The Problem with Scrapbook Kits

The graphical elements in a scrapbook kit are great ways to add mood and interest to a photo book or enhanced biographical sketch. Unfortunately, there’s one problem with them and it’s a big one. In most cases, the terms of use don’t allow them to be used for our kinds of projects. Scrapbookers – even the digital ones – are usually building a scrapbook page that will be printed and included in a physical scrapbook. Their idea of publishing is having their creation spotlighted in a scrapbooker’s magazine. Some are beginning to allow use of their graphics in blog designs and there are more commercial licenses available so professional photographers can create custom photo albums for their clients.

Designers are very protective of the ways their works are used – and with good reason. It’s way too easy for a shady character to repackage and resell those images as their own. Unfortunately for us, the purposes we would use these graphics for are new and frightening to these designers. And, should we decide to make our creation available for sale at Lulu, Blurb or even one of the big booksellers, does that make us a professional who must purchase the commercial license for the graphics we need?

Personal publishing is still in it infancy and both its definition and its methods will continue to change as we find new and interesting ways to share our family history. There are public domain and Creative Commons options for graphic elements and your own family ephemera may well be the best graphics for your project. Don’t ignore digital scrapbook kits, but before you buy make sure the terms of use meet your needs. If you have questions, reach out to the designer and ask. They don’t know what we’re doing until we explain. We do represent a new and growing market for them which, once they understand what we’re doing, could provide incentive to adjust their terms. And, who knows, if you use their graphics in a new and interesting way – giving them credit, of course – you may get some free promotion when they spotlight your work as an example of how their work can be used.

One great designer you should get to know is Cathe Holden at Just Something I Made. Not only does she present many delightful project ideas, she frequently offers vintage clipart you are free to use. Check out her bookshelves at Scribd for lots of great stuff.

There will be a lot more happening in this arena so stay tuned for more updates.

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