Jinkies - - Thank you for bringing this. I thought it had been discussed before that the copyright issues still apply whether any money changes hands or not - and they do.
I've never done any copyrighted characters, but I've turned away dozens of requests for them. I like their suggestion of putting the burden on the customer. If they insist and are willing to take responsibility for any issues pertaining to the copyright then it's on them.
I have made character cakes for my kids and that's it. I'm doing a spiderman cake this week but we are going to do a purchased edible image or decopac. I thought those two ways were acceptable and legal that is correct? This is for a friend and not a profitable cake. We've decided that character cakes are not worth the trouble when we open for business.
I thought it was interesting because someone on here asked recently about icing smiles. According to this, that is still illegal. I suppose it's because you are getting advertising off a copyright image.
I did a "cars" cake for a family member and have it on my website (with a copyright disclaimer because I did not charge them for it and I don't make and sell copyrighted cakes). However, according to this, it is wrong for me to even have that pic on my professional website because it may bring me future clients (money). Guess who's deleting that...
I've been googling and it seems the copyright holders who really go after and sue people are the universities. People have been sued for thousands for using local university logos. Stay away from those!
My understanding of decopac is that you have to decorate those cakes exactly as they are in the pics because the copyright holders do not want other images of their characters. In other words, they don't trust that you are not going to put their plastic character on a crappy looking cake. This is what I've read anyway (could be wrong), I've never used decopac but those are basically the cakes at my local grocery store and I am not making those cakes for sure. I don't like the idea of plastic toys on my cakes anyway although I've pondered it :/ No Frozen cake for me, guess I'll have to let it goooooo.
Anyhoo, for those that wonder, I just thought it explained things really well and in good detail.
that's interesting about the colleges. I've done a few for alumni and I always call to get permission and find out what their policies are. They usually send a letter of permission for one or two or a limited number per year. Then I ran into VCU and ECU, both of which have really strict policies about which logos you can use and can't use. I ended up not doing one cake because the customer wanted an older version of the logo and you're not allowed to use it anymore. Of course, they were mad at me for it...
Frozen and let it go, you gave me a good laugh on that one. I appreciate you trying to find solid answers for us. I find it crazy how lawyers aren't sure about the character copy right laws, they say maybe a lot. it's probably a good idea to contact the owners just as costumeczar does.
That was good that they clarified the whole donation/no money aspect. I've only done copyrighted characters for my immediate family but I used to think it was okay as long as you didn't charge - guess not! I've tried contacting Nintendo and the Minecraft guys. Nintendo didn't seem to know what was going on with itself and told me to contact my own attorney. Huh? The Minecraft guys never answered so I took that as a no...
@Jinkies I don't like the idea of using it either. Bums me out actually :( I'm trying to be something different from grocery stores in both taste and looks. It drives my husband nuts that there are rules like this and getting permission is difficult when we see everyone here doing character cakes and they are even legal to sell and they do. But I'm a rule follower and wrong is wrong as much as I don't like it it doesn't change the laws. Just stinks that it's expensive and difficult to obtain permission :(
@Webaketogether ...When someone calls me for a cake that would have copyright issues, I tell them that I won't do that because it's illegal. Then I say "I'm sure that you can find someone who won't mind breaking the law to do it, but I prefer to keep everything on the up and up and legal." Then they can go make up their own minds about the ethics of it. ;)
I've read that Disney agreed to give one baker permission (I think it was in Australia) but it would have cost her approximately $3000 and that was only for one character and only on certain characters, she declined. If that's true, then no way a home baker could do that.
I haven't received any request for college logo cakes but I would try to get permission there, given time, as they're probably easier to get a hold of and more apt to give permission. A baker who was sued in AZ ended up getting permission but only for certain things and he has to give a cut to the university (he has a storefront).
@Webake2gether Think of it this way: in the end, you'll be a better designer and a more "high-end" caker. Tell your clients that you only do original designs. That's a selling point point, right??
@Jinkies Very good point!! I was trying to figure out the right wording on that :) I did email marvel today and asked for permission explaining what I was wanting to do and the details of why I was wanting to get permission before just doing it. Doubt I'll hear anything back from them but I did ask. I'll let y'all know if they do respond. I doubt I could ever justify spending $3k on some character rights but I also can't justify doing them illegally so what I take away from this is to offer original custom designs to suit each customers personal preferences and style!!! But to have the opportunity to do it legally would be awesome bc my kids love certain characters and I'd love to show off what we created for them. Maybe some day it will be available in more reasonable a affordable ways.