Monday, August 13, 2012

Getting Copyright Permission for Cakes

If you want to sell a cake that has someone else’s copyrighted logo or characters on it, you need to get permission. That's just the way it is.

It never ceases to amaze me that people will have such a fit when someone takes one of their cake photos and uses it without permission, but they’ll make all the Mickey Mouse cakes they want without feeling like they should get permission.

Well of course you should…but how to go about it?

First, check the company’s website. It might seem too obvious, but some companies actually have a section on their sites with information about using their logos. This goes for colleges and sports teams as well. I’ve noticed that a lot of universities have been adding pages with information about how they want their logos used. Some of them are really specific, too, so you’d better check.
If you can’t find anything obvious on a website, check at the bottom of the page for links to legal or PR departments.

If there's a phone number it's usually faster to call and ask what their policies are. If you tell them it's a one-time use for a fan, or an alum of the college, they might be nice about it.
The other question is whether you should get the permissions, or whether you want to have the client do it. In general you should probably do it, since you'll usually need something in writing. I had a client get permission from a children's cartoon show, and they still needed to talk to me about it, so doing it yourself takes out the middleman.
In my personal experience, colleges will usually let you use their logos for alumni cakes. Pro football teams are relatively easy to work with, but pro baseball teams are a bunch of making-you-jump-through-hoops jerks. Your experience may vary.
A lot of companies that do cartoons will not give out permission, but some of the smaller ones will. Forget anything Disney unless you want to pay a ton of money for their license. In cases like that, just do a cake that has similar colors as the main theme of the cartoon, then have the client buy a toy to put on it. That keeps you out of the copyright loop.

Kara Buntin owns A Cake To Remember LLC, custom wedding cakes in Richmond VA


 Kara Buntin owns A Cake To Remember LLC in Richmond VA, and cake supplies online at www.acaketoremember.com and www.acaketoremember.etsy.com

3 comments:

DianeB said...

It's so nice to see others respect copyright. Thank you.

Jenniffer said...

Kara, I admit this is an area in which I need improvement. What kind of turnaround time have you experienced when requesting permission for these type of cakes? Have you ever been asked to show samples of your previous work?

Kara Buntin said...

I can be anywhere between 1-2 weeks for email, so that's why I recommend calling. If you actually talk to someone you can get the specifics of what their policies are and get any written info to them faster. When I email I always link to my website so that they can see the photos of other cakes I've made. One client couldn't believe that a certain movie studio would want to clear the use of their movies, so I sent her some links to cakes that people had made that were, shall we say, less than excellent. She wrote back and said that she understood after seeing those that they'd want to be careful what showed up "representing" their studio!