Amberwaves Posted 5 Jul 2012 , 4:06pm
post #1 of

I just went on Etsy to look something up and found literally HUNDREDS of copyrighted items being sold there. From Spiderman to Bubble Guppies to Elmo, Mickey Mouse and Hello Kitty, they are all there for sale in fondant, gumpaste, royal icing, on cookies, T shirts, invitations, etc.

And from looking at people's feedback and sales numbers, most of them are doing quite the brisk business selling these copyrighted items.

So can someone remind me again--why am I turning down cake orders that have these characters on them? Etsy is a massive market place--surely the copyright police would have discovered it by now if they really were looking like people claim they are.

139 replies
kelleym Posted 5 Jul 2012 , 4:19pm
post #2 of

Because it's illegal.

Because it's wrong.

Because the cost of being caught outweighs any potential benefit.

(Spoken as someone who has received a Cease & Desist letter over a "trademarked" cake design.)

Sugarsweetcafe Posted 5 Jul 2012 , 4:37pm
post #3 of

^ what Kelleym said. Its not worth it.

Also think about how you would feel if you created a piece of art and someone in the world steals your art and tries to make money off it. I know as an artist I wouldnt like it icon_smile.gif

karensjustdessert Posted 5 Jul 2012 , 5:07pm
post #4 of

This applies to a lot of choices put before us in life:

Just because you can, doesn't mean you should.

BlakesCakes Posted 5 Jul 2012 , 6:24pm
post #5 of

I guess it all depends on your answer to the question (posed by most mothers at one time or another):

If everyone else jumped off a cliff, would you do it too?

If the posted speed limit is 65 and a group of cars passes you doing 90, do you join in?
When the cop stops ONLY you, do you say, "But all those others were going 90!!!!" He's still going to write YOU the ticket and you have no defense to what you've been caught doing.

Rae

AZCouture Posted 5 Jul 2012 , 8:01pm
post #6 of

I used to feel the same way, and still do get ruffled when I lose a sale or see others doing it too. But it's just the right thing to do. You know, when you have nothing to worry about, it just makes life easier. And besides that, I am just so over these stupid Mickey Mouse and other character cake requests. Where has the creativity gone? Fall in line, pick a number, and get your predetermined party package cake here. Oh hell no. Over it.

costumeczar Posted 5 Jul 2012 , 8:03pm
post #7 of

Because Etsy has rules against copyright violation, and when they find those listings they remove them because they violate their terms as well as the law.

costumeczar Posted 5 Jul 2012 , 8:04pm
post #8 of

Actually, I can also add that I have a friend who had some Angry Birds cupcake decorations listed on Etsy, and the Angry Birds people contacted her with a cease and desist. So people do look there.

bluedaisies Posted 5 Jul 2012 , 8:16pm
post #9 of

Oh I know how you feel... I get a lot of requests for character cakes that I turn down and then later see my competition doing them. Irks me. I recently went and bought a few of the character candles to have on hand to use when I get these requests. For instance, I'm doing a Tinkerbell cake this weekend and I'm using the licensed character candle topper on it. I do advise the client that I'm using a candle/topper as the character.

Cakery2012 Posted 9 Jul 2012 , 3:02am

I'm just a hobby baker. Last year I offered to make a cake as a gift for a young single mother who also had custody of her cousin. I ask what she liked and she said Disney princess. I made a pink cake with purple border and pearl accents. Bought the Disney princess wand candles and a $2 princess crown to top it.
It was no where near the professional quality of the fabulous cakes on CC. But this little girl doesn't get as many special things as most kids. She was ecstatic
and wanted to take the crown off and wear it as soon as she saw the cake .

BakingIrene Posted 9 Jul 2012 , 3:11am
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cakery2012

I'm just a hobby baker. Last year I offered to make a cake as a gift for a young single mother who also had custody of her cousin. I ask what she liked and she said Disney princess. I made a pink cake with purple border and pearl accents. Bought the Disney princess wand candles and a $2 princess crown to top it.
It was no where near the professional quality of the fabulous cakes on CC. But this little girl doesn't get as many special things as most kids. She was ecstatic
and wanted to take the crown off and wear it as soon as she saw the cake .




Good for you. And don't lose any sleep--you paid for the Disney product as a gift.

The issue is this: the Wilton character pans all come with the statement in fine print that making those cakes is permitted for home consumption but NOT for commercial sale. Wilton has a license to make and sell the pans for that restricted use.

Now here's a related matter: I see scans of Toba Garrett books on ebay all the time. I have emailed her husband-agent a couple of times as I am offended that somebody is selling 100's of copies at $2 each. And the listings disappear...and a few months later they are back up again. Wonder why they don't monitor ebay for copyright violations themselves?

TheItalianBaker Posted 9 Jul 2012 , 6:59am

what instead if I make some fondant details of the character and place them on a sold cake?
I mean, on a pink and white cake, is that legal if I put Minnie Mouse's ears?

Lynne3 Posted 9 Jul 2012 , 11:55am
Quote:
Quote:

why am I turning down cake orders that have these characters on them?




I understand your angst. I get annoyed for a different reason. Many people feel that trademark infringement allows others to use someone's creation for their own personal financial gain, and that's like stealing. I get that point completely.

But the thing that irks me is that these companies (Disney especially) sell the rights for companies to manufacture items that are pure garbage. The cake toppers and candles etc sold with proper licenses look horrid.

At the same time, kids are brought up to love the characters, and want a character cake. So to do it all legal and nice, you use legal cake toppers from companies like deco pac that look like cheap junk. It's frustrating.

tcbalgord Posted 9 Jul 2012 , 1:11pm

I can relate and like the other CCer's have said, you don't do it because you know it's wrong and why worry if you don't have to. I work for DQ and I have a small side business. I fight constantly with my DQ boss over copy write cakes, I flat out refuse to let her bully me into doing them, instead she will do them and I sit back and glare at her. If I take the cake order I say "I am sorry I cannot do that for you due to copy write laws. However, I can do a color scheme for you and/or you may purchase the ________ and I will be more than happy to place them on the cake for you." I do the same thing for my business, with the exception of course being for my family and best friend, who I never charge cuz it lets me play and still be legal!

We all struggle with this, and personally I sleep better now knowing I have nothing to fear where this concerned.

matthewkyrankelly Posted 9 Jul 2012 , 1:39pm

Remember Napster and all the music sharing websites? Well, it is taking years, but individual people are losing cases in the music industry all the time. And they are holding up. The only defense people have is "I didn't know." The courts don't care.

It is not a matter of "if", but "when". Some hungry young lawyer will hook up with his computer science major friend to create a program that trolls the net for clients. It will look for any key words for their client. They will sue you on behalf of their client, take 50% and get rich.

The net never forgets. It is not worth it.

shannon100 Posted 10 Jul 2012 , 5:20pm

I've been going back and forth with a customer over the last few days over this. She wants an x-box and controller. I explained about copy right violations and that I do not do them. I told her some bakers don't care, but when I started my legal CFL bakery, I made the decision to not do copyright violations. I told her I knew i would lose business, but I was ok with that decision. She is doing everything to try to come up with an alternate. "Can you make a box and put x-station on it?" I said, No, if you can look at it and tell what it is, I can't do it. (Kelley, I told her about your C&D letter from the "jack daniels" cake) She's a friend of mine, but she just isn't getting it. I'm ready to tell her to find another baker. (A good friend of hers just got a fantastic "Up" house cake. Looked just like the movie! I told her to go to that baker, since he obviously doesn't care about copyright stuff.) It's so frustrating! I feel like I'm the one being difficult! All these copy right breakers are making it so hard for all of us!!!

WickedMir Posted 6 Aug 2012 , 7:23pm
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lynne3

Quote:
Quote:

why am I turning down cake orders that have these characters on them?



I understand your angst. I get annoyed for a different reason. Many people feel that trademark infringement allows others to use someone's creation for their own personal financial gain, and that's like stealing. I get that point completely.

But the thing that irks me is that these companies (Disney especially) sell the rights for companies to manufacture items that are pure garbage. The cake toppers and candles etc sold with proper licenses look horrid.

At the same time, kids are brought up to love the characters, and want a character cake. So to do it all legal and nice, you use legal cake toppers from companies like deco pac that look like cheap junk. It's frustrating.




I'm quoting you because I agree so much with this post!
To me it's very frustrating, and one of the reasons I don't want to start my own business. I understand the principle of the thing but it pains me to see awesome bakers make gorgeous cakes only to top it off with some generic plastic figures or toppers. And especially for the women/men that do this is a hobby or just want to make a niece or friend happy, it feels somewhat 'over the top' for companies like for example Disney ( who really have no shortage in money, let's be honest here) to have to worry about such a thing and end up not doing it.

scp1127 Posted 7 Aug 2012 , 8:28am

To the above poster, it would help you to udderstand the concept if you studies a litte. Copyright and trademark laws have made business what it is today. It is vital to commerce. Enough said.

Second, yes, you can buy a cheap Decopac. But that is not the only alternative. I spent $45.00 on "Cars" cars and $26.00 on my "Thomas the Train" toys. The cakes are adorable and the children love them much more than cake figures. The topper is another big present. I'm no great decorator, but I have seen too many talented people on this site to think that any of them could not make a masterpiece cake and add the toy, as allowed by law.

Please, for those of you who don't see the point, educate yourself a little so that you will "get it".

Lynne3 Posted 7 Aug 2012 , 2:02pm

I don't think you should assume that people who disagree with you are ignorant of economic issues or copyright and trademark law.

The point was rather simple. Companies who market to our children should have an obligation to provide safe, quality merchandise. The tides are changing. When I was a child, if you bought a Disney toy or topper it had quality. It was well made, of good design, and safe. Now the rights to make those same items is given to companies that create low quality merchandise that often has poor likeness to the characters, unsafe parts and no lasting power.

Disney toys were not a lot of money. They were available to the mass market that Disney advertised to. And to get a quality Mickey or Cars, you did not have to spend 3 times the minimum hourly wage to do so.

It was that attention to quality and affordability that made their business what it is today. The junk they produce now is a reflection of what they will deserve to be tomorrow.

jason_kraft Posted 7 Aug 2012 , 3:43pm
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lynne3

It was that attention to quality and affordability that made their business what it is today.



If you are talking about Disney, they are not a consumer manufacturing company. It is intellectual property (copyrighted and trademarked work) that made them what they are today, and that's why they spend so much money lobbying congress to extend the duration of IP protection.

Manufacturing licensed Disney products is outsourced, so other companies take care of that. Demand is greatest at lower price points, so licensees that can make products cheaply tend to have a larger market share. Safety should not be an issue, since unsafe toys are pulled off the market.

Lynne3 Posted 7 Aug 2012 , 3:57pm

Jason_Kraft wrote

Quote:
Quote:

The companies that manufacture licensed Disney products are outsourced. Demand is greatest at lower price points, so licensees that can make products cheaply tend to have a larger market share.




I agree. But Disney has control over who the licenses are given to. And yes, demand is greatest at at a lower price point. The difference is in the percent of return that manufacturers and Disney reap back. I believe they are entitled to their profit and their license. It just seems sad that most of the lower price point items (which are not low at all) are truly junk.

Perhaps I'm older then you, but I remember being a kid with limited funds and I was still able to buy Disney things that lasted a long time.

jason_kraft Posted 7 Aug 2012 , 4:08pm
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lynne3

But Disney has control over who the licenses are given to.



If Disney did not grant licenses to manufacturers that can make licensed products cheaply on a large scale, there would be no supply at the low end of the market. Black market manufacturers would fill this void with goods of similar or inferior quality, the only difference would be that the extra profits would flow to the black market manufacturer instead of Disney.

This problem can only be fixed on the demand side. When the mainstream market starts demanding higher quality goods and (most importantly) is willing to pay a premium for them, cheaper manufacturers won't be able to sell their crappy products and will be forced to invest in quality.

tmcakes Posted 7 Aug 2012 , 5:01pm

Ok so can someone please clarify the copyright issue for me. I have always turned down ANY and EVERYTHING copyrighted for my customers however i have kids and family that I have made cakes for that I have never charged a single penny to make and they have contained copyrighted stuff. Am i breaking copyright laws in anyway just by making a cake for my children or immediate family who have not paid a dime for me to make for them. Anytime a customer ask about copyrighted cakes i inform them that i do not make them however i will do a nice cake related to the party theme and colors but it will not contain anything that will resemble the copyrighted item. and once they got home or to the party site and THEY wanted to add stuff they purchased. to it that was up to them. Is this a no no too? Im confused about this copyright thing.

jason_kraft Posted 7 Aug 2012 , 5:17pm
Quote:
Originally Posted by tmcakes

Am i breaking copyright laws in anyway just by making a cake for my children or immediate family who have not paid a dime for me to make for them.



Any time you copy someone else's original work without their permission, you are infringing on their copyright (with a few exceptions for fair use like education and parody). Of course if you are making an infringing cake for your close family and friends, and no one posts any pictures of the cake online your chance of getting caught is virtually nil.

Quote:
Quote:

Anytime a customer ask about copyrighted cakes i inform them that i do not make them however i will do a nice cake related to the party theme and colors but it will not contain anything that will resemble the copyrighted item. and once they got home or to the party site and THEY wanted to add stuff they purchased. to it that was up to them. Is this a no no too?



That's perfectly fine, you can even add licensed figurines to the cake yourself (at a markup of course). Copyright restricts the copying of original work, but if you buy a figurine and then sell it to someone else that's not copying.

tmcakes Posted 8 Aug 2012 , 3:47am

Ok that makes a little more sense...thanks for explaining.

ConnieJ Posted 8 Aug 2012 , 5:29pm
Quote:
Originally Posted by shannon100

I've been going back and forth with a customer over the last few days over this. She wants an x-box and controller. I explained about copy right violations and that I do not do them. I told her some bakers don't care, but when I started my legal CFL bakery, I made the decision to not do copyright violations. I told her I knew i would lose business, but I was ok with that decision. She is doing everything to try to come up with an alternate. "Can you make a box and put x-station on it?" I said, No, if you can look at it and tell what it is, I can't do it. (Kelley, I told her about your C&D letter from the "jack daniels" cake) She's a friend of mine, but she just isn't getting it. I'm ready to tell her to find another baker. (A good friend of hers just got a fantastic "Up" house cake. Looked just like the movie! I told her to go to that baker, since he obviously doesn't care about copyright stuff.) It's so frustrating! I feel like I'm the one being difficult! All these copy right breakers are making it so hard for all of us!!!




I know how you feel. I've been through that with friends, too, and always get the vibe like I'm dumb for making it an issue. Oh, well! Once I understood it was wrong, I stopped selling cakes that would have infringe on copyright laws.

Srkstrickland Posted 6 Dec 2012 , 2:08pm

AThis is what I was wondering..is it illegal if it's not the exact character but perhaps their face or something?

Original message sent by TheItalianBaker

what instead if I make some fondant details of the character and place them on a sold cake?

I mean, on a pink and white cake, is that legal if I put Minnie Mouse's ears?

jason_kraft Posted 6 Dec 2012 , 5:33pm

A

Original message sent by Srkstrickland

This is what I was wondering..is it illegal if it's not the exact character but perhaps their face or something?

A good of rule of thumb is that if an average person who looks at the cake will think "hey, that's (character name)", you are probably infringing.

Dr_Hfuhruhurr Posted 6 Dec 2012 , 6:41pm
Quote:
Originally Posted by shannon100 

I've been going back and forth with a customer over the last few days over this. She wants an x-box and controller. I explained about copy right violations and that I do not do them. I told her some bakers don't care, but when I started my legal CFL bakery, I made the decision to not do copyright violations. I told her I knew i would lose business, but I was ok with that decision. She is doing everything to try to come up with an alternate. "Can you make a box and put x-station on it?" I said, No, if you can look at it and tell what it is, I can't do it. (Kelley, I told her about your C&D letter from the "jack daniels" cake) She's a friend of mine, but she just isn't getting it. I'm ready to tell her to find another baker. (A good friend of hers just got a fantastic "Up" house cake. Looked just like the movie! I told her to go to that baker, since he obviously doesn't care about copyright stuff.) It's so frustrating! I feel like I'm the one being difficult! All these copy right breakers are making it so hard for all of us!!!

 

Actually, I think you might be taking things a bit too far here. 

 

First, a point of distinction:  For the most part, what everyone here is really talking about is trademark law--not copyright law.  Copyrights are intended to protect creative works and expression, while trademarks allow companies to protect logos, slogans, etc.  Sometimes, it's possible for something to be both copyrighted and trademarked (e.g., I believe Disney trademarks and copyrights some of its character work), but not always.  The XBOX console is a perfect example.  The XBOX logo is not eligible for copyrighting because it contains only plain typefaces, text, and simple shapes.  It is trademarked, however.  The trademark prevents you from reusing that logo, but it does not prevent you from creating something similar--even in the same typeface.

 

As for the shape of the console itself, it's possible that it's been trademarked, but I don't know.. The machine is certainly patented, and the design patent might be inclusive of the console's shape.  However, it's basically a white square.  You're not in violation of any trademark or patent laws for making a white, square cake.  Even if you were to label it an "X-Station" and put a little controller next to it with colored buttons.

 

It all comes down to what you're comfortable with, obviously, but don't be so quick to assume that everything you've ever seen on a store shelf or advertised on TV is under lock and key.  Many aspects of these products are often ineligible for protection, and savvy bakers are likely to capitalize upon your decision to play it so close to the vest.  Take the time to consider any customer requests, and do the appropriate research.

cakeyouverymuch Posted 6 Dec 2012 , 7:12pm

There is a solution to this problem.  When your customer can provide you with a letter of permission to use a copyrighted character, then you will do what that letter permits.  Of course the customer will have to begin that process well in advance of the date on which they expect to pick up the cake.  You could make it part of yur contract that the customer  is responsible to provide such letters of permission (by a specific date) without which the customer will need to choose an alternative, and legal, option.  This will educate your customer and allow you to remain professional.

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