Biggest question I have so far regarding printouts, logos and any character put on cakes. I am more confused on this topic and need some clarification. I recently was asked to do a superhero cake and a few other cakes requiring logos of sports teams, characters from movie, etc. I want to know what is copyright and what is permissible. I was told by a company who provides edible prints they will only print a Starbucks logo if I took the picture of it myself. Is that the same with every cake I potentially make? I was thinking if I cut out a logo but made mine out of fondant or icing it would be okay? Or figurines if I mold them from gumpaste is it still copyright if it's not the exact picture pulled from google etc? I have a cake soon it's a minion cake and they want a huge minion face how do I make the cake but not get caught up in legalities? or doing a frozen cake with Olaf on top? When am I okay to make the cake and what options do I have to do that. Sorry so wordy I just NEED HELP!!
If a logo, character, etc is copyrighted or trademarked, you need the permission of the copyright holder in order to reproduce it in way shape or form for sale. That doesn't apply for personal use. There are ways around that though, such as making a background, using toys as decorations etc. It can't be recognizable as the image in question (using mouse ears to represent Micky Mouse is a no-no).
Hope this helps! :)
To my understanding, in order to use one of those characters (especially when it comes to making a profit off one of those characters) you need to have a license, which typically requires that you contact the company and pay them some sort of fee. If you do not, they would be able to sue you. The same is true even when not making a profit (like putting a minion on a cake for your child's birthday), but you are probably much less likely to have problems from something like that (particularly if no pictures are taken or put up online).
You could always make a cake inspired by frozen, with a princess and snow like creatures from your own imagination. Just don't try and simply change the outfit of Elsa or make minor changes to Olaf, as this would still be infringement.
The edible print company probably allows for you to take pictures of such things and have them printed, since technically you could send in a photo of you standing in front of a Starbucks or with some character at disney land.
Again, i may be wrong on the minor details; but if you want to play it safe, just don't do it.
Okay, I'm not in business at all just make cakes for friends, alot of them want specific cakes with character on them, so safest thing would be to have them purchase figurines then place onto the cake? Taking a picture of the superman logo and sending my picture in to then be put on an edible sheet and using that on my cake is still a no go? just trying to see specifics
Thanks for all the comments, i'm slowly getting the technical part of it all now!
As long as it's not being sold, you should be fine :). I mean if I made an elmo cake for my son's birthday I wouldn't get slapped with a copyright notice. However, If I sold one I'd get a cease and desist letter. And don't let them bully you into extravagant cakes either. Most friends don't have a clue what it takes to make one, even if you tell them everything.
And from what I've read on here, don't use character cakes in your portfolio or as examples when you do go into business.
If anyone who sells edible prints tells you that you can take a photo of a logo and that makes it legal to print, they're very confused. If you want to use a logo you should write to the legal department of the company and ask for permission. Some of them will give you a limited-use license, but they generally don't want you to use the photos of the cake in any advertising or put anywhere online, including facebook or websites. Same for sports teams logos. People try to mess around with the laws but it isn't worth the stress. It's easiest to just say no, do a cake in the theme colors, then let the customer put toys on it. Or you can buy a decopac decoration, but then you have to put it on the cake exactly like the instructions tell you to.
Costumeczar's suggestion of doing the cake in the theme colors, then having the customer put the toy on themselves is the best solution i have heard (and now plan on probably doing that myself, if the situation comes up). i would stick with that route if i were you.
My understanding is that you can purchase an edible print from a company that is licensed to produce and sell them. Am I misinformed? You can find these online. This applies, I believe, to characters and sports logos.
I'd hazard a guess that the majority of people who are selling them online aren't licensed to sell them. Just because it's up on someone's website doesn't mean they have a license to sell them. The deco pacs that you get come with some kind of a one-time license, but I sell on Etsy and it's full of tons of shops who are selling licensed characters illegally by just printing them from pictures they find online. The number of Frozen images, to take one example, is ridiculous, since I know that Disney doesn't license people to sell their characters until they have a very long track record in the business, a high sales volume, and have paid huge fees to Disney to do it.
I have permission from a few teams and companies to do limited copies of their logos because I called their legal departments when I needed to do a groom's cake or whatever, but to do a lot of prints like that you'd need to get a formal license from each individual team, and there's no way all of the people selling those online have done that. They're just selling logos either without knowing that they're doing it illegally, or because they think they won't get caught.
Every now and then Disney or Tiffany's or Hello Kitty or whoever does a sweep on online shops and files a bunch of copyright and trademark infringement reports. Someone will show up in the Etsy forum whining that their shop was shut down, and when people check it's because it was full of infringing items. And here's a fun article for you...This guy was selling illegal edible frosting sheets and is getting himself sued for it. http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/thr-esq/disney-sues-edible-cake-frosting-820032
I understand it as you are not able to profit in any way from a licensed character. So, I made an Elmo cake for my god-daughter's birthday a few years ago...i charged nothing for it (so no problem in me making it) but I cannot use it on my website because it would be promoting my business. You can make licenced stuff for your self - you will see doens of cake tins for example in the shapes of your favourite characters but they are for HOME use only, not business use. I have lost several orders to it in the past because I won't do it and they go to someone else who will (illegally) but so is life... Make the cake in the colour theme and let them add the bits.
Actually, even at home you would be violating copyright laws.
As Michael Atkins says in this interview (check question 4), "copyright protects the character from being copied". This means even for at home use even when no profit is made. The issue also has to do with, if you post pictures online, people can mistake you as representing the companies character.
But as he covers in question 4, a trademark would not be in violation, since no sell or profit was made.