I tried to print a bunch of Magic the Gathering Proxy cards through my local Costco. (An MTG Cube)

They called me up and told me that those cards are copyrighted material and that it would be illegal to print them.

I have seen people use proxy cards so I just assumed that Wizards of the Coast allowed printing cards that are clearly not the real card (on photo paper and not the right size).

Is there an official ruling from Wizards of the Coast on this? If it is allowed is there something I can show my local CostCo?

  • 4
    If you wanted to print proxies with the artwork, it would require a release form (googling photograph release form will give you many examples). I would assume that WotC/Hasbro has either first printing rights (you would need the artist to release), or they purchased all rights to the artwork (you need WotC's permission). Obtaining either is doubtful.
    – user1873
    Jan 25, 2014 at 21:47
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    This question appears to be off-topic because it is about legal advice
    – Brian S
    Jan 27, 2014 at 15:50
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    @BrianS - Your comment made me worried that I had violated the "On Topic" rules. But I checked them and as far as I can see there is nothing about legal advice there (either way) ( boardgames.stackexchange.com/help/on-topic ) If card game related legal advice is off-topic I would request that it be added to the "Off-Topic" help section.
    – Vaccano
    Jan 27, 2014 at 17:00
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    I voted to reopen this question. The question is about legal advice, but it is also about Magic: the Gathering. That means it is on topic.
    – Rainbolt
    Aug 14, 2015 at 2:17
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    Copyright law is not arcane nor something only lawyers can answer about. Copyright as it pertains to board and card game players is something we can answer about, as it's within our domain of knowledge. (This is also a site that attempts to serve game developers, and stuff like this is pertinent questions for them.) Good or bad answers can be voted on accordingly. Aug 15, 2015 at 2:56

2 Answers 2


Seems that Wizards Of the Coast classifies it as full on illegal unless the card is made by a judge in a tournament when the original card is damaged.

Policy Regarding Proxies and Counterfeits

Proxies are substitute cards created solely by judges in sanctioned tournaments pursuant to the official tournament rules. These substitutes are allowed when authorized game cards become unplayable during a sanctioned tournament because of damage or excessive wear. Proxies do not include any graphical reproduction of their intended substitutes.


Counterfeits are copies or reproductions of actual Wizards trading cards, whether or not they are identified as non-genuine. The creation and distribution of counterfeits violate United States and international copyright laws and negatively affects the integrity of Wizards’ trading card games. Counterfeits are strictly prohibited, even for personal, non-commercial use.


  • 9
    I wouldn't take WotC's word on this, any more than i would take Nintendo's word regarding backup/archival copies of their games. "WARNING:Copying of any Nintendo game is illegal and is strictly prohibited by domestic and international copyright laws. "Back-up" or "archival" copies are not authorized and are not necessary to protect your software. Violators will be prosecuted." (They put that in game manuals) Others disagree with Nintendo's assessment.
    – user1873
    Jan 25, 2014 at 22:56
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    Sure but a "backup" of a copyrighted work you have purchased certainly has a more legitimate claim than an unauthorized reproduction of a copyrighted work you don't own a legitimate copy of.
    – Affe
    Jan 26, 2014 at 0:05
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    @Affe, the point of my comment wasn't that you may be more/less entitled to make a Proxie card if you owns copy of it. My point is that WotC is not an official source for copyright law (or non-biased source), so using them to provide an expert answer is disingenuous.
    – user1873
    Jan 26, 2014 at 0:31
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    The specific question actually asked was whether WoTC offers a license to reproduce the content that could be shown to a commercial printer, so in that sense it is the exact answer :) Do agree with your broader point though of course.
    – Affe
    Jan 26, 2014 at 0:36
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    Copyright owners always claim that making any copies of Copyrighted content is a violation of US Copyright Law, but that's not nearly true. In the US, a four-factor test is used to determine if a use is not a violation under the fair use doctrine. And that's not the only exception.
    – ikegami
    Oct 16, 2017 at 2:08

I am not a lawyer, but I found relevant information. Reproduction of copyrighted material is completely fine if it is considered Fair Use under the Fair Use Doctrine. Th doctrine provides a litmus test that you can apply to determine if your use would be considered fair. Below are the relevant clauses.

Rule 1 ... personal use is favored for fair use, while commercial use is disfavored.

Unless you plan to distribute these cards or sell them to your friends, you pass this test.

Rule 2 ... Use of imaginative works is more likely to require permission ...

You fail this test. The entire card is a creative work.

Rule 3 ... Using only a small portion of a copyrighted material tips towards fair use, while using large portions indicates a need for permission

This doesn't really apply. The rule was intended for books, movies, music, etc.

Rule 4 Where a work is available for purchase or license at a reasonable cost, copying all or a significant portion of the work (in lieu of purchasing or licensing a sufficient number of "authorized" copies) would likely be unfair.

You fail this rule, because the cards are available for purchase.

The rules are obviously vague, and different states apply them differently. Only Wizards can give you peace of mind. All of that being said, you are safe printing proxies because they are banned at tournaments, they are worthless anyway, everyone does it, and even though Wizards strictly prohibits it, they have never gone after anyone for it.

As for what you can tell CostCo, you don't have a case. If you tried to make one, you would fail rules 2 and 4. Go print at another location, or just write over your basic lands like everyone else.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fair_use

  • How much would it cost to have 12,000 x 4 copies of every magic card? Is that reasonable cost?
    – user1873
    Jan 26, 2014 at 0:26
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    Rule 3 might actually have relevance too, in the sense that if you're printing enough to play with, you're probably printing a relatively large number of cards, as opposed to printing a single one as part of an article on game design, say.
    – Cascabel
    Jan 26, 2014 at 1:25
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    Be careful giving anything that can easily be perceived as legal advice. Jan 27, 2014 at 5:25
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    @bengoesboom For the life of me, I can only find policies on ASKING for legal advice on Stack. Thus, my Answer is entirely correct as of the time I posted it, but the Question should be flagged. Feel free to provide a link next time you quote the rules to someone.
    – Rainbolt
    Jan 27, 2014 at 14:23
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    @John, it would be quite odd to warn someone of the dangers of "giving legal" advice when they are telling someone not to do something illegal. You seem to be applying that proxies wouldn't qualify for fair use under Rule 3, so you shouldn't proxy. This would be akin to saying you shouldn't kill your wife, because it is murder. (Perhaps if you were giving financial advice as a tax professional and said you shouldn't kill your wife, but failed to note the marriage penalty increases your tax liability, therefore costing you thousands of dollars.)
    – user1873
    Jan 27, 2014 at 14:56

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