Thursday, October 27, 2011

Angel Policies.... What are they all about?

It may be good to start out talking about what we are purchasing when we buy a rubber stamp or a digital stamp. When we buy a rubber stamp we are purchasing a limited license for personal use of the image on the stamp. We own the rubber, we own the block or cling foam it is on, but we do not own the image. The artist or company selling the stamp retains the ownership of the image. This is just like a CD; we own the material the CD is made out of, we do not own the song. Art, such as music, images, etc are intellectual property of their originators. When we purchase a digital image we are purchasing only the limited license to use that image personally.

An Angel Policy is a form of limited license that specifies ways in which a stamped image may be used. Angel policies were developed to allow crafters additional rights in use of rubber stamps and other crafting materials that are copyright protected. Angel policies are not all-inclusive. If a company has an "angel policy" that does not mean we can do whatever we wish with their image.

What does "Angel Policy" mean then? It means exactly what it says. So if it does not mention something, for example: swapping, sharing, trading, then the angel policy does not allow that. It may say we can sell a certain number of hand-made items using their image, but that in no way implies any other use. Perhaps that company may also allow swapping or sharing of their stamped image, but we would have to contact the artist/company for permission to do so.

Simply put, having an angel policy does not mean "YES" to swapping images. Well then, what does mean "YES" to swapping images? There are two ways to we can be sure we are allowed to swap a stamped image. One is by reading in the Terms of Use that we are given permission to do so, (or reading it in an Angel policy), the other way is by seeking permission from the artist/company who produced the image and retains the copyright.

It seems lately a lot of crafters are assuming if it doesn't say "NO" in the angel policy or terms of use, then it must mean you are allowed. This is absolutely NOT the case. So please contact the company and artist before assuming something that is not in print.

Thanks for reading, Michelle


  1. loved the comparison to purchasing a CD and owning the CD but not the songs ON the CD,,,,I think that really makes things so much easier to understand! thanks for a great post!

  2. Sorry for deleting your post, Donna -- but Tabberone is full of misinformation that we will not allow links to. If you want to read facts about copyright law try this:

  3. Maybe you could leave the link I posted and let people decide for themselves.

  4. Why? So people could "choose" to be misinformed like you are? Sorry, we're trying to let people know the truth about copyright -- this isn't "opinion" we're spouting. It's the law.

  5. Donna we are only citing reliable sources. I choose to believe the government who made the laws over some site on the internet with an ax to grind.

  6. Great post Michelle! :) Really clear and concise. I hope more people will understand what is OK and what is not now when buying a stamp.


  7. I love the way you put it Michelle,im so more informed i didnt know about the rubber stamping copyright and i was about to join a swap stamping images.I asked Mo and thank goodness she told me. Then i went back to the site and let them know what Mo had said.And happy to say the whole swap was closed and they didnt boot me off their site.LOL!! And honestly if you cant afford a digital image or a rubber stamp save your quarters till you can.Pennys will take you forever.LOL!!I just love knowing all this info

  8. That is really what we want to do Barbara provide information so that everyone is more informed, thanks!

  9. Hi Guys... I thought you might be interested in this? Another artist having similar problems...


  10. MANY artists have similar problems,,,,hence this site.

    I've been using paid digi stamps and free coloring pages from artists now for a couple months. I have to say that I LOVE them. They are a super huge bargain, compared to rubber stamps,,,,,,I keep the copyright on the work whenever possible,,,,or I write it on the bottom or back of the card when it isn't possible (space constraints, mostly),,,

    However, one thing is really confusing to me,,,,

    and it involves "free coloring pages" more than paid digi stamps,,,,,,in general, the paid digi stamps I've bought from various artists are very clear,,,,,,,there's an angel policy. If I'm confused, I email the artist. Plain and simple.

    But I often find free coloring pages online that are really cute,,,,,,the one example I can think of right this minute are "Precious Moments" coloring pages. Most of the time there's no copyright,,,,,,,the rest of the time, the copyright will vary, with the site that put the image online claiming ownership. free coloring pages dot com or whatever. Wouldn't the artist still retain the copyright?? And,,,,,no angel policy that I can find to tell me a thing. GAAH! frustrating LOL,,I so badly want to give proper credit.

    To make matters even MORE confusing,,,,,,I sometimes see the very same Precious Moments image on TWO DIFFERENT SITES..

    So WHO do I credit????? Am I even ALLOWED to make a card to GIVE a friend (Not talking SELLING here, just simple GIVING a card).

    VERY frustrating for a cardmaker, I assure you LOL.

  11. Hi Holly,

    GREAT question!!

    Those free coloring pages sites are one of the reasons Stamp Out was founded. Many of them are filled with art that is there illegally. It's really frustrating that so many people will take art and ERASE the artist's name and copyright. So disrespectful of an artist's hard work -- and of course legally it absolutely does not change the fact that it's a copyrighted image by that artist.

    And then, once it's on one site free, other people will assume it's free too and put it up on their own site. Soon it's all over the internet.

    Some of the art may be there by permission - for instance sometimes companies will "advertise" a new product by allowing some coloring pages and allow it to be posted anywhere.

    But the majority you'll see on those sites is illegally posted. I know the official Precious Moments site has downloadable coloring pages and clip art for personal use -- -- but I don't think they allow other sites to post it (as you have to be a member to get most of their coloring pages and they have a strict terms of use.)

    Disney images (Pooh, Micky and friends) are all trademarked and most sites -- unless it's an official Disney site -- are hosting them illegally. I see lots of Sarah Kay and other stamp artists' art (and have even found my own work) up on these free sites. None of that is there legally either and when we find it, we get it taken down. But it is a full-time job and getting worse.

    So -- just because you see it up on the internet, doesn't mean it's there legally. You have to be careful. Best to look for freebies on individual company's and artist's sites. :)


  12. Oh holy spit, it never occurred to me that someone might actually ERASE a copyright.


    I guess I sound naive (all this is pretty new to me,,,I've only been collecting for about 3 months),,,

    but wow,,,,,,that takes some gall! I kind of got suspicious when I saw the same PM stamps, with two different frames,,,,,,

    and no copyright. I love the PM pages though, and don't want to sell anything with them (just personal use), but SO do not want to support anything illegal. so it might be worth it to me to pay the membership so I can put them on cards just to send to my family and friends. Will have to check that out and see if they allow that, and if it's worth me signing up.

    shaking head. I just spent 4 hours arranging my digi stamps by artist so I'd know in a split second who did them, and can save them in the right file when I downlaod them,,,I also saved the angel policy of that company that comes with the stamps, so I'd know what I can do with them,,,,,and what I can't,,,

    And I can't tell you how many I had saved before I had a clue that have no copyright, no angel policy, no name whatsoever to tell me who it belongs to.

    Ugh, paid ones or free ones directly from the Artist like Elizabeth Dulemba are so much easier to figure out,,,,,

    free isn't worth it if it takes me forever to try and figure out who to credit and IF I can use it or not.

    Thanks for the info on PM,,I'll go take a look :)

  13. Holly, Mo is right about images being downloaded, copyrights erased, and then the images being uploaded again as if they belong to somebody else. The entire reason I wrote my post "Ten Ways To Protect Your Art Online" (which Arabella mentioned: ) was in reaction to a gross copyright infringement of my coloring pages. You can read the story here: "Calvin & Hobbes and Copyright Infringement" at . It's so difficult for artists to protect themselves in today's online environment, but we have to try. It takes people like you helping to spread the word. So, thank you!
    Elizabeth Dulemba

  14. I'm sorry, it's just unreal to me that someone would upload them like they are THEIRS. When I hear copyright infringement, I think "sharing files" out of ignorance, not outright STEALING someone else's work. I tell you what, it's been an education, I can tell you that much!

    And thank you for the adorable images, Elizabeth,,,my granddaughter is five and she loves them! We often color them together!

  15. Well, I do know if you buy a stamp you can make cards and sell them or give them away. And I for one do own that stamp and the right to use it. Not swap or trade it. You cannot do that. I am an artist and I do not mind ppl buying my stamps and or digis to make items and sell them. Thats why they bought the stamp. Duhhhhhhhhh....

  16. I left part of my sentence out...if you make cards and sell them or give them away, you can. As long as you have purchased the stamp.

  17. Yeah, for common sense, artisan!

  18. Hi Artisan,

    You are incorrect on that. If you purchase a commercial license from a company you can sell under the contract terms. Stamps are sold to crafters under PERSONAL license agreements, which means they are for your own personal use only and you can't sell the finished cards.

    Big UNLESS here . . . many companies have added what they call an "Angel Policy" which may give you the additional permission to sell your finished work under limited conditions: (handmade, handcolored, fully-finished card, created by you etc.)

    Check the Terms of Use of the stamp you bought (you can find those on the company's website, packaging or as a condition you need to check off on before you buy a digital stamp -- by buying it you have agreed contractually to its terms of use.

    If you can't abide by the ToU, simply look for a company that has terms you can live with -- or, since you're an artist -- draw your own.


  19. I am an artist who buys stamps. I use them to enter contest, challenges, publications, etc. I always give the stamp co. name when doing so. I occasionally sale my cards after a while when my collection get too large. I have always assumed all of this to be ok. Is it? I have a blog I post them to, I post to SCS as well. I need to know that I'm not doing anything illegal.

  20. It sounds like you're doing nothing wrong, Robin. There are a few companies that never allow sales of the finished work -- but most do. Still, you should always check the companies' terms of use to be sure. Watermark the cards you post online with your own watermark so no-one steals your work and claims it as their own. We've seen a growing problem with people who are entering challenges using other crafters' unwatermarked work that they have found in google searches! xoMo