating a Tarot card deck that is made from original paintings of famous people, or movie scenes all based on photos. I'm not sure how much is infringement or fair use, or do I need permission for each card, or can it fall as "Parody"? I intend to self publish this deck but would like to know the "risk " involved. We've taken a look at some of your samples and we think the risk meter is low for your Tarot deck. As you're probably aware, the underlying concepts of the various cards (or visualizations) are not proprietary and the most famous set of visualizations is in the public domain.
Your imagery. Thanks for letting us see your deck. Most of the underlying (original) photos are copyright-protected and you would need permission unless you could claim fair use. You have a reasonable fair use defense based on your distinct style and transformative use (although the cards would probably not qualify as parody). More important than a fair use defense, we doubt whether the copyright owners (should they see your cards) would go after you because of the probability of a Pyrrhic victory in court. Our conclusion might be different if all of the cards were from one movie or TV show, or if the cards were licensed by a large manufacturer with a substantial ad budget. But you should be secure with a self-published set.
P.S. Dept. You inspired us to create a Tarot card dedicated to a movie we saw recently.