Can I have a Disney Princess cake?
Let’s start with TLDR. NO. No you can’t.
Let me explain. I know you’ve seen a thousand Disney Princess cakes. And Batman. And Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. And Fortnite. But the thing is all these cakes are violating copyright law. As soon as I say it you get it, right? You know what copyright is. Copyright is a type of intellectual property that gives its owner the exclusive right to make copies of a creative work. Which means if I use a Disney copyrighted image they can sue the hell out of me. And they really really do. Go on and google “will Disney sue me?” I’ll wait.
Apologies for having already spoiled the ending. But you can see they are not above suing nurseries, care homes, crafters and cake designers and bankrupting them. So why do you still see so many of them? Is it ignorance or apathy? Ignorance is not a defence. It is your job to know whether you are breaking the law or not. But because it’s so wide spread many people don’t realise that they are doing anything wrong. Apathy? Some people just don’t care. Screw Disney and the millions they make, I’ll have my Princess cake and eat it too they think.
The part of this conversation that can’t be ignored is privilege. I love my job excessively. Especially as I now concentrate on the elements of it that fulfil me. The originality and the creativity. But I have the freedom to do that because without my income the bills are still paid, the cupboard is still full. If I had to feed my kids on what I made you can bet your ass I’d be making all the Batman, Spiderman, Ninja Princess whatever cakes I was asked for.
It fits in with my aesthetic to say no to them. It fits in with my morality to say no to them. And both of those are made possible by my privilege.
So while I don’t judge the cake designers who do make them, I do worry for them. Because Disney doesn't give the tiniest shit about your circumstances. They will take your house to prove their point. But you know who does have the power to change things here? It’s the customer. You could stop asking for cakes that break copyright. You could say my child loves horses, or cars or ladybirds and let the cake designer make what they will of that. My best friend loves roses or the beach or birds. The theme of our party is pink and navy. Any of these things will help your cake designer make some that you will love!
Now you know that you’re asking someone to do something illegal, you could just not do that. And still get an amazing and delicious cake, support a small business and make everyone happy. At no risk to anyone. You will always find someone to make you a cake that breaks copyright law. People have to eat. But maybe you could ask them to make something else instead.
The grey area here is ‘Can you make this cake I found on Pinterest?’. This is a question that in the beginning I found really helpful. In the beginning I was a cake maker, not a cake designer. I didn’t have the confidence to put my own designs together. I hadn’t quite figured out what looks best where, what colour palette works together, or even what medium I wanted to work in. So it was easier to replicate something that someone else has made. You can’t copyright a design. Especially because of the zeitgeist artists do have a tendency to come up with similar ideas at around the same time.
Who knows who made the first unicorn cake, drip cake or the geode trend? (PS it looks like a vulva, stop making it unless your intention is to have a cake that looks like a vulva, in which case crack on). And we all take inspiration from other people’s work. But I made the decision to step away from copying others’ cakes as I grew more confident in my own abilities and found my personal style.
I started by unfollowing most of the big cake accounts that were trend setting. Not because I didn't like their work but because it was clouding my own judgement and preventing me from being original. And I took some time to develop my own designs. I like to think that now, if you see one of my cakes, you could take a good guess that it was made by me. But personal style is an ever evolving thing. So the cakes I make this year I imagine will be different from the cakes I make next year.
Thankfully it’s been a long time since someone asked me for a cake they found on Pinterest. But I do still regularly get asked to break copyright law and that’s the part of the business that needs changing. So please don’t just ask around until you find someone who will agree to make what you want, even though it is illegal and they could get into trouble. Instead pick a designer who you think will do a good job and trust them. And don’t ask them to break the law.