What You Need to Know About Copyright in the Scrapbooking World

Copyright is a touchy subject in the World of Scrapbooking. Especially in Digital and Hybrid Scrapbooking. It’s a lot simpler in the world of Traditional Scrapbooking as you buy an item, you own it and you use it once, however you like, and then it’s used up. You are not allowed to reproduce it or you will violate copyright.

But in the World of Digital Scrapbooking the rules of copyright is a much more complex beast.

One of the great benefits of Digital Scrapbooking is the huge range of digital scrapbooking kits and elements that can be quickly and easily downloaded over the Internet. And then used over and over again. Unlike with traditional ‘real life’ scrapbook products your copyright allows you to use these elements many many times. But this does not give you free and untrammeled ownership of them. Most downloads come with a Terms of Use document. I strongly recommend you read this so you understand both yours and the designer’s rights.

Fundamentally you need to understand that what you have purchased is the right to use these digital products for your own personal use in creating your own personal scrapbook layouts.

What you have the right to do:

  • Use the products as many times as you wish on your own personal scrapbook layouts
  • Make small modifications, such as colour, size and shape changes.
  • Share your finished layouts on the Internet through email, blogs, online galleries etc.
  • Print your finished layouts and give copies to friends and family if you wish.

What you do not have the right to do:

  • Share the actual digital product files with anyone else, either by copying them to a CD, emailing them or copying them on another memory device (eg. USB memory stick)
  • Share the digital files or print outs of them with a class of students so you can teach them how to scrapbook.
  • Use the digital products in any way that assists in the generation of revenue or other income.

Technically speaking you do not have the right to use these digital products in the design of your personal blog header, unless you have the approval of the designer. Most designers will not mind you using their products in your personal blog design and only ask that you credit them appropriately.

However if you have a commercial blog or website, and this can include any form of advertisements or product sales, then you cannot use these digital products without purchasing a commercial licence. This also includes designing templates for eBay shops etc.

If you stop and think about it, this is not as draconian as it at first sounds. The cost for a personal use licence for your digital scrapbooking products is very small. And typically speaking digital scrapbooking designers don’t charge a great deal extra for a commercial licence. But you need to understand the designers’ rights before you use their products.

Although you may have purchased a ‘right for personal use’ of their product, they still own the Intellectual Property. A lot of time, effort and creativity goes into the design of their products. In the ‘real’ world, if you were setting up any business or commercial concern you would need to pay a commercial price to use the intellectual property of a designer. It’s no different in the world of the Internet. And if you stop and think about it for a moment, it’s only fair. Why should you be able to earn money using a professional designer’s work which was sold at a price geared to personal use?

You should also be aware that a Commercial Use licence is not a ‘free for all’ licence. It does come with restrictions. Whilst you are licenced to use the products for commercial purposes, you are not licenced to reproduce the products and sell them yourself or to use the products on any computer other than the one they are licenced for.

What about Freebies?

Many people think that because something has been given for free it has no value.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Freebie products take as much effort to create as ones that are purchased and exactly the same copyright laws are attached to them. Just because a designer has been generous enough to offer her products at no cost does not diminish the ‘real’ value of them.

Often Freebies will be offered as a means to build traffic to a designer’s website or blog to showcase other products they may be selling or to help build their profile as a designer. As beneficiaries of their generosity we should be mindful of this and respect them.

This means recognizing the copyright ownership as described above and not sharing the files with others. You are actually robbing the designer of traffic and exposure when you share the files. All you need to do is share the URL of the website and your friends can go and freely download the files themselves. The end result for your friends is the same (they have their own copies of the products) but the designer also has a benefit and you haven’t broken the copyright laws. Goodness all round.

So as you can see, Copyright is a complex, tricky business. The Digital Scrapbooking World abounds with wonderful low cost and free products, which keep the overall cost of our wonderful hobby very low. Let’s be mindful of the people who provide those products and not rob them of what is rightfully theirs.

Other related posts:

Scrapbooking as an Educational Tool
Hybrid Scrapbooking – what’s it all about?

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7 Responses to What You Need to Know About Copyright in the Scrapbooking World

  1. Antoinette October 12, 2007 at 7:55 am #

    Oooh Karen, a subject close to my heart! Thanks ever so much.
    I know many people respect copyright and are polite and grateful. Unfortunately there’s a growing amount of people online without any respect what so ever. They say: if I can “right click” and “save as”, it’s mine – and they are not afraid to admit it either (yes, this happened to me, when I sent an email to someone who was distributing my graphics through a Yahoo group – without my permission) She even added: “If you don’t want your graphics being used, keep them on your harddrive”. My jaw dropped – if someone is that ignorant, what more could I do? It takes the pleasure out of creating things though.
    I better stop as this is already turning into a novel – but I could go on for hours. Pet peeve I guess :)

  2. karooch October 16, 2007 at 4:29 pm #

    I think it’s a subject close to most designers’ hearts Antoinette. It’s very sad that many people do not value something they haven’t had to pay a lot of money for, especially something they have received for free. But for many others I think it’s just that they don’t realise.

  3. PaintChip November 2, 2007 at 5:12 am #

    You’ve made some terrrific points here, especially in reference to “Personal Use” TOU’s. Sometimes I find there are major differences between TOU’s.

    In fact, it isn’t so uncommon anymore to find designers who do have “pro-crafter” and “pro-designer” type TOU’s. Some even allow you to repackage their own art and sell it in your kits. While others will allow you to use their products for creating scrapbooks for others. It can get really confusing sometimes too, because the verbiage can vary greatly.

    So although much of what you’ve shared in this article is true to many “Personal Use Only” TOU’s, it’s still very, very important to read each and every TOU you agree to when you download a product. Because as you said, “Copyright is a complex, tricky business.”

    Thanks for sharing your input on this timely subject!

  4. karooch November 2, 2007 at 1:13 pm #

    Thanks for the extra info Cindy. I believe you can’t have too much information on a subject like this.

  5. Margaret February 7, 2009 at 6:58 am #

    oK PLEASE HELP ME
    I WOULD LIKE TO START MY OWN BUSINESS MAKING CARDS, ANNOUNCEMENTS , INVITATONS, ECT.
    NOW TO DO THIS I WOULD USE SOME DIGITAL PAPERS AND FLOWERS, RIBBONS, ECT. DO I NEED TO PURCHASE A COMMERCIAL LICENCE OR CAN I JUST PURCHASE IT AND USE IT OVER AND OVER, I WOULD BE DESIGNING MY OWN CARDS JUST USING SOME PAPERS
    I DO NOT WANT TO BREAK ANY COPY RGHT LAWS SO PLEASE GVE AS MUCH INFO AS POSSIBLE

  6. karooch February 7, 2009 at 9:36 pm #

    Many digital products come with a commercial license Margaret. This is usually not a huge amount. You should check the terms and conditions of the products to be sure of what you are licensed to use them for.

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