Talk:Rider-Waite tarot deck

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uninformed comment[edit]

Well this is very wrong.... the egiptian tarot is the oldest one ... and it looks like it is very well documented as being given to humanity by hermes trismegistus... and that there are conections vith the hebrew alphabet: 22 major arcans - 22 leters in hebrew alphabet

You are correct in titling your remark an uninformed comment. There is no historical basis for an Egyptian origin for the tarot, which emerged in Italy as a playing card game, most likely inspired by similar games known to the Ottoman Turks. It was through association with gambling as a game of chance that tarot came to be used as a method for assessing an individual's luck or fortune. Dice, dominoes and even mah jong tiles have been used in the same way. Italian fashions in allegorical symbolism in secular art contributed the striking emblematic design of the trumps. Occult associations were not grafted onto the playing card deck until the 19th century, some five hundred years after the cards were invented. 68.0.100.180 (talk) 09:49, 31 January 2016 (UTC)
Almost ten years between the original post and the reply. A new WP talk page record? --5.65.87.152 (talk) 19:04, 20 March 2016 (UTC)

Errors in the Rider-Waite article[edit]

Some factual errors I noticed in the Rider-Waite article:

1. 'The subjects remain close to the earliest decks, but usually have added details.' -- I'm unsure what exactly is meant by subject. The earliest decks were very different from even the later Marselleis family designs, and Waite's deck was a radical departure from those decks.

2. 'Significantly, Waite had the Christian imagery of older tarot decks' cards toned down—the "Pope" card became the "Hierophant," the "Popess" became the "High Priestess."' -- This change predates Waite. I'm not sure where and when the cards were first given these titles, but the cards are listed with these titles in the Golden Dawn document Book T, the creation of which predated Waite's deck and to which Waite certainly had access.

3. 'Several decks, such as the Universal Waite deck, simply copy the Smith line drawings, but with more sophisticated coloring.' -- The Universal Waite Deck is not a simple recolorization. Additions are made to all of Smith's original designs in addition to the recolorization of the cards.

4. 'In 1910, The Pictorial Key to the Tarot by A.E. Waite was published...' -- This book was preceeded by the Key to the Tarot published in 1909, an earlier edition of the book that omitted the pictures of the tarot cards.

5. 'Rider-Waite clones' -- This term is informal and I doubt any good citation will ever be found for its usage. The term, however, doesn't refer to the ease of readability but rather having a strong structural and symbolic similarity to Waite's deck. The list of clones is rather limited and several of the decks are actually just Rider-Waite decks with additional pictures or recolorings.

6. "The Tower" card (that's supposed to come right after The Devil) is missing. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Anahatalie (talkcontribs) 06:22, 23 November 2010 (UTC)

As an added note, it seems to me as if there is a lot of additional information readily available concerning the creation of the deck, publication history, recolorizations, and some issues that have been advanced (such as the plagerism of the Sola-Busca tarot or the copyright issue) that could be included in the article.

I agree that someone who really knows this subject and has good reference books at hand should clean this article up. I can't do it, though I'm an admirer of this deck. Meanwhile, I've worked on a few of the points mentioned by Anahatalie. FWIW, the copyright issue is actually crystal clear as regards the United States (less so elsewhere) and should not be obfuscated.Valli Nagy 01:23, 29 March 2011 (UTC) — Preceding unsigned comment added by ValliNagy (talkcontribs)

RobertJoseph 14:26, 2 June 2007 (UTC)

Major arcanum 12 The Hanged Man appears to be missing. BTLizard (talk) 09:50, 19 November 2007 (UTC)

Clarification Needed[edit]

"The minor arcana are also, like the earlier Sola Busca Tarot, fully illustrated with designs created by Pamela Colman Smith" - sounds as if the 15th century Sola Busca Tarot were illustrated by Smith, which they obviously weren't. I'd fix it, but I can't decide what point the writer was trying to make. Irish Melkite 11:56, 17 June 2007 (UTC)

Who wrote the comment at the top, full of mispelled words? The tarot is not from Egypt; the article is correct, although the tarot makes use of ancient imagery and philosophy, some of it from Egypt. Tarot correlations to the letters were added by Levi and other 19th century occultists.Eameece (talk) 09:02, 5 December 2010 (UTC)

That's not the Rider Deck[edit]

The pictures of the different cards of the major arcana are not the Rider-Waite tarot deck. They are the Universal Waite deck... I know its not a big difference but it should at least be marked that way if not changed. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 74.186.111.49 (talk) 06:00, 12 January 2008 (UTC)

Actually, no. They weren't the Universal Waite deck either. They were recoloured versions produced by one of the editors here so as to avoid copyright infringement of the US Games 1971 version of the deck. I've just replaced all the images with images from a 1909 Rider-Waite-Smith deck, which is most representative of the original artists' intentions, and have the benefit of being in the public domain. I've explained this all in a bit more depth at Talk:Minor Arcana#Copyright infraction. Cheers, Fuzzypeg 00:56, 7 May 2008 (UTC)
Why is it missing a card? —Preceding unsigned comment added by 216.171.129.224 (talk) 15:33, 8 October 2010 (UTC)
The Nine of Wands, to be exact. ZtObOr 00:28, 13 October 2010 (UTC)


¶ I think the reference to the James Bond movie, Live and Let Die, is in error. A special, artsy, tarot deck was designed for the movie and then sold as a tie-in (and still available on the market), and it is that deck that appears everywhere in the movie. The Waite deck does not appear at all. 01:49, 22 September 2013 (UTC)

There's a whole bunch of cards missing here[edit]

What gives? It looks like someone has been repeatedly "cleaning up" by removing cards, at least judging by a quick glance through the history. 198.109.173.45 (talk) 20:25, 23 November 2010 (UTC)

Where is the Tower card? Missing on the Tower card page too. Eameece (talk) 08:52, 5 December 2010 (UTC) Lovers and Chariot missing too. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Eameece (talkcontribs) 08:56, 5 December 2010 (UTC)

Rider-Waite, Waite-Smith, Rider-Waite-Smith?[edit]

I wonder if this article should be moved to a new heading to reflect the growing understanding of the importance of Smith's contribution to this deck? Certainly Rider-Waite is the traditional name, but in recent years I have begun seeing Waite-Smith and Rider-Waite-Smith more and more often. Keeping the old nomenclature only serves to continue the undervaluing of Smith's work on this deck and the overvaluing of Rider's role. My own preference would be for Waite-Smith, since they are the two creative talents behind these cards, and in general a publisher doesn't rise to the level of inclusion in the formal name of a creative work (if it's mentioned at all it's an afterthought: the Penguin edition of XYZ). But I understand that Rider-Waite-Smith might be a more comfortable transition for many people. What do others think? Valli Nagy 01:34, 29 March 2011 (UTC)

The difficulty is that Rider-Waite is the name of the deck in its original publication. Pamela Colman Smith's contribution is widely recognized today, but it was largely unknown at the time. Keeping the publication title, and then discussing how the female artist was marginalized by the designer and publisher, gives a truer historical overview than acknowledging Colman Smith in name and not telling the story of how her contributions were dismissed. 68.0.100.180 (talk) 10:24, 31 January 2016 (UTC)

Do the original drawings still exist?[edit]

Is it known whether the original drawings by Smith are still in existence? If so, is it known where they are located and/or who owns them? -- 77.7.129.188 (talk) 16:36, 17 April 2011 (UTC)

Copyright status[edit]

I'm amended the incorrect claim that the UK copyright of the deck is determined by the date of Waite's death. The previously cited source claims that Smith's later date of death is discounted, as her paintings were "work for hire" by Smith, but that is a concept that does not exist in UK copyright law in the same sense as in the US. Waite may well have owned the copyright as per his agreement to commission the artwork from Smith, but it is still the date of her death that determines when the copyright lapses, specifically 70 years after the end of the year of death. The date of Waite's death would only be used if the identity of the artist was not known, which obviously isn't the case. Nick Cooper (talk) 13:53, 15 March 2013 (UTC)

Text seems to have been changed back. Copyrights to all pre-1923 published versions of the cards have expired in the U.S. The U.K. copyrights may have been scheduled to expire in Dec. 2012 according to some old versions of the rules, but according to the current version of the rules, U.K. copyrights do not seem to have expired... AnonMoos (talk) 21:38, 19 May 2014 (UTC)
I don't know the UK rules, but I've added a footnote explaining the situation in the United States.Valli Nagy 01:53, 17 October 2014 (UTC) — Preceding unsigned comment added by ValliNagy (talkcontribs)
It seems my factual corrections were erroneously changed by an anon IP a few month after I made them. There is and never has been a "work for hire" concept in UK copyright law. Waite may have owned the copyright, but its UK duration is still determined by the date of Smith's death, which was later than Waite's. The US expiry date of 1966 appears to correspond to an initial 28 years plus the same again after a copyright renewal (in 1938, but we could really do with a source that it was actually renewed). I've tried to simply and clarify the section as much as possible. Nick Cooper (talk) 10:03, 17 October 2014 (UTC)

I know it's annoying that UK copyright was extended by chaining several retroactive changes in the law together, but amending the text to say what you wish the law was (or what a company said the law was in an old statement issued before the latest law changes kicked in), rather than what those with the most knowledge of current laws are saying, really accomplished nothing... AnonMoos (talk) 13:41, 20 July 2015 (UTC)

I see the copyright section has been subject to unconstructive wishful thinking again, so I have reverted it back to my text of 10:03, 17 October 2014, which I believe is the most accurate and simple representation of the situation. Contrary to Seoras's edit summary, the situation regarding the UK copyright is absolutely rock solid. That Colman-Smith was commissioned and paid a one-off fee by Waite is neither here nor there, since there has never been any US-style "work for hire" doctrine in UK copyright legislation. We presume that Waite owned the copyright, via the commission, but the term is still determined on the basis of Colman-Smith being a co-author. Under the 1911 Act protection was 50 years after the death of the first co-author, i.e. Waite in 1942 to the end of 1992. The 1956 Act changed to the last co-author to die, i.e. Colman-Smith in 1951 to the end of 2001, after which the 20 year extension to the 1995 amendments to the 1988 Act gives us the end of 2021. At no point did the artwork fall into the public domain in the UK. Nick Cooper (talk) 16:53, 5 November 2015 (UTC)

If you are going to amend the copyright status section then you need citations to back up what you are saying. Your entry and amendments are nothing other than personal opinions. The citation I've included source is from someone who's actually done research and been in correspondence with the copyright owner. If you have something to add then do so but do not overwrite content with personal interpretations. 121.98.33.3 (talk) 21:43, 7 November 2015 (UTC)

On the contrary, whoever wrote the Sacred Text site is clearly completely confused about UK copyright legislation, and thus is not even remotely a reliable source on this issue. Nick Cooper (talk) 14:50, 9 November 2015 (UTC)

We can bat this back and forth as long as you like, I'm waiting for citations to back up your claims. You are not a court or a judge, which would be the only definitive authority in deciding the matter. Until such times as there is a court ruling both sides of the argument may be considered valid and neither should be dismissed. I invite you to amend what I've written adding the counter argument. Seoras (talk) 20:45, 8 November 2015 (UTC)

Seoras, please stop changing the copyright text to a version that is inherently inaccurate and misleading. The reference you keep reinstating is categorically WRONG in claiming that the UK/EU term is reckoned from the date of Waite's death by virtue of him having commissioned the artwork. It is isn't. As I have said repeatedly, there is no US-style "work for hire" doctrine in UK copyright law, so in the case of Colman-Smith's artwork for these cards, it absolutely is protected until the end of 70 years after her death, i.e. 31 December 2021.
Please refer to this British Library flowchart, which shows the current position of UK copyright. You will note that there is no mention whatsoever of a "work for hire" doctrine. See also this UK government page, which outlines the copyright situation on commisioned work, or that created by employees, which specifically states:
"Works created for an employer
Where a literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work, or a film, is made by an employee in the course of his employment, his employer is the first owner of any copyright in the work (subject to any agreement to the contrary). The expression “in the course of employment” is not defined by the Act but in settling disputes the courts have typically had to decide whether the employee was working under a ‘contract of service’ (eg as an employee) or a ‘contract for services’ (eg as a freelancer or independent contractor).
Where a person works under a ‘contract for services’ he will usually retain copyright in any works he produces, unless there is a contractual agreement to the contrary.
An employer should keep careful records of which person(s) created the work for them and any contractual agreements which were in force. The period of copyright protection will usually still be linked to the date of the death of the creator(s) - that is the employee(s)."
Please especially note the last sentence. Nick Cooper (talk) 11:20, 9 November 2015 (UTC)

If (big if) the UK 1911 copyright act would apply to the RWS tarot, then we would have to take into account that there is a joint authorship for the RWS tarot because Pamela Coleman Smith seems to have been hired as a freelancer. She got a payment for her work and there is no indication that she ever made any further claims concerning the RWS tarot. What such a situation means for the copyright situation (when applying the 1911 act) isn't entirely clear. If a person hiring a freelancer wants exclusive copyright and wants this to be recognized in a court case it is recommended for today's authors that this person has a written contract explicitly stating that the freelancer doesn't make any claims about shared copyright. This is sufficient as positive proof for an exclusive copyright. However, if such a contract does not exist, this does not imply in return a positive proof for the opposite. A court might decide this way or another, in the RWS case making assumptions about what Waite and Smith might have implied with Waite paying Smith for her work.

But does the 1911 copyright act apply at all? This act applies to all cases from July 1st 1912. The RWS was published in 1910. British law is generally not retroactive unless either the law itself states it explicitly or some other regulations or court decisions have interpreted the law that way. Therefore in order to state the relevance of the 1911 copyright act for the RWS copyright as a fact it would be required to cite other regulations or court decisions that prove those provisions dealing with joint authorship and shared copyright to be retroactive. Otherwise it has to be assumed that the 1911 act does not apply to the RWS.

Even if it would apply, the situation would still be unclear. As for now there is no justification for treating a 2021 expiry of the RWS copyright as a fact. It rather is a speculative claim that so far has been perpetuated by US Games only, as it suits their business interests. The RWS copyright has most likely expired in the UK in 2012. This may be regarded as disputed or as an open question though. Trzes11 (talk) 08:33, 10 November 2015 (UTC)

The 1911 Act most certainly was retrospective. It says as much in Section 24 and the First Schedule, substituting the previous copyright protection with the revised protection of the new Act. The proof that it was retrospective is fairly obvious in the fact that the works of others that pre-date the 1911 Act still enjoy copyright protection under the current terms. Nobody, for example, would possibly try to claim that The War of the Worlds is currently in the public domain in the UK, by virtue of it being published before the advent of the 1911 Act; instead it is protected - like all of H.G. Wells's published works - until after 31 December 2016.
In summary, the copyright protection on the RWS deck evolved thus (all retrospective):
1911 Act - 50 years from the end of the year of the first joint author (i.e. Waite) to die, therefore to 31 December 1992
1956 Act - 50 years from the end of the year of the last joint author (i.e. Colman-Smith) to die, therefore to 31 December 2001
1988 Act - no change in term
1995 Amendement to 1988 Act - 50 year term increased to 70 years, therefore to 31 December 2021
As noted previously, at no point did the UK copyright lapse before any subsequent change is legislation.
That Colman-Smith was commissioned by Waite only has a bearing on who owned the copyright, not on whose date of death the term of protection is based on. However, there is a clause in Section 24 of the 1911 Act that states that in the case of rights assigned to someone else before commencement of the Act, although the new longer period of protection applied overall, in the absence of an express agreement the rights reverted to the author on the date the prior period of protection would have expired. The 1842 Act protected works for 42 years from publication, or seven years after the author's death, whichever was later. For Colman-Smith's artwork, that would be 1952 or 1958 respectively. If there was such an express agreement for Waite acquiring Colman-Smith's rights to the artwork in perpetuity, then Waite's heirs or successors still own the copyright, but with the latter still reckoned from the date of Colman-Smith's death. If there was no such agreement, then the copyright is still reckoned from Colman-Smith's death, but the rights actually reverted to her heirs or successors on 1 January 1959.
According to Sacred Texts, US Games claims a "copyright trail" from Waite via A.S.M. Waite and executors W.R. Semken and J.D. Semken, but mistakenly confuses actual ownership of the copyright with what determines the copyright term, without taking into account the retrospective provisions of Section 24 of the 1911 Act. Whether this is accident or design is open to question. This may have been genuine ignorance, or it could have been deliberate to avoid acknowledging that Section 24 carries the implication that Waite's estate did not own the copyright after 1958. US Games claims to have documentary proof of ownership, and in an interview on their site Suart Kaplan states:
"In the past several years, U.S. Games Systems has had to sue two large companies for copyright infringement. In both instances we were successful, and received full reimbursement of substantial legal costs. U.S. Games Systems and its partners actively monitor and seek to protect all of its intellectual property rights."
There is no clarification as to whether this mean they proved in court that, a) copyright was reckoned from the date of Colman-Smith's death, and b) copyright passed to them via Waite as the original commissioning owner, or if c) there was a valid agreement meaning that - at least in the case of the UK - the rights did not revert to Colman-Smith's estate in 1959.
The bottom line, though, is that while there is a possibility that US Games' claim to ownership may be invalid, the artwork itself is still protected until the end of 2021. Nick Cooper (talk) 12:39, 10 November 2015 (UTC)
It seems indeed that the copyright term for joint authorship to count from the death of the last author was only implemented in the 1956 copyright act, namely 3rd schedule, paragraph 2. However this makes the statement about the 1911 copyright act being retroactive insufficient. In order to make a 2021 expiry of the RWS copyright plausible, citations would also be needed that prove the 3rd schedule of the 1956 act to be retroactive. Strictly speaking the 1995 amendment needs proof of being retroactive as well, although I think this is much less disputed. Trzes11 (talk) 14:37, 10 November 2015 (UTC)
Yes, the Third Schedule introduced the rule of "the last to die," but the retroactivity of the 1956 Act is made explicit in the opening line, i.e.
An Act to make new provision in respect of copyright and related matters, in substitution for the provisions of the Copyright Act, 1911... [my emphasis]
As regards artistic works specifically, the Seventh Schedule states:
Conditions for subsistence of copyright
1 - In the application of sections two and three to works first published before the commencement of those sections, subsection (2) of section two, and subsection (3) of section three, shall apply as if paragraphs (b) and (c) of those subsections were omitted.
The relevant parts of the applicable Section Three state:
Copyright in artistic works.
(3) Where an original artistic work has been published, then, subject to the provisions of this Act, copyright shall subsist in the work (or, if copyright in the work subsisted immediately before its first publication, shall continue to subsist) if, but only if,— .
(a) the first publication of the work took place in the United Kingdom, or in another country to which this section extends, or .
(b) the author of the work was a qualified person at the time when the work was first published, or
(c) the author had died before that time, but was a qualified person immediately before his death.
Really, rather than requiring a specific statement that the 1956 Act Third Schedule also applies to existing works, what would make a difference to the overall interpretation (i.e. that the Act is retrospective) would be a statement that it didn't apply.
It should be noted that Section 38 of the Seventh Schedule of the 1956 Act, and Section 2 of the First Schedule of the 1988 Act, both state that the Section 24 of the 1911 Act still applies, i.e. so that any ownership previously assigned to Waite in 1910 did actually revert to Colman-Smith's estate in 1952. Obviously IANAL, but it looks like US Games's claims of ownership via Waite are dead in the water as regards the UK/EU copyright, unless there's an agreement with Colman-Smith's estate that they're not talking about, which would seem unlikely. Nick Cooper (talk) 17:08, 10 November 2015 (UTC)

Thanks for all the citations. With those I am willing to recognise the 2021 expiry of the RWS copyright as a fact. However I think the question who actually owns that copyright should also be mentioned on the page.Trzes11 (talk) 08:26, 11 November 2015 (UTC)

Latest "controversies" presentation of copyright status[edit]

Unfortunately, efforts to present all sides seem to have resulted in giving equal prominence to corporate disinformation and uninformed people as to accurate information. There's no real legitimate controversy that forms of the cards published prior to 1923 are out of copyright in the United States, and that according to the current version of U.K. law, the cards did not go out of copyright in 2012... AnonMoos (talk) 03:01, 7 November 2016 (UTC)

Assessment comment[edit]

The comment(s) below were originally left at Talk:Rider-Waite tarot deck/Comments, and are posted here for posterity. Following several discussions in past years, these subpages are now deprecated. The comments may be irrelevant or outdated; if so, please feel free to remove this section.

The picture of the XII The Hanged Man has been left out of the gallery. There is no picture of The Fool! Yet he is the character who symbolizes the naive quest, and who "walks through" the deck as his evolution... —Preceding unsigned comment added by Trobster (talkcontribs) 18:47, 9 November 2010 (UTC)

Last edited at 18:48, 9 November 2010 (UTC). Substituted at 04:27, 30 April 2016 (UTC)