Why NOT to use collage as a book cover

I’ve always loved collage. Never feeling confident enough to draw or paint, I've found that I have an eye for images and letters cut from magazines. When it came to a cover for my book UNPACKED: a memoir of checked baggage, I didn’t hesitate to sit down with my stack of pages ripped out of various magazines to create my own creative book cover. National Geographics, travel magazines, guides to Europe, fonts - oh so many fonts! I was proud of the front and back cover, but had a nagging feeling I was breaking the rules.

I figured if I only used a small percentage of the photograph and if it was unrecognizable, I could get away with it. On the copyright page in the book I stated, “Images collected from various sources,” and hoped for the best.

Researching Audible as a source for my audiobook coming out I looked at their fine print to do with the cover and they state:

“We take violations of laws and proprietary rights very seriously. It is your responsibility to ensure that your content doesn't violate laws or copyright, trademark, privacy, publicity, or other rights. Just because content is freely available does not mean you are free to copy and sell it.”

With anxiety building and some more research, hoping to find a loophole, I only found more evidence against collage. According to the University of Ottawa’s website:

The “Remix” exception

Under section 29.21 of the Copyright Act, it is not a copyright infringement to use existing works to create a new, unique work, through remixing, “mash-ups,” collage or other creative techniques, as long as your use meets these conditions:

  • It is not for commercial purposes.

  • The original materials were published or otherwise made publicly available.

  • You credit the source and creator of the original materials, if this is reasonable under the circumstances.

  • The original materials you use seem to come from a legitimate source.

  • Your new work does not have a substantial potential impact on the value of the original materials.

I wasn’t selling the cover as a stand alone piece, but I was selling the book. It felt dodgy from the start and I found myself holding back in regards to promoting the book online to a vast audience in fear that copyright issues would arise. These rules got the ball rolling to shoot another cover.

I hired a photographer friend and scouted out a location on Salt Spring that vaguely looked like Spain. Jesse Thom with Glass Horse Lenswork took some lovely shots wearing my infamous backpack while hiking in the woods. With sun on my face I summoned my inner backpacker self and dawned my wrists with beaded bracelets and bangles.

Next came the font. I downloaded several versions of a new typeface for UNPACKED and narrowed it down to one. *make sure it’s free for commercial use

The new book cover is born! It’s cleaner and captures the essence of the book. It’s bright and natural and I’m excited to advertise the new updated version of UNPACKED (paperback and soon to be audiobook). Lessons learned, I don’t recommend collage for your commercial endeavour.




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