charmed1212 Posted 24 May 2011 , 10:59pm
post #1 of

I currently make cakes for fun and for free. I have been asked by many people how much I would charge for a cake. I have not charged anyone, however, more and more people are beggining to ask. So as I read more and more information on CC, I find out things I had no idea about.

First, Is it true I cannot charge for a cake? Whether to make profit or not. From my understanding, it is illegal.

Second, I cannot do character based cakes without permissions from the company who creates these characters. Is this also true?

I am sure that there are many people who do not abide by these rules, but I want to do what is right by me.

I do not plan on making a business, but would love to someday be able to sell a small amount of cakes for special occassions. Any advice and help would be appreciated. icon_smile.gif

47 replies
Texas_Rose Posted 24 May 2011 , 11:06pm
post #2 of

The character cake thing is true everywhere.

Being able to have a home-based bakery depends totally on your state's laws.

Evoir Posted 24 May 2011 , 11:07pm
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Hi Charmed! Good on you for trying to find out the laws and regulations that pertaining to selling food you've made in your home. The first thing you need to do is contact your local authority - in the USA it appears that each state has different laws on cottage food businesses. You may very well be able to bake and sell form your home, depending on where you live. Even so, you will need to be compliant in food safety and handling, which often involves inspection and certification. If you let us know where you're from, someone with local knowledge will advise, I am sure.

Secondly, re: Disney characters etc - you are correct. You cannot sell any cake made that bears any resemblance to registered/trademarked/copyrighted characters. And Disney apparently is the worst compant to offend, from what I hear.

Good luck in your search for more information!

jason_kraft Posted 24 May 2011 , 11:09pm
post #4 of
Quote:
Originally Posted by charmed1212

First, Is it true I cannot charge for a cake? Whether to make profit or not. From my understanding, it is illegal.



If you live in a state with a cottage food law, you meet the requirements for that law, and you are compliant with zoning rules in your town, you can legally sell cakes made from your home kitchen. If not, you would need to rent a commercial kitchen or build another kitchen on your property that can pass inspection.

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Second, I cannot do character based cakes without permissions from the company who creates these characters. Is this also true?



Correct. Some copyright owners will grant permission to sell cakes with their characters on them, some won't. It is perfectly OK to sell a generic cake with a licensed topper of a copyrighted character though, since the manufacturer of the cake topper has already paid a license fee.

shari3boys Posted 24 May 2011 , 11:37pm
post #5 of

I have been doing a few cakes for family and very close friends...i have charged only for ingrediants. Is that okay to do? I am in maryland and I am pretty sure I cant make a profit of making cakes or advertise etc.

charmed1212 Posted 24 May 2011 , 11:44pm
post #6 of

Thank you everyone!

I currently reside in Florida. I didn't realize that there was so much to this! icon_eek.gif I want to make sure that I get things right.

Does anyone know how to go about getting character permissions? Does this have to be done for personal cakes, i.e. my daughter's birthday cake?

Thanks again for everyone taking the time to answer. icon_smile.gif

jason_kraft Posted 24 May 2011 , 11:50pm
post #7 of
Quote:
Originally Posted by shari3boys

I have been doing a few cakes for family and very close friends...i have charged only for ingrediants. Is that okay to do? I am in maryland and I am pretty sure I cant make a profit of making cakes or advertise etc.



It doesn't matter if you make a profit, break even, or even lose money...if your state does not have a cottage food law you cannot legally charge higher than $0 for food made in your home kitchen.

Kristie925 Posted 25 May 2011 , 12:02am
post #8 of
Quote:
Originally Posted by charmed1212

Thank you everyone!

I currently reside in Florida. I didn't realize that there was so much to this! icon_eek.gif I want to make sure that I get things right.

Does anyone know how to go about getting character permissions? Does this have to be done for personal cakes, i.e. my daughter's birthday cake?

Thanks again for everyone taking the time to answer. icon_smile.gif



I'm pretty sure you can make character cakes as long as you don't sell them. You can't profit off of the company's characters without their permission.

shari3boys Posted 25 May 2011 , 12:06am
post #9 of
Quote:
Originally Posted by jason_kraft

Quote:
Originally Posted by shari3boys

I have been doing a few cakes for family and very close friends...i have charged only for ingrediants. Is that okay to do? I am in maryland and I am pretty sure I cant make a profit of making cakes or advertise etc.


It doesn't matter if you make a profit, break even, or even lose money...if your state does not have a cottage food law you cannot legally charge higher than $0 for food made in your home kitchen.




WOW i didnt realize this at all.. I guess I could have them go buy all the ingredients and could then make it for them....

jason_kraft Posted 25 May 2011 , 12:15am
Quote:
Originally Posted by charmed1212

I currently reside in Florida. I didn't realize that there was so much to this! icon_eek.gif I want to make sure that I get things right.



I believe FL recently passed a cottage food bill, so once it takes effect later this year you should be OK baking from home if you qualify (and if you comply with municipal zoning ordinances).

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Does anyone know how to go about getting character permissions? Does this have to be done for personal cakes, i.e. my daughter's birthday cake?



It is still technically infringing, but as long as you don't publish pictures of the cake in connection with a commercial business you should be fine using copyrighted characters on a cake for personal use only.

jason_kraft Posted 25 May 2011 , 12:21am
Quote:
Originally Posted by shari3boys

WOW i didnt realize this at all.. I guess I could have them go buy all the ingredients and could then make it for them....



Some states have an exemption that allows you to bake commercially in a customer's kitchen without requiring a health dept inspection. If MD is one of those states then you should be OK, the exemption is meant for personal chef services but that's essentially what you would be doing.

Baking in your own kitchen with ingredients bought by someone else would still be considered commercial (you just received compensation in goods instead of cash), but it would be tough to prove and the risk would be pretty low. If you want to be 100% legal baking from your home kitchen without a cottage food law you would have to donate the cakes with no strings attached.

TinkerCakes Posted 25 May 2011 , 12:26am

There is a thread on The Cottage Food Bill in Florida, it might be helpful. I'm in NWFL, it is supposed to be effective July 1, 2011...fingers crossed nothing changes.

http://cakecentral.com/cake-decorating-ftopict-712309-florida.html+cottage+bill

charmed1212 Posted 25 May 2011 , 2:49am

Awesome! Thank you!

Jason-Lisa I will start reading now. icon_smile.gif

Last question and I won't bug anymore.... How do you get permission to use the characters? Anyone done this before?

leah_s Posted 25 May 2011 , 3:30am

To get permission you write to the company and ask for a "one use permission". Generally you contact the PR department. I have grooms do this quite a bit to get permission to use a team logo, which they frequently want on their cake.

With cartoon characters, you likely won't have a lot of luck. Just make the cake a background and buy toys to put on top of the cake.

tryingcake Posted 25 May 2011 , 3:36am
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kristie925

Quote:
Originally Posted by charmed1212

Thank you everyone!

I currently reside in Florida. I didn't realize that there was so much to this! icon_eek.gif I want to make sure that I get things right.

Does anyone know how to go about getting character permissions? Does this have to be done for personal cakes, i.e. my daughter's birthday cake?

Thanks again for everyone taking the time to answer. icon_smile.gif


I'm pretty sure you can make character cakes as long as you don't sell them. You can't profit off of the company's characters without their permission.




NO NO NO!!!!!! Disney, for one, is very explicit that you cannot even make a cake for non-profit with their characters. It states very plainly in their copyright rules - you can only make a character cake if it's for your immediate family and does not leave your home. Immediate family, by law, does not include your sister (this of course assumes you are married and living on your own), your sister's kids or even your mom. They are extended family. If you are underage and live with your sis, then she is immediate family as are your parents. So, no, you cannot bake a Winnie the Pooh cake and take it to Sunday School as a donation or give your nephew a Buzz Lightyear cake. Won't fly if you are caught.

jason_kraft Posted 25 May 2011 , 5:12am
Quote:
Originally Posted by tryingcake

Disney, for one, is very explicit that you cannot even make a cake for non-profit with their characters. It states very plainly in their copyright rules - you can only make a character cake if it's for your immediate family and does not leave your home. Immediate family, by law, does not include your sister (this of course assumes you are married and living on your own), your sister's kids or even your mom.



What's your source on that? From what I've read online, Disney properties are intended for personal and home use by you and your family only. This does not mean it cannot leave your home, it just means it cannot be used for any organization or commercial enterprise. It also does not specify immediate vs. extended family.

See the link below:
http://disneyinteractivestudios.custhelp.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/2862/related/1

So in short, using Disney characters on a cake for personal use (within your immediate or extended family) seems to be OK. However, donating a Disney character cake to Sunday School would not, since you are using Disney's property in association with an organization.

SweetcakesCT Posted 25 May 2011 , 5:35am

Just wondering who polices this copyright issue with Disney and the other companies? It would seem that it would hardly be worth their time on a small scale situation.

jason_kraft Posted 25 May 2011 , 5:47am
Quote:
Originally Posted by SweetcakesCT

Just wondering who polices this copyright issue with Disney and the other companies? It would seem that it would hardly be worth their time on a small scale situation.



Companies that have very valuable IP typically hire firms that specialize in copyright protection on a contract basis. For example: http://www.marksmen.com/pages/services_investigations.html

Large companies can also bring IP protection talent in house, for example Disney has an entire department devoted to IP protection, including political liaisons to ensure copyright is continually extended to keep Mickey Mouse from entering the public domain:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copyright_Term_Extension_Act

tryingcake Posted 25 May 2011 , 4:21pm
Quote:
Originally Posted by jason_kraft

Quote:
Originally Posted by tryingcake

Disney, for one, is very explicit that you cannot even make a cake for non-profit with their characters. It states very plainly in their copyright rules - you can only make a character cake if it's for your immediate family and does not leave your home. Immediate family, by law, does not include your sister (this of course assumes you are married and living on your own), your sister's kids or even your mom.


What's your source on that? From what I've read online, Disney properties are intended for personal and home use by you and your family only. This does not mean it cannot leave your home, it just means it cannot be used for any organization or commercial enterprise. It also does not specify immediate vs. extended family.

See the link below:
http://disneyinteractivestudios.custhelp.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/2862/related/1

So in short, using Disney characters on a cake for personal use (within your immediate or extended family) seems to be OK. However, donating a Disney character cake to Sunday School would not, since you are using Disney's property in association with an organization.




Unless they've changed there policy from a couple of years ago, I got it straight from their copyright policy page. Straight off if it.

jason_kraft Posted 25 May 2011 , 4:24pm
Quote:
Originally Posted by tryingcake

Unless they've changed there policy from a couple of years ago, I got it straight from their copyright policy page. Straight off if it.



Can you link to that copyright policy page? It seems very strange to me that Disney would (for example) specifically OK the use of their characters for immediate family but not extended family, considering that they would then have to legally define what the difference is and defend that definition in court if need be.

tryingcake Posted 25 May 2011 , 4:35pm

I'm actually looking for it as we speak. There is a ton to read through.

tryingcake Posted 25 May 2011 , 5:11pm

Well, it seems to me that we are not allowed to do even one for home use anymore. I finally found the site, but I think the rules have changed. In the documentation I found before, they gave examples. Here they don't.


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Except as we specifically agree in writing, no Content from any WDIG Site may be used, reproduced, transmitted, distributed or otherwise exploited in any way other than as part of the WDIG Site, except that where a WDIG Site is configured to enable the download of particular Content, you may download one copy of such Content to a single computer for your personal, noncommercial home use only, provided that you (a) keep intact all copyright and other proprietary notices, (b) make no modifications to the Content, and (c) do not use the Content in a manner that suggests an association with any of our products, services or brands. Any business use, "re-mailing" or high-volume or automated use of WDIG Sites is prohibited.




At one time I was able to find the wording that even mentioned cake as an example. So it either no longer exists or I simply am reading over it. It seems we can download a pic of Mickey for ONE TIME HOME -use only (which in the older version stated cannot leave your home).

Here is the website:

http://corporate.disney.go.com/corporate/terms.html#top

Warner has a similar policy:

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Online in any part of this Site for any reason is restricted to making a single copy for non-commercial, personal, entertainment use on a single computer only, and is subject to your keeping intact all copyright and other proprietary notices.




here is the website:
http://www.warnerbros.com/main/termsofuse/termsofuse.html

Both say the Disney/WB TM has to be attached.


I looked up others too, but I'm not posting them all because I don't need to. They all say the same things over and over.

You can download an image for ONE TIME use for HOME use only. You cannot recreate an image (ie: transfers) at all.

As for character pans, same thing, kind of. Home-use only, but of course you can use them more than once.

I don't know, this is how I read it.

And for general across the board policy and law, this government website is pretty good:

http://www.copyright.gov/title17/

jason_kraft Posted 25 May 2011 , 5:21pm
Quote:
Originally Posted by tryingcake

http://corporate.disney.go.com/corporate/terms.html#top



Those are the terms of use for Disney web sites and refer only to content from said sites. You are not bound by their terms of use unless you actually use one of their web sites.

Also, note the clause in the terms of use (emphasis mine):

"Except as we specifically agree in writing, no Content from any WDIG Site may be used, reproduced, transmitted, distributed or otherwise exploited in any way other than as part of the WDIG Site"

The link I posted related to general information about the use of Disney properties and specifically allows personal and home use -- it refers to copyright and trademark law, which unlike the Disney terms of use you cannot opt out of.

Geseka Posted 25 May 2011 , 5:40pm

It really does depend on the company. I recently did a Barney cake and got written permission from the company that owns Barney to replicate his image in cake. It was actually very easy. I just called the number on their Web site, they ask me for some details (e.g. what image I would base it off of, what the cake was for), and then emailed me a form to sign and return to them. Other companies, as has been discussed, will not be as willing to allow the use of their image(s) on a cake, but it doesn't hurt to ask them.

tryingcake Posted 25 May 2011 , 5:56pm

Of course if you have written permission you can do what ever - no one is questioning that.

tryingcake Posted 25 May 2011 , 5:58pm
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Originally Posted by jason_kraft

[quote="
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tryingcake"]http://corporate.disney.go.com/corporate/terms.html#top


Those are the terms of use for Disney web sites and refer only to content from said sites. You are not bound by their terms of use unless you actually use one of their web sites.




Go ahead and copy Mickey from a non-Disney site and see if they can't come after you and the site you downloaded it from. I would think that would be treated the same as receiving stolen property. Maybe you didn't steal it - but you are still guilty.

tryingcake Posted 25 May 2011 , 5:59pm
Quote:
Originally Posted by Geseka

It really does depend on the company. I recently did a Barney cake and got written permission from the company that owns Barney to replicate his image in cake. It was actually very easy. I just called the number on their Web site, they ask me for some details (e.g. what image I would base it off of, what the cake was for), and then emailed me a form to sign and return to them. Other companies, as has been discussed, will not be as willing to allow the use of their image(s) on a cake, but it doesn't hurt to ask them.




The problem being most don't ask.

jason_kraft Posted 25 May 2011 , 6:03pm
Quote:
Originally Posted by tryingcake

Quote:
Originally Posted by jason_kraft

[quote="
Quote:
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tryingcake"]http://corporate.disney.go.com/corporate/terms.html#top


Those are the terms of use for Disney web sites and refer only to content from said sites. You are not bound by their terms of use unless you actually use one of their web sites.




Go ahead and copy Mickey from a non-Disney site and see if they can't come after you and the site you downloaded it from. I would think that would be treated the same as receiving stolen property. Maybe you didn't steal it - but you are still guilty.



Who needs a web site? You can find pictures of Mickey in books, magazines, and other sources that do not require agreement to the Disney web site terms of use, in which case you would only be bound by Disney's written statement allowing personal and home use of their characters.

tryingcake Posted 25 May 2011 , 7:25pm

I have a hard time believing that anything I copy from a coloring book would not be infringing on someone's copyright's somewhere. They don't even want you drawing him freehand. Why would I be allowed to copy their product from anywhere anyplace anyhow?

jason_kraft Posted 25 May 2011 , 7:34pm
Quote:
Originally Posted by tryingcake

I have a hard time believing that anything I copy from a coloring book would not be infringing on someone's copyright's somewhere. They don't even want you drawing him freehand. Why would I be allowed to copy their product from anywhere anyplace anyhow?



Because Disney said (in my earlier link) that use of their properties is OK for personal and home use, therefore personal use of Disney characters -- including using them on your daughter's birthday cake -- is non-infringing. Using their characters in a commercial setting (or, as you mentioned, donating to an organization) would still be infringing unless separate permission was granted.

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