An Overview of the Heraldic Submission Process

People seeking to register a name or armory with the SCA’s College of Arms are often baffled by the length of time the process takes and the inscrutable jargon used to describe the various stages.

There have been numerous attempts to provide an overview of this process, to which I have now added my own contribution below.

Some of the terminology here reflects current usage in the East Kingdom; in other places the ILoI may be called an LoP, the LoD may be called an LoR or ILoAR, and the LoI may be called an ELoI or KLoI.

Likewise the timelines maybe slightly different in other kingdoms, as each kingdom’s commentary process is run on its own calendar. (And few kingdoms have the same backlog of submissions after Pennsic to cause slower processing in the fall months.)

This diagram is also available as a printable PDF.

Heraldic Tincture Hexcodes

[Update, January 2021:] See the updated version of this post for better images with more hexcodes than are included here.

Any set of colors can be used as heraldic tinctures if they can be interpreted easily and unambiguously.

Below are examples of color palettes I’ve used for pieces of armory. (Click for a larger image, or download a printable PDF with additional examples.)

None of these is official or authoritative, so you can use any colors that appeal to you as long as they are clear and don’t cause confusion.

When preparing forms for Society armory submissions, it can also be useful to understand the gamuts of OSCAR’s color-correction process.

The Submission Escutcheon

A recent question on a society heraldry Facebook group about the dimensions of the escutcheon on the submission forms reminded me that I never posted the comparison outline I put together last year showing how it diverges from the geometric construction typically used to create this “heater shield” shape.

The most common technique for drawing a heraldic escutcheon, shown in red below, is to lay out a rectangle which is three times as wide as it is tall, then add a pair of quarter circles below it, enclosing the area where they overlap.

The escutcheon on the society’s submission forms, shown in black below, is slightly different; the curve starts lower and then pinches in more steeply.

I don’t know if there’s a concrete reason these curves are different; it may have been an accident, or an aesthetic judgement by the illustrator, or perhaps there’s some other explanation that’s been lost in the mists of time.

The difference is relatively small, but it’s enough to bite you if you use a computer to create field divisions or peripheral ordinaries or the like. Submissions which do not use the precise escutcheon shape from the form are likely to be rejected.

I haven’t found a geometric construction that precisely matches the submission form, but I’ve very carefully traced the outline from the form so that I can create heraldic clip art that matches it.

For the curious, the whitespace inside the escutcheon is a couple of hundredths of an inch over 5″ wide, and a couple of hundredths of an inch less than 6″ tall. After adding a two-point outline (2/72″) around the edge, the solid black outline is 5.06″ x 6.06″.

The diagram above is available as a PDF; you’re welcome to print it out and hold it up behind a copy of the submission form to confirm that the outlines match up precisely.

Folks who are creating digital submissions might be able to save some time by reusing the outline I’ve traced, either with the alignment tick marks (SVG vector, 300 DPI PNG) or without them (SVG vector, 300 DPI PNG).

On Using Your Mundane Armory

A member of our province recently asked “What happens if a person with mundane arms joins the SCA? Can they use their mundane arms as SCA arms? And what happens if there’s a conflict with existing Society arms?”

The answer to the first question is found in the Administrative Handbook of the College of Arms, section III.B.7., “Armory Used by the Submitter Outside the Society,” which reads:

No armory will be registered to a submitter if it is identical to an insignia used by the submitter for purposes of identification outside of a Society context. This includes armory, trademarks, and other items registered with mundane authorities that serve to identify an individual or group. This restriction is intended to help preserve a distinction between a submitter’s identity within the Society and the submitter’s identity outside of the Society. Any change that causes a blazonable difference between mundane and Society armory is sufficient to allow registration by Laurel.

So, if you have arms in the mundane world, you must make at least one minor change to them in order to register them in the SCA.

On the other hand, we don’t normally conflict check against all registered armory everywhere in the world, as noted in section III.B.3., “Significant Personal and Corporate Armory from Outside the Society,” which specifies that:

Modern or historical armory belonging to individuals or corporate groups may be considered significant or recognizable enough to protect on a case-by-case basis. Armory is likely to be considered important enough to protect if the owner is associated with important administrative, social, political, or military events and the arms themselves are important or well-known.

So assuming you’re not the Queen of England or something equally prominent, if you kept quiet about it, you could plausibly sneak in your personal arms without anyone catching it. And the College seems loath to retract registrations after the fact, so even if people found out about it afterwards you might get away with it. But I’m not sure if anyone has ever tested this, and I’m not encouraging you to try it. 🙂

Examples of Individually Attested Pattern Registrations

[Update, December 2020:] For the latest version of this document, see A Catalog of Individually Attested Pattern Submissions which includes additional items not listed below.

The SCA’s current rulebook for heraldic submissions, The Standards for Evaluation of Names and Armory (or SENA), establishes a common set of requirements called the “Core Style,” based on armorial practices that were common across late-medieval Europe and on Anglo-Norman conventions in particular.

However, it also provides an escape hatch — you can register designs which do not meet the core style rules if you can show that all of their elements were part of established heraldic practice in some particular time and place. This mechanism is known as an “Individually Attested Pattern” (or IAP), and allows for registration of designs which are typical of German, or Italian, or Japanese, or other heraldic cultures but which would not be registrable under the Anglo-Norman-influenced core style rules. Continue reading “Examples of Individually Attested Pattern Registrations”

Intellectual Property Rights In Branch Armory

An interesting point came up as part of the recent discussion of copyright and armorial registrations: what rights does the SCA as an institution have with regards to the images and designs used in devices and branches?

The question was triggered by an element of the Society’s rules found in section XII of the SCA’s “Corporate Policies” document, which is inexplicably difficult to locate online, but which can be found in a revision markup for changes made in 2013.

The names (group and award/order) and armory (devices and badges) registered by Laurel to the SCA or to branches are to be considered service marks of the SCA. This recognition is to formally recognize these marks and our use of them to the purpose the US Patent and Trademark Office terms “collective marks.”

(This clause appears to date from the first quarterly BOD meeting of 2005. The same phrasing also appears in the SCA’s Social Media Policy.)

Due to what seems to be a good-faith misunderstanding, some people seem to have misinterpreted this issue in a way that suggests that the SCA, Inc.’s central organization in Milpitas, sometimes referred to as the “Corporate Office,” owns the copyright to all armory registrations, e.g. to the artwork submitted via OSCAR for devices and badges, such that permission from that office would allow someone to use that artwork in a commercial venture, or conversely that permission from that office would be required before someone could commission an artisan to create a  work that incorporated their own personal arms.

In short, none of that appears to be correct.

It may seem surprising that the service mark and copyright for a particular image belong to two separate entities, but they come from separate areas of law.

A service mark is like a trademark, but for services as opposed to products. Categorizing the arms of the society and its branches as service marks provides the society with institutional power to object if someone else uses them in a way that would trade upon the society’s reputation.

On the other hand, copyright is a protection for the creator of a specific embodiment of an original creative endeavor. In the United States and other countries which are signatories to the Berne Convention, all eligible works are immediately covered by copyright without any registration requirement, so if you draw something, other people can not distribute or sell copies of it without your permission.

For example, if a for-profit company decided they were going to run a “Middle Kingdom Renaissance Fair” and printed up advertisements with the Middle Kingdom’s arms, the SCA corporate office could file a legal action against them on service-mark grounds, even if there was no copyright infringement because that company had drawn their own illustration of the dragon featured in the Middle’s arms.

On the other hand, if the SCA corporate office grants a private leather-working business a license to sell belts imprinted with the arms of all of the kingdoms, that only covers the service-mark claims, and means the business has permission to create and reproduce their own illustrations of those designs — it does not mean the business can simply copy the branch arms out of OSCAR or from the kingdom websites without seeking permission to do so from whomever originally illustrated each of those images.

The service-mark claim limits third parties from using branch arms, but it doesn’t create a restriction on SCA branches themselves using those designs (including those of other branches) or commissioning works from artisans, because as stated in the Social Media Policy:

4.c.ii. Kingdoms, principalities, regions, baronies, cantons, shires, etc. are all part of SCA, Inc. are entitled to use SCA trademarks and service marks without limit.

The service-mark claim does not appear to interfere with common situations in which individuals incorporate branch badges into their heraldic banners and similar displays, both because the branches typically have specifically granted permission to their populace to do so, and because those individuals are not at risk of passing off a product or service as an official SCA offering.

And as one would expect, none of this applies to individual armory, as noted in the Social Media Policy: Nothing here is meant to limit the use of individual badges or arms, which of course, belong to the individual member.

As with the last post, all of the above should be read with the knowledge that I am not a lawyer, and none of this should be taken as legal guidance — I’m just attempting to describe a somewhat-obscure issue as best I understand it.

If I’ve misinterpreted something, please let me know, and if there’s a clearer description of this topic posted somewhere else, I’d love to hear about it!

Copying Heraldic Art from OSCAR

I recently asked a group of heralds what the conventions were on copying heraldic art from OSCAR for re-use in other submissions, and thought it would be useful to write up some notes on the subject here for future reference.

Copying elements from previous submissions to use as clip art when creating new armory is not uncommon. While some heralds are great freehand illustrators, others are not (myself included), and being able to pull charges from an existing image and repurpose them allows those folks to assemble good-looking submissions for the registrants they are assisting.

This practice is widespread and I don’t know of any cases where someone has objected to their art being reused in this way. If you’re one of the many heralds who does this, please don’t take my commentary as a criticism or as pressure to do things differently

However, there is no formal license to do this, and legally each piece of art remains under the copyright of its original creator except where individual or blanket permission is granted for reuse. (Some earlier versions of the armory submission forms included a clause granting permission for use within the society, but the current ones do not.)

(Edited June 20 to add: The “Laurel v2.0” generation of forms, circa 2006, include the message “I understand that with my submission I automatically give permission for the Society for Creative Anachronism to use my artwork and armory for any and all internal heraldic and scribal purposes.” The “Laurel v3.0” forms, circa 2016, omit this language.)

Writing to the original submitter and requesting permission seems like it would solve this problem, but this can be challenging because OSCAR does not expose the registrants’ contact information (sometimes Facebook searches or friend-of-a-friend inquiries will do the trick), and in some cases the registrant may not even know who created the artwork in the first place.

There are several libraries of heraldic images that do grant general permission for use in creating armory for the SCA without special arrangement or attribution, including Bruce Draconarius’s PicDic, Viking Answer Lady’s SVG Images for Heralds, Ailis Linne’s Pennsic Traceable Art book, and my own Book of Traceable Heraldic Art, but none of them is exhaustive enough to contain every possible charge in ever allowable position and style.

Note that all of the above presumes you are creating heraldry or artistic displays for non-commercial use within the society — if you plan to sell products with these images, use them for your business logo, or any other kind of commercial use you really must get in touch with the original creator and negotiate specific permission or you are opening yourself to both civil and criminal liability.

With all that said, finding several different examples of a charge from OSCAR, bringing them all to someone with a good hand, and asking them to draw something in the same vein should be safe as long as they’re using the material for inspiration and not directly tracing or copying them. Direct tracing of period illustrations or no-longer copyrighted armorial texts also shouldn’t create any problems, although you will need to verify that the style is compatible with current society practice.

(And of course, although it should go without saying, I am not a lawyer, and the above should not be taken as legal guidance.)