Charity Cakes And Copyright.

Business By Snowflakebunny23 Updated 9 Jul 2015 , 9:58pm by johnson6ofus

Snowflakebunny23 Posted 7 Jul 2015 , 8:33am
post #1 of 12

Morning all,

I've just come across Icing Smiles, a charity which provides cakes for very sick children.  It sounds like an amazing charity and I'm looking for an equivalent in the UK to get involved with.  Question though - do any of you know the legality issues of copyrighted characters for charity cakes?  I imagine that the majority of the cakes will be the favorite characters of a child so if it was a paid commission, i would turn it down.  It would have to be a pretty lowlife legal team which prosecuted a baker for something like this but you never know these days.  If you do not charge then you are not benefiting financially directly, but, if the charity then puts is on their website and attributes it to you, is that marketing?  I had never thought about it until this morning when a very unfortunate cake event went viral and the name of the original baker who made a copyrighted cake was plastered all over the web and social media. :-s

I have to stress, I REALLY do not want to put anyone off working with this charity by asking this but i genuinely do not know the answer and would be grateful for some insight from fellow bakers who have already been involved.  Thanks from the UK xx

11 replies
SquirrellyCakes Posted 7 Jul 2015 , 1:46pm
post #2 of 12

The way copyright law works is that you cannot - unless you have written permission- duplicate a copyright protected image or saying, for any kind of financial exchange of funds. Meaning, not for the cost of ingredients or for your labour etc. You can recreate cakes with these images but pictures of  these cakes cannot be posted anywhere, not even on social media. So even if you make a cake for your own child, you are not supposed to post pictures of it on Facebook or Cake Central. 

Personally, I wasn't aware of the restriction regarding social media photos of free cakes but I just read this on a Jason Kraft blog. CakeBoss has an article about the use and states that technically you aren't even supposed to do this for home use.

So really Icing Smiles should not even have the photo they have of a Mickey Mouse cake with the maker named - on their site. There is a number of other protected cakes and designers' names on their site too.

I guess it makes sense if you look at it as free advertising for the cake designers whose names are posted on that site.

I have a question for you. The cakes people do for Icing Smiles are donated, right? They are not paid for these in any way, right? I looked at the site and could not find this information. I hadn't been on cake sites in several years so I wasn't aware of them until recently.

Snowflakebunny23 Posted 7 Jul 2015 , 2:49pm
post #3 of 12

Quote by @SquirrellyCakes on 59 minutes ago

I have a question for you. The cakes people do for Icing Smiles are donated, right? They are not paid for these in any way, right?

As far as I know, that is correct.  The cakes are completely donated by the baker and no money changes hands.  I always interpreted copyright as anything which 'benefits your business either in money or in advertisement' so I would see social media, even if it is not on your page, as doing that.  Maybe I could just ask them not to mention my business if I do it... by all means, show the cake and (hopefully!) happy child but not my association to it....hmmm...

SquirrellyCakes Posted 7 Jul 2015 , 5:25pm
post #4 of 12

It is really wonderful that you are interested in doing this. I am still surprised by what I read stating that if you make a cake for free for someone and even if someone else posts it on -  say, Cake Central or a personal Facebook account, that you can be in trouble.

Webake2gether Posted 7 Jul 2015 , 6:44pm
post #5 of 12

Here is a link to the blog:

Well I didn't know that you couldn't post any pictures even if you didn't sell them.  It seems very strict but I understand why it's just a bummer that it's so hard to obtain permission. 

johnson6ofus Posted 8 Jul 2015 , 4:22pm
post #6 of 12

I did a Mickey Mouse Club cake for sick 1st BDay twins in Texas for Icing Smiles. As requested by the parents. Yeah, I know the rules, but I did it anyway (sound of hand being slapped). I am not trying to minimize Disney artistic value or their right to profit, but I did it. The parents did the whole Disney theme decorations, plates, prizes, etc. I also have been known to speed when I am in a hurry, and I have taken a few extra napkins from McD's after lunch and put them in my glove box for later use. In this case, I was willing to take the legal risk to make the cake. 

By the "letter of the law", as I understand it, I violated copyright restriction on making  the cake, I stole napkins from McD's, and I committed a misdemeanor offense by speeding. All risks I took, and all consequences I was willing to absorb, if I got caught. I think we all, if we admit it, do similar things in similar situations. 

To each their own, and the risk they are willing to take.

Pastrybaglady Posted 8 Jul 2015 , 5:04pm
post #7 of 12

@johnson6ofus  you are quite the renegade!

I don't think Disney has a problem with anyone making their stuff as long as you don't make money from it.  They make character pans for home use only and on their blogs give tutorials on how to make character desserts and cakes. So they encouage people to make their characters for themselves, but not for profit.  For them it comes down to misuse (making a pornographic Mickey and Minnie for instance) and money - they get it and not you!

Webake2gether Posted 8 Jul 2015 , 11:19pm
post #8 of 12

@johnson6ofus I'm not sure if you meant to but you made me chuckle :) Because I too have went over the speed limit a time or two (a whole lot over in my pre-mom years now it's like 5 or 10) and I'm sure I've done a few other less than perfect things along the way too. I made a batmancake and riddler cake for my son and his friends joint birthday party and posted pictures of it and posted them online. I didn't know I wasn't supposed to post them until this thread was posted. I agree that at some point we walk in the gray areas of life knowingly and unknowingly at times. I am soo far from being flawless and won't pretend that I'm not. I really strive to be a rule follower but like I said I find myself from time to time teetering on the line. I've said this before I just wished that companies made it an option to buy legal use of their images and have people pay a fee for it each separate use. Like for example $15 for the right to create fondant figurines or edible images for one cake (order) having a 3rd party seller like Wilton or even amazon.  I know that's likely never going to happen but it would be awesome to have creative LEGAL freedom to decorate. There will still be those who do it for profit without permission but that's the world we live in.  I don't look forward to telling people I can only use store bought decorations for their character cakes and them going to someone else who will but that's a part of the business I'll be willing to accept. 

costumeczar Posted 8 Jul 2015 , 11:59pm
post #9 of 12

I won't do the characters at all unless I have permission. Same goes for company logos, college mascots, etc. But if you ask permission from certain companies they might give you permission to do a one-off cake.  If Icing Smiles wanted me to do a character cake I'd do something in the colors and buy some characters to put on the cake. That way the kid would get a little toy to keep afterward, too.

 What I find amusing about cake decorators is people who are willing to use other people's copyrighted characters and logos, but who pitch a hideous hissy fit if someone takes one of their cake pictures without their permission. The logic eludes me.

johnson6ofus Posted 9 Jul 2015 , 1:38am
post #10 of 12

Quote by @costumeczar on 1 hour ago

 The logic eludes me.

I AGREE WITH YOU. But, we all do walk a gray line at times on what we "will" or "will not" do as far as "bending" the rules for our own benefit. 

CoinUK Posted 9 Jul 2015 , 8:06pm
post #11 of 12

I know it's against the rules, the law etc, but from a public image perspective, any company like Disney that went after someone who had made a Mickey Mouse cake for a charity like this would be a baaaaad idea! As soon as the press heard about it, they would get some seriously negative press for it, no matter how much they are in the legal right.

Not saying that people should or shouldn't do it, but I would imagine that if would be a lot easier to get permission for it than normal as a one off for a charity.

Or is this a case of easier to beg forgiveness than ask for permission? :D

johnson6ofus Posted 9 Jul 2015 , 9:58pm
post #12 of 12

Quote by @CoinUK on 1 hour ago

Or is this a case of easier to beg forgiveness than ask for permission? :D

LOL... yes, this is how I felt about it too... And Disney versus me and twins with cystic fibrosis= shame on Disney

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