Written Permission To Reproduce Copyrighted Characters. Does Everybody Have It?

Decorating By Majka0329 Updated 24 Jan 2013 , 9:07am by Hollybello

Majka0329 Posted 22 Jan 2013 , 6:08am
post #1 of 21

I did not have a clue about it until recently. How can you get that permission? Where?

20 replies
jason_kraft Posted 22 Jan 2013 , 6:36am
post #2 of 21

AOnce you find out who owns the copyright for the character(s) in question, you just contact the copyright owner and request written permission via email or snail mail. Note that you must request permission each time unless you get a license from the copyright owner or permission that covers more than one use.

Dani1081 Posted 22 Jan 2013 , 12:16pm
post #3 of 21
jason_kraft Posted 22 Jan 2013 , 4:17pm
post #4 of 21


Considering Mickey and Minnie were both hand-painted, permission from Disney would be required.

AZCouture Posted 22 Jan 2013 , 4:41pm
post #5 of 21

That's what kind of bugs people, seeing big names like you just linked to doing that. :(

AlicesMadBatter Posted 22 Jan 2013 , 5:36pm
post #6 of 21

Does it cost money to gain permission? Most cakes I make are for kids birthdays and have been character cakes. I am just finding out about this copyright/ permission snag.  Any advice you can give is appreciated

-K8memphis Posted 22 Jan 2013 , 5:51pm
post #7 of 21

some people opt to stop doing character cakes and copyrighted items


permission can be difficult/impossible to obtain but also can be granted in some cases too


(don't hold your breath on disney!)


and requesting permissions is not something that works seamlessly into your schedule either




for example--instead of doing a fedex plane--do a plane flying out of a brown shipping box


give the flavor of it rather than the exact object


like big red polka dots and bows but no minnie

-K8memphis Posted 22 Jan 2013 , 5:55pm
post #8 of 21

typically you request through a company's legal department




some people say that if you purchase copyrighted decorations through a cake deco company or if you buy the toy independently that it is ok to use this to sell your cake


but that is also debatable


so it's an individual choice where the decorator draws their lines

jason_kraft Posted 22 Jan 2013 , 6:10pm
post #9 of 21

AIf you buy a licensed cake topper or decopac you do not need permission, you only need permission if you create your own copy of a character (e.g. in BC or fondant).

Some companies will grant you unrestricted permission to reproduce their characters, some will grant one use only, some will make you pay a license fee, and some will not grant permission at all.

If a customer requests a copyrighted character, I require the customer to provide written permission from the copyright owner first. This way, the customer gets mad at the copyright owner instead of you if they refuse.

-K8memphis Posted 22 Jan 2013 , 6:24pm
post #10 of 21



and ifQuote:

Originally Posted by jason_kraft 

If you buy a licensed cake topper or decopac you do not need permission...



that's true and sometimes there's more to it than that


it depends on the agreements that are in place


sometimes you must also decorate exactly as depicted in the decopak books etc.


absolutely no variation is allowed in some cases


if you are not authorized to purchase that decopak decor you can get busted for that.


if you are not authorized to re-sell that licensed cake topper you can get busted for that too


using  licensed cake toppers does not exempt you in all cases


lots of variables

jason_kraft Posted 22 Jan 2013 , 6:35pm
post #11 of 21

AThe doctrine of first sale states that if you buy something you can legally resell it (meaning the original only, not copies) without restrictions, so it's not clear if resale restrictions are enforceable. That said, if you want to err on the side of caution I agree that it's best to stick to what the license says.

-K8memphis Posted 22 Jan 2013 , 6:44pm
post #12 of 21

they are i think


if a newbie bought a decopak from a bakery and used it on a cake they can both get busted


the doctrine of you get fired if you go rogue with the design because the cake deco company will fry this store is enforcement in itself


and the doctrine of you are making money off that cake by re-selling my image is also enforceable imo and experience

jason_kraft Posted 22 Jan 2013 , 6:59pm
post #13 of 21

AAny such lawsuit would be thrown out quickly, since the law specifically limits the distribution rights (but not the reproduction rights) of a copyright owner once the copyrighted item has been sold. The whole point of the doctrine of first sale is to preserve free enterprise of goods once they have been released into the marketplace, in order to avoid having copyright owners say you can only use an original licensed item a specific way.

Of course DecoPac is also free to refuse to do business with you in the future if they find out you are using their products in a way they don't agree with.


-K8memphis Posted 22 Jan 2013 , 7:18pm
post #14 of 21

there's a lot more ways to be in trouble than to be in lawsuit lawsuit


like get fired, warned, cautioned, told to cease & desist


not to mention--these are things i know of in my life that it's right to caution others about especially newbies when they ask


so they can make their own decisions regardless of the weight/standing of a potential lawsuit


so this way they have more of the big picture 


i'm not debating anything i'm not interpreting laws


i'm giving my opinions based on my experience that this stuff can spell trouble


cafeteria style -- take it or leave it

jason_kraft Posted 22 Jan 2013 , 7:26pm
post #15 of 21

AAgreed, I doubt any baker wants to be the test case for the application of first sale doctrine restrictions to decopac sets. :)

costumeczar Posted 23 Jan 2013 , 1:19am
post #16 of 21

I've had a couple people I know directly affected by copyright attorneys contacting them, so they don't always just warn you to stop before suing you. If you don't have permission, don't do it.

DeliciousDesserts Posted 23 Jan 2013 , 1:34am
post #17 of 21

You would be amazed how often companies will grant permission.  Disney, of course, is not one of them (sadly).  


I live in Charleston, SC.  All the local colleges (USC, Clemson, & College of Charleston) simply ask you to complete an inquiry form.


I have also been granted for single use from Survivor (for a groom's cake) & Crown Royal. 


It can't hurt to ask!  ....unless of course you plan on doing it anyway. Then, you've alerted the company.

Hollybello Posted 23 Jan 2013 , 9:03am
post #18 of 21

AForgive me if this is a dumb question as I was not aware of all of the above but does the same apply if you don't receive money for a cake, eg you make it as a gift?

-K8memphis Posted 23 Jan 2013 , 3:20pm
post #19 of 21
Originally Posted by Hollybello 

Forgive me if this is a dumb question as I was not aware of all of the above but does the same apply if you don't receive money for a cake, eg you make it as a gift?


maybe/ maybe not


say you operate a bakery and you donate a mickey mouse cake for a charity event and it gets all publicized


that could get you zapped because you are def profiting from the exposure


so it depends on how and where you are donating and who you are


but if you think about it as those characters and logos are the property of someone else then you get the better grip on how to operate


if i had an order for an airplane cake for a friend who worked at fedex--i would consider using the logo without specific written permission--might that get me zapped --might but i'd prolly risk it--i might ask him to give a heads up to the legal department--depends


now if i was supplying a store in the airport with fedex logo airplane cookies on an ongoing basis--no i'd expect to get get zapped


if i was making a cake to give to a neighbor's kid--i'd probably not do a character cake--because i do not want to open that door


so lots of variables


some of it is our right as people to be ourselves and a certain fair use of the world we live in and some of it is thievery


and having an on-line presence or not is a factor too--tons of variables--there are no real clear lines--


because the people with the copyrights have to be vigilant to protect them too


although for every rigid legalistic interpreter there will be those that are fast & loose about it


so i think being considerate and as true as reasonably possible works for me


and of course request the permissions

jason_kraft Posted 23 Jan 2013 , 3:43pm
post #20 of 21


Original message sent by Hollybello

Forgive me if this is a dumb question as I was not aware of all of the above but does the same apply if you don't receive money for a cake, eg you make it as a gift?

Yes, according to copyright law infringement occurs when the infringing item is sold, transferred, or displayed publicly. So if you make a cake for your own personal use and do not post pictures of it online you should be OK, but if you give the cake to someone else that's infringement unless you have permission to reproduce the copyrighted characters.

Hollybello Posted 24 Jan 2013 , 9:07am
post #21 of 21

AThank you that was all very helpful. I am a hobby baker and all my cakes have been for family so I wasn't quite sure how that law applied to me.

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