crazyducky123132 Posted 8 Mar 2012 , 9:04am
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I've just started researching copyright law info as it relates to cake decorating as I will be starting my home cake business soon. I know if you replicate any licensed characters or logos and you are selling that cake you must have a copyright license to do so. However, it is okay to do like princess themed cakes, or monster truck themed cakes, as long as you don't use any characters or logos that are copyrighted. Does anyone have any links to information about copyrighting with cakes so I can read further into all of this?

I'm in Texas and have made Aggie Ring Cakes for friends and haven't charged them, but when I do charge for an Aggie Ring Cake, or a UT Longhorn logo cake I am going to have to have the copyright license for them right? Even if I write aTm on the cake or UT?

Does anyone know the easiest route to getting permission for duplicating copyright things in cake?

This is really frustrating knowing I have to follow these laws when the bakery I worked for in the past made copyrighted images, logos and character cakes every single day acting as if its no big deal.
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18 replies
karateka Posted 8 Mar 2012 , 11:16am
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Any time you use any image or logo that belongs to someone else, it is infringement. To use it you must write the owner and get permission from them. This takes a bit of research sometimes. Don't even bother with Disney. The NFL has been cooperative to me on a case by case basis. MLB won't even answer my inquiries. Coca Cola was a no. However, DC comics was cooperative, as was GM. So you just have to ask.

I've had more luck with colleges than with anything. I think they would really like to keep their alums happy.

crazyducky123132 Posted 8 Mar 2012 , 7:49pm
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Karateka, thanks that's good to know. So even if I were to write Texas A&M University or a local high school name on a cake in like cursive writing that would be copyright infringement? I don't know why you can't put a statement on the edge of a cake board that says something like "This image is copyright of Disney, blah blah blah" I mean in college if you want to use an image or copy text all you do is cite the original source, why can't that be the same for cake?

jason_kraft Posted 8 Mar 2012 , 8:02pm
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Just using the name or the initials of a local school should be fine, as long as you don't use the logos or trace the font used without permission. Copyright only protects original creative work, not words/names/phrases.

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I don't know why you can't put a statement on the edge of a cake board that says something like "This image is copyright of Disney, blah blah blah"



Including this type of statement is usually a condition of the license you work out with the copyright owner (assuming they are willing to grant you a license at all).

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I mean in college if you want to use an image or copy text all you do is cite the original source, why can't that be the same for cake?



Copyright law has exceptions for use in education.

crazyducky123132 Posted 9 Mar 2012 , 4:39am
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Thanks, jason_kraft for clearing that up. I was thinking about a few situations today...

1) If I made a XBOX cake, would it be legal to make the cake look like an XBOX but then change the name to like MattBox if they clients name was Matt for example. Similar, if I made a cake with Jack Daniels label but then changed all of the words on it to something else that fits with the clients theme would that be legal? Kinda same situation if I made a beer bucket cake and the client wanted Coors beer but Instead I called it a different name but kept with the similar look to a Coors label.

2) It's okay to make a cake that has colors of a theme, like say spiderman, and then have the client bring in purchased spiderman toys to place on top of the cake right?

3) Any opinions on using Decopac? How expensive are their products?

jason_kraft Posted 9 Mar 2012 , 4:56am
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Originally Posted by crazyducky123132

1) If I made a XBOX cake, would it be legal to make the cake look like an XBOX but then change the name to like MattBox if they clients name was Matt for example. Similar, if I made a cake with Jack Daniels label but then changed all of the words on it to something else that fits with the clients theme would that be legal? Kinda same situation if I made a beer bucket cake and the client wanted Coors beer but Instead I called it a different name but kept with the similar look to a Coors label.



These are catch-22 situations...the goal for the customer is to make the cake look like it's an XBox/Jack Daniels bottle/Coors bottle, but that's exactly what you can't do from a copyright perspective. For the alcohol examples you can legally incorporate the actual label in the cake, but of course it wouldn't be edible.

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2) It's okay to make a cake that has colors of a theme, like say spiderman, and then have the client bring in purchased spiderman toys to place on top of the cake right?



This is perfectly OK, and how we typically handle these kinds of requests. You can even purchase the toys yourself and pass the cost with your markup to the customer.

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3) Any opinions on using Decopac? How expensive are their products?



You can buy many Decopacs individually on Amazon for $10-15, the quality is not the best but it's usually good enough for a single use.

crazyducky123132 Posted 9 Mar 2012 , 5:29am
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These are catch-22 situations...the goal for the customer is to make the cake look like it's an XBox/Jack Daniels bottle/Coors bottle, but that's exactly what you can't do from a copyright perspective. For the alcohol examples you can legally incorporate the actual label in the cake, but of course it wouldn't be edible.




I thought this is kind of what movies do when they want to have like a coca cola bottle in the scene but they don't want to pay for copyright so they have it look just like one but it will say something like Cool Cola. That isn't any different than changing words for a coca cola bottle cake right?

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This is perfectly OK, and how we typically handle these kinds of requests. You can even purchase the toys yourself and pass the cost with your markup to the customer.




Awesome!

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You can buy many Decopacs individually on Amazon for $10-15, the quality is not the best but it's usually good enough for a single use.




Don't the cakes have to be made exactly as Decopac portrays them too for it to be legal?

jason_kraft Posted 9 Mar 2012 , 6:17am
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Quote:
Originally Posted by crazyducky123132

I thought this is kind of what movies do when they want to have like a coca cola bottle in the scene but they don't want to pay for copyright so they have it look just like one but it will say something like Cool Cola. That isn't any different than changing words for a coca cola bottle cake right?



In TV shows and movies they will (for example) use an actual Coca-Cola bottle and modify the label to prevent any implied association between the brand and the TV show/movie (and to avoid giving the brand free advertising). This is different than creating your own copy of a Coca-Cola label, even if it is modified your intent would be for people to recognize the product as a Coca-Cola label that was not created by or under license from the copyright owner.

If you wanted to incorporate a real Coca-Cola bottle or label into your cake that would be perfectly fine, since the doctrine of first sale allows you to resell an item you purchase as you see fit, what you can't do is create copies of the item without permission (if it is copyrighted).

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Don't the cakes have to be made exactly as Decopac portrays them too for it to be legal?



I believe the cake must be designed as pictured, but if you call 1-800-DECOPAC they can provide a more definitive answer.

crazyducky123132 Posted 9 Mar 2012 , 6:33am
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Thanks for clearing that up!

So if a company were to come to me and would want me to put their logo on a cake or make a cake with their characters on it, like if Disney came to me and said make a cake with all of our princesses out of fondant and put the Disney logo on it, would I have to obtain a copyright if the company itself is asking me to make the cake?

jason_kraft Posted 9 Mar 2012 , 6:43am
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Originally Posted by crazyducky123132

So if a company were to come to me and would want me to put their logo on a cake or make a cake with their characters on it, like if Disney came to me and said make a cake with all of our princesses out of fondant and put the Disney logo on it, would I have to obtain a copyright if the company itself is asking me to make the cake?



Probably...the request can be interpreted as implied consent, but it's possible that the group requesting the cake does not have the authority to grant a license, especially in a large company with subsidiaries and divisions that may be organized as separate LLCs with distributed ownership of company IP.

But if the company that's asking you to make the cake also owns the copyright to the characters on the cake (or has a legal department that can sort out who owns what) then they shouldn't have a problem providing express written consent or agreeing to an addendum to your usual contract that grants you a one-time license.

BTW you would not be obtaining the copyright, you would be obtaining a license to reproduce the likeness of a copyrighted character/logo/design within the terms set forth by the copyright owner. The copyright itself is extremely valuable, and in the case of a major Disney character can be worth billions of dollars.

haymeli Posted 9 Mar 2012 , 7:26am

As for decopac, you can open an account with them. They ask for your federal business Id, your SSN is the same. I did it this way. You can still buy single pacs of the figurines for about $6. Plus they have other very useful things for great prices.

JJGITA76 Posted 9 Mar 2012 , 11:08am

this is very interesting and informative topic. i have seen few more threads discussing it. just wonder if moderators could do a sticky on copyright ?

crazyducky123132 Posted 10 Mar 2012 , 5:17am

Thanks everyone for the help!!!

I agree that copyright should be a sticky, it is confusing and its hard to find specific information.

scp1127 Posted 14 Mar 2012 , 5:51am

Just google copyright/trademark law or infringement and a million sites will come up. Most are clearcut and worded in layman terms.

Vengeance Posted 14 Mar 2012 , 8:19pm

So, just to continue to get down to the nitty-gritty, are PARTS of images or image/themes copywritten? For example, this was on the main page today:

http://cakecentral.com/gallery/2288370/princess-cakes

Very iconic, and very clear what they're representing, but would they actually be infringing on a copyright?

jason_kraft Posted 14 Mar 2012 , 8:56pm
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Originally Posted by Vengeance

So, just to continue to get down to the nitty-gritty, are PARTS of images or image/themes copywritten? For example, this was on the main page today:

http://cakecentral.com/gallery/2288370/princess-cakes

Very iconic, and very clear what they're representing, but would they actually be infringing on a copyright?



The stories themselves are public domain, only the elements of Disney's interpretation of the stories is copyrighted. Personally I think those cakes would not be considered infringing.

kisamarie Posted 14 Mar 2012 , 9:20pm

I've always heard it to be the Character or a likeness of the character that is copywritten. Disney can't copyright a shoe, a crown, yellow ruffles, etc. as SCP said, google it.

scp1127 Posted 15 Mar 2012 , 6:08am

Those dresses, especially Snow White's, are Disney's. I saw it as soon as the page came up. So they would be an infringement.

Sorry Jason, I have three daughters much older than yours. Soon you will be very knowledgeable in fairy princesses.

jason_kraft Posted 15 Mar 2012 , 6:21am

If the Snow White blue/yellow/red design was a Disney creation then I would agree with you there, but the designs for the other three dresses might be considered too generic to be copyrighted. None of the iconic story elements (apple, glass slipper, etc.) can be protected with copyright (except for exact duplications of the Disney renderings) since they are everyday objects from the public domain story.

It is still risky if you advertise it as a "Disney Princess" or "Cinderella" cake, since Disney may come after you anyway and you would probably be forced to settle regardless of whether you would have won the case.

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