Copyright Ethics

Business By genevieveyum Updated 13 Aug 2010 , 4:16pm by costumeczar

genevieveyum Posted 19 May 2010 , 1:28am
post #1 of 104

I've got a lot of questions today! So, I'm a librarian by day and have a pretty good handle on copyright law as it applies to print, recordings and computer use, but I'm curious about how it applies to cakes. What do I say if someone wants me to make a character cake for them? Since it's not a lasting image, it's going to be eaten in a matter of days -does it still count? I know that copyright is a slippery slope, but I'd like any annecdotes or thoughts on this topic please!

103 replies
prterrell Posted 19 May 2010 , 1:34am
post #2 of 104

Yes, it still counts. You can NOT make a cake of a copyrighted character and sell it. Most of the cakes with characters that you see on here were done by moms/aunts/grandmas for their families.

dalis4joe Posted 19 May 2010 , 1:36am
post #3 of 104

agree.... even the wilton pans states... only for home use... not for retail sale.... and they are pretty serious about this....

kellertur Posted 19 May 2010 , 1:55am
post #4 of 104

Don't do it for money, not even "cost"...some of my local competition accept these orders, illegal bakers, and my feelings are that they can deal with the $50,000.00 law suit. You'd think they'd have enough sense to put a disclaimer that the cakes were done for "demonstration purposes only" on thier sites, not advertise prices for Disney, etc. cakes.

I wouldn't want someone making money off of my original artwork...copying/remaking a cake is one thing, copying a protected character or protected design is just wrong in my opinion.
Always ask permission, they often say "yes".

psurrette Posted 19 May 2010 , 2:09am
post #5 of 104

I called the New England Patriots once to make a cake for someone and they laughed at me when I asked if I could use the logo. I explained why I was concerned and they still laughed and said feel free to use it so I asked for it in writting and got it.

Rose_N_Crantz Posted 19 May 2010 , 2:29am
post #6 of 104

Yeah, it doesn't matter how long the item that you're using the image for lasts, it just matters if you make money off of it. Whether it's .01 or $100,000.

I almost had to pull a Debi today and cross my arms and stamp my feet to tell a lady I wouldn't reproduce a cartoon character for a cake. She said that Cub told her they would do it. I told her then go to Cub. The ramifications of copyright infringement is up to $10,000 and a year in jail. I could lose my job for it and I won't do that. She said she had never heard of anything like that, because she was just able to print it off the internet. I told her it's an issue with making money. We can't do it. Period.

kellertur Posted 19 May 2010 , 3:03am
post #7 of 104

My thoughts are this:

People want to reproduce copyright logos/characters, etc. and make a profit without permission, but GOD FORBID should someone use a bakery name similar to their's... see my point?
Don't tweak the rules. icon_wink.gif

leily Posted 19 May 2010 , 11:27am
post #8 of 104

Everyone already covered that's it illegal, so here is how you can do it legally.

But if someone wants you to make one you buy "kits" which are toys with the characters that the copyright holder has approved for use on cakes. Or you can send the customer to the toy department at a store to pick up the character they want in a small toy (typically i like this better as you get a better toy for the same price as the "kits" sold)

Then you decorate a cake in the THEME of the character and then place the toys on top.

You can NOT reproduce the character in icing, sculpt in fondant or gumpaste or any other medium, you need to use something that you purchase from the copyright holder (and by this i mean the toys that they approve for selling at stores, not directly from the copyright holder)

mamawrobin Posted 19 May 2010 , 11:37am
post #9 of 104
Quote:
Originally Posted by torchwood

My thoughts are this:

People want to reproduce copyright logos/characters, etc. and make a profit without permission, but GOD FORBID should someone use a bakery name similar to their's... see my point?
Don't tweak the rules. icon_wink.gif




thumbs_up.gificon_lol.gif

genevieveyum Posted 19 May 2010 , 1:58pm
post #10 of 104

Thanks all- I figured this, but since I see it done so often I wanted to make sure!

prterrell Posted 19 May 2010 , 2:15pm
post #11 of 104

BTW, if you purchase one of the cake kits, you have to deco the cake the exact same as on the instruction card that comes with the kit.

mamawrobin Posted 19 May 2010 , 2:35pm
post #12 of 104
Quote:
Originally Posted by prterrell

BTW, if you purchase one of the cake kits, you have to deco the cake the exact same as on the instruction card that comes with the kit.




Yes you do. I use to work at a grocery store bakery and noticed this when "studying" a card of a cake I was decorating.
The women that decorated would change colors, and any other request of chage made by the customer. One of the first orders that I took was for a Tinderbell cake and the lady wanted pink instead of purple, and requested several other changes to the design. I told her that it was illegal for me to do that and she complained to the manager of the store that I was rude to her icon_eek.gif I was very nice but wouldn't do a cake like she wanted. I had to show the manager the proof in writting stating that it was illegal to do.

Actually 8 out of 10 people that ordered cakes there would request that the cake be altered from the origional design in some way.

babykonst Posted 19 May 2010 , 3:00pm
post #13 of 104

OMG!!! i came across a face book fan page my friend joined, and it was for a caker in my area, well i checked out her website, and she has it set up like a business (we arent allowed to sell baked goods in my area) anyhoo, really nice cakes posted on her website, but no address listed, so i flipped her an email first praising her work, then asking if she has a store front, she said no. so shes an illegal baker, and not only that, 90% of her work are character cakes!!!! shes done all of disney, pixar, lv, chanel tiffany!!! i cant believe how obliviant ppl can be about the law!!!!! icon_mad.gif

genevieveyum Posted 19 May 2010 , 3:48pm
post #14 of 104

Well- what got me thinking was that I'd done a college mascot cake for a friend and then another friend asked for the same thing for her hubby for Father's Day. I just finished e-mailing with the school's publicity dpt and they forgave me for the one I've already made, gave me permission to make one more, but after that they said I can't use the image anymore and I can't put it on my website. Oh well, I'd rather be legal than fatten my portfolio with cakes I can't recreate for anyone.

leah_s Posted 19 May 2010 , 4:05pm
post #15 of 104

I do groom's cakes with college logos fairly frequently. I request the *groom* to get the permissoin and forward it to me.

lilrhodybaker Posted 19 May 2010 , 4:09pm
post #16 of 104

So let me get this straight.....

I can make a cake using a copyrighted logo / image / character so long as I don't sell the cake correct????

They can be given as gifts so long as no money has changed hands, right???

The last thing I want to do is get in trouble for copyright infringement, or being an illegal bakery!!!

indydebi Posted 19 May 2010 , 4:35pm
post #17 of 104
Quote:
Originally Posted by torchwood

My thoughts are this:

People want to reproduce copyright logos/characters, etc. and make a profit without permission, but GOD FORBID
should someone use a bakery name similar to their's... see my point?
Don't tweak the rules. icon_wink.gif



or when someone "pirates" a photo of a cake to use on their own website without giving credit to the original baker or w/o getting permission; or even a CC'er making cake SIMILAR to another CC'ers cake without crediting that CC'er with the inspiration/idea.

I hear ya! thumbs_up.gif

rosiecast Posted 19 May 2010 , 5:55pm
post #18 of 104
Quote:
Originally Posted by lilrhodybaker

So let me get this straight.....

I can make a cake using a copyrighted logo / image / character so long as I don't sell the cake correct????

They can be given as gifts so long as no money has changed hands, right???

The last thing I want to do is get in trouble for copyright infringement, or being an illegal bakery!!!




Yes, as long as NO money exchanged hands you're clear!

Some CCers also use the colors of the character but they make it generic. For example instead of tinkerbelle they just make a fairy cake without using any characters related to tink. HTH

bonniebakes Posted 19 May 2010 , 5:55pm
post #19 of 104
Quote:
Originally Posted by lilrhodybaker

So let me get this straight.....

I can make a cake using a copyrighted logo / image / character so long as I don't sell the cake correct????

They can be given as gifts so long as no money has changed hands, right???

The last thing I want to do is get in trouble for copyright infringement, or being an illegal bakery!!!





The way I understand it - no, you can't. I had a long conversation with a very helpful gentleman in the copyright office (in DC) just a few weeks ago. Reproducing the image without consent of the copyright holder is copyright infringement - whether you sell it or not.

When you buy a Wilton character pan, you are also purchasing a license for home use, that's why people who purchase the pans can make those particular characters in cake for their family.

kellertur Posted 19 May 2010 , 6:10pm
post #20 of 104
Quote:
Originally Posted by indydebi

Quote:
Originally Posted by torchwood

My thoughts are this:
People want to reproduce copyright logos/characters, etc. and make a profit without permission, but GOD FORBID should someone use a bakery name similar to their's... see my point?
Don't tweak the rules. icon_wink.gif


or when someone "pirates" a photo of a cake to use on their own website without giving credit to the original baker or w/o getting permission; or even a CC'er making cake SIMILAR to another CC'ers cake without crediting that CC'er with the inspiration/idea.

I hear ya! thumbs_up.gif




Those who "pirate" photos are in a class by themselves... icon_rolleyes.gif

lilrhodybaker Posted 19 May 2010 , 6:26pm
post #21 of 104

Ok... Well this has been a very informative topic!!

I was planning on making a Tiffany & Co box cake sitting on top of a round cake for a bridal shower this Sunday. I thought it best to call Tiffany & Co before hand since I'd be posting pictures of the cake on here, my blog and my facebook page. Knowing my luck, I'd end up being sued by Tiffany & Co for copyright infringement because one of their lawyers saw my cake. I spoke with a very nice man named John in the legal department that stated that he doesn't see it being a problem, however when I asked for that in writing, he chuckled and said "How did I know you were going to ask for it in writing"? Someone is going to get back to me.

Now... what do I do if they say NO???

Do I totally change my cake? or just the colors of the box, do I not write "Tiffany & Co." on it, and assume everyone will know what it is? Do I toss that whole theme and come up with something else??

I'm glad that I called, but I'm nervous that they will say No.....

Any advice???

indydebi Posted 19 May 2010 , 6:37pm
post #22 of 104
Quote:
Originally Posted by lilrhodybaker

But I CAN change the colors of the image only if I pass it off as a generic cake?



Change the colors of the IMAGE .... no. Pass it off as generic ..... yes, if it looks generic.

My neighbor works for Jim Davis, creator of Garfield. One gentleman thought if he changed Garfield's color to blue, that wouldn't be a copyright infringement. The courts showed him how his thinking was wrong.

One thing I read is that if you change the image (size, color, whatever) but if someone looks at your train cake and thinks "That's a THomas the Tank Engine cake!" then it's an infringement. I'm happy to be corrected if I am recalling this wrong.

prterrell Posted 19 May 2010 , 6:40pm
post #23 of 104

No, you cannot change the colors of the image. That's not what the PP said. What the PP said was that you can use the colors to create a generic cake.

For example:

If a kid wanted a Spongebob Squarepants cake, you could do a generic under the water scene.

If someone wanted a Dallas Cowboys cake, you could make a cake using the team's colors.

If someone wanted a Disney's Beauty and the Beast cake, you could do a cake with a lot of yellow because that's the color associated with Belle (pink for Aurora, blue for Cinderella, turquoise for Jasmine...).

As far as the home use/gift thing goes, if you're doing the cake for a family member or close friend for a party you're attending, that's pretty much home use as by providing the cake you are nominally one of the hosts of the party.

TracyLH Posted 19 May 2010 , 7:13pm
post #24 of 104

I take copyright very seriously and, like Bonniebakes, have contacted the U.S. Copyright Office as well as a copyright lawyer to make sure I understood everything and for times when I have had my original designs copied, which I do not desire as they are part of my portfolio. You unequivocally cannot use someone else's copyright information without their prior consent and it is best to get it in writing. I have bent over backwards to get permission for a few of my pieces, even doing a phenomenal amount of research to find the company who produced a certain style of popcorn box so I could do just the word "popcorn' as shown on the box I found. After much multiple '"good luck with that" phone calls, I found the company, the appropriate department and received authorization. So much time was spent on that, but there was no way I would do it without that consent. My SIL wants me to do Apple logo cookies for her employees at the Apple store she manages. I will not do them without consent and I don't think I will ever get it as they have not returned any of my messages or calls. It is illegal. I am not doing it. Also, you also cannot make minor changes to a work as that is considered a 'derivative work' and is also illegal. If your photo is compared to the original and it is obvious that you bounced off of their idea without prior permission, you will not do well in a court of law. If you ever need to look into it further, here is the site for the U.S. Copyright office:

http://www.copyright.gov/

They are a little hard to get a hold of, but they are nice and will answer as much as they can. For more complicated questions, they will refer you to a copyright lawyer.

As for work seen on CC/Flickr, etc., some do not mind if you bounce of off their work if you give them credit. Some do. It is best to ask first.

lilrhodybaker Posted 19 May 2010 , 7:18pm
post #25 of 104

Thanks indydebi & prterrell!!

I was totally unsure of what they meant by "generic"!

I've learned more in the past week about cakes than I did taking the classes....lol

Y'all are the bestest!!!

HG0265 Posted 19 May 2010 , 7:29pm
post #26 of 104

I've just started up a cake decorating business from home and have a photo of spongebob squarepants on my website. Is it ok if I keep the photo on my website but put on it "For Demonstration Purposes" as Torchwood mentions or shall I delete it? I would appreciate your help.

prterrell Posted 19 May 2010 , 7:56pm
post #27 of 104

I wouldn't have anything on the website that customer's can't order. For example, I've done a couple Sesame St cakes for my nephews, but I would not include those in a professional portfolio as they are unavailable to customers. Showing them something they can't actually order is just going to lead to problems.

linstead Posted 19 May 2010 , 8:14pm
post #28 of 104

I understand all the IP stuff but it is pretty sad that people.companies etc create children's characters (and make tons of money off of them) and then impose these copyright rules for insignificant items such as cakes. How do you explain to a 6 year old that he can't have a SpongeBob Square pants cake because "it is illegal!"?? Our laws/litiguous society have gotten OOC!

KrissieCakes Posted 19 May 2010 , 8:28pm
post #29 of 104

I agree with you guys on these copyright issues...it is just plain illegal to copy someone else's images.

But.....when you look at these big name cake designers (especially ones that have been on tv) they have copyrighted characters out the wazoo! Look at Courtney Clarke's Cake Nouveau - she has TONS of Disney cakes, Hello Kitty, Thomas, and Harry Potter cakes advertised on her site. You see Duff & Buddy doing these too, although most of theirs shown on TV have been ordered from those that own the images (like Buddy's Sesame Street cake for the Sesame Street theme park, or Duff's Harry Potter cake for the premiere of the movie). Most designers you see on TV have done a sports team's logo, or even a whole park.

You never hear anything in the shows about these people calling the companies for permission. Do you really think Courteney called up Disney for permission for the cakes she sells to normal people? These are high profile people, with high profile businesses and you don't hear about them being sued for copyright infringement. Just kinda odd, don't you think?

prterrell Posted 19 May 2010 , 8:43pm
post #30 of 104

No, not odd. They're just big enough names to get permission. Why would they spend time showing Mary Alice or a producer of the show working to get permission to do a copyrighted image? That doesn't make for very entertaining TV. Plus, for many of the cake shows, the copyright holder is either sponsoring the show/contest or has ordered the cake for themselves.

As for buildings, I'm not sure if buildings and landmarks are copyrighted or not. TracyLH, do you know? I don't feel like GSing it right now.

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