Indie Author vs Copyright Law • My Book Cover Update

Be sure to read the terms of use of any free products/services

One thing you should seriously concern about when creating a book cover by yourself. That is the copyright laws and regulations of the products/services that you use from a free website.

Yesterday I used a word-art creator service. I put a list of keywords into the program and let it do the work. It’s said free. I played with style, color, theme, and layout, etc., until I was satisfied with the result, which actually took me like 2-3 hours.

I created the art picture on that site and then downloaded it. And I was putting it together for a cover of my book using another platform until I got a complete version. It looked nice and I really liked it.

Then went out for doing a little physical movement. I was walking to a grocery store. While walking, I had a beautiful, dreamy thought that I made so much progress and be so happy that this book will be published soon.

Suddenly, I was aware of copyright law, especially in Europe. This is a tough situation for a creator. You have to be really careful about the terms of use of any products on the internet. Otherwise, you might have to pay a lot of money to them just to find out that the product from their site is not allowed for further uses or commercial uses, etc.

What about Canva?

I learned with Canva, which is popular among indie authors. The copyright law applies that the free media and objects provided on their site are allowed for commercial and commercial uses (but with some restrictions.)

Here we are talking about a book cover design. So these are things that you are allowed to do with Canva.

Permitted Uses of Pro Stock Media on Canva

You are permitted to use Stock Media for:

  • entertainment applications, such as books and book covers, magazines, newspapers, editorials, newsletters, and video, broadcast and theatrical presentations**
  • online or electronic publications, including web pages, blogs, ebooks and videos, limited to a maximum of 480,000 total pixels (for example: 600px x 800px) per Stock Media file where un-edited;
  • prints, posters (i.e. a hardcopy) and other reproductions for commercial, personal or promotional purposes, including the sale of items containing your design. For the avoidance of doubt, resale, license or other distribution of Pro Stock Media on a standalone basis is not permitted under any circumstances

Prohibited Uses of Free Media

You may not do anything with the Stock Media that is not expressly permitted in the preceding section. For greater certainty, the following are “Prohibited Uses” and you may not:

  • sub-license, re-sell, rent, lend, assign, gift or otherwise transfer or distribute the Stock Media or the rights granted under this Free Media License Agreement;
  • use any of the Stock Media as part of a trade-mark, design-mark, trade-name, business name, service mark, or logo;
  • use Stock Media identified as “Editorial Use Only”, for any commercial, promotional, endorsement, advertising or merchandising use.
  • remove any notice of copyright, trade-mark or other proprietary right from any place where it is on or embedded in the Stock Media or Canva Desig
  • incorporate the Stock Media in any product that results in a re-distribution or re-use of the Stock Media or is otherwise made available in a manner such that a person can extract or access or reproduce the Stock Media as an electronic file;
  • use or display the Stock Media in an electronic format that enables it to be downloaded, Exported or distributed via mobile devices or shared in any peer-to-peer or similar file sharing arrangement; or
  • use or display Stock Media in such a manner that gives the impression that the Stock Media were created by you or a person other than the copyright holder of the Stock Media.

Prohibited Uses of One Design Use

This One Design Use License Agreement applies to the use of Pro Stock Media by

  1. Free Canva account holders who purchase a One Design Use License; and
  2. Canva subscription account holders who are entitled to the use of Pro Stock Media under this license as part of their subscription. 
  • Use the Pro Stock Media in more than one Canva Design;
  • Use the Pro Stock Media in a design created outside of Canva;
  • Download the Pro Stock Media on a standalone basis; for the avoidance of doubt, Pro Stock Media may only be used in a single Canva Design;
  • Install and use the Pro Stock Media in more than one location or post a copy on a network server or web server for use by other users;
  • Except for use within apps on the Service you may not:
    • Use the Pro Stock Media in templates of any nature, including templates for websites, social networking websites, documents, projects or otherwise for distribution and/or sale to third parties (except for templates created for use on Canva);
    • Use or display the Pro Stock Media on a standalone basis on websites or other venues designed to induce or involving the sale, license or other distribution of “on demand” products, including postcards, mugs, t-shirts, posters and other items;
    • Use the Pro Stock Media in design template applications intended for resale, whether online or not, including, without limitation, website templates, Flash templates, business card templates, electronic greeting card templates, and brochure design templates (except for templates created for use on Canva).

Canva updated the rules (last updated November 20, 2020) that are more flexible than the previous version. This means you can use the free Stock Media for your book design (with modification).

You should keep yourself updated terms of use regularly (at least once a year) wherever you use any free product/service. And here is the link terms of use on Canva.

Is there another option?

So if you are a tight budget (beginning) writer and want a zero cost of creating your own cover. I suggest you do all the artwork by yourself to be safe. Or let your friend do it and pay some fee. Or choose the best from the service and buy from them. Or if you publish with Amazon KDP, use their book cover creator for free.

Of course, because they get money from you when you do the work, so it’s fair to provide a book cover creator service to their writer, right? But! Again you should be noticed that the cover which you created on their site, could not be used outside the KDP site, you can sell your book with that cover only with them. (The rule might be changed or modernized somehow, so you should update about their rules regularly.)

Come back to my book cover story

I personally use Canva to create my book cover as well. I felt relief at first that I did not use pictures or artwork from their site. I use only the platform and blank space to assemble text and objects. But then I thought, what about my artwork from another website that I just used it?

Oh.. yes, I went to read their rule …… and tada!!

Same rules with Wordart Service

Even you create the artwork by yourself (I used, though you are not allowed to use that artwork for commercial uses if you download the file with a basic or standard format.

Let’s say if you use this site for creating free artwork, you can use it only for personal use, not for commercial, not for selling your product. (Unless you paid for that picture (HD quality), the cheapest option is €4.99/picture.) If I use two pictures that I created, it’s already almost €10!

The problem is not just that I have to pay the money. But my question was if I was not satisfied with the outcome later and I wanted to change the picture or just a little modified in style/format, then I have to pay again the full price. (With a small modification, that is unfair in my opinion.) This idea was quite annoying to me.

So the next option is to pay for monthly service. It could be 1, 3, or 12 months. That would be cheaper. But it could be boring if you use the same artwork theme for every book you publish next.

Honestly, if you are ready to pay that amount of money, you should use the products/services they provide worthily. But as I look at the products they offer, I don’t think it’s worth the money. I mean, it was a good service, but they don’t offer varieties. Let’s just say I want more than that.

I feel unfree to do my work. It’s not flexible for me.
I do write my own book and being an indie author because I want flexibility.

(Again, please be reminded. If you can afford the price. The best way to do the best cover is to outsource if you’re not a designer/artist already.)

So what did I do after?

As I wanted full control. Yes! I created my art. Even I’m not a professional artist.

On the same evening (last night), after learning about their rules. I felt definitely disappointed that I should read it first and learn about it earlier instead of wasting my time doing all the work and found it useless.

Well, I did not stay disappointed for so long, after cooking, having dinner, and do all household chores. My mind was trying to answer what would I do next? The only answer I got is to do all the work by yourself. I did not have an iPad or any digital pad to draw artwork. Doing a digital ark using a mouse was a tedious task, I did not just say it but I tried it before!

What then?! The only way that is left for me is to do it by hand. I told myself that it could be an easy, simple piece. No need to be perfect or anything, just do some progression. So I just sat down, finding a blank paper, pulled out some colors that I bought last year.

Here’s what I did!

I had no idea what I was going to draw. But my book is about writing and creative work. It must convey creativity.

The first paper I did was just tested all the colors I had. Then I did the first piece. It looked ridiculous!

I knew that I was not going to use this one. I was thinking out loud that I needed something else, during that thought I looked on the paper again and saw a part on that paper that I just tested the colors.

It was so simple, just a chaotic combination of colors. But it looked somewhat alive and something speaking creativity!

So I picked another paper and created the second piece.
I did not feel fully convinced that was the best artwork for a book cover. But I was happy because no perfection is available in my dictionary.

So I took a camera, taking a picture, straight to my computer, and working on the artwork. Adjust tone, brightness, and background. Then put the words together into one page.

Boom! Now I got it!

I left it for one night and worked on it again today. I feel settled.

For now, I have a new version of my book cover. That will save me from the copyright law at least!

Yeah, it’s no perfect but that’s for the beginning of the pursue of being an indie author. Who cares for being perfect? I don’t. I walk with my own feet at my pace and responded to all the results of my own actions. This is my first step. I know that it can only be better each time of improvement.

I write this post to record my journey of becoming an author (as well as my book). Plus I want to lay my book covers down here to learn the different feelings when I look at them in comparison. So I laid them next to each other.

I actually like the 2 and 3. Maybe I leave it for one more day, then come back and look at it again later.


What do you think? Which one do you like more?

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