Friday, April 1, 2011

Content Theft vs Design Theft

Sometime late last year, I found another blogger that had literally taken dozens of my posts - text, pictures, and all, and posted them on her blog as her own.  I found each post and left a nasty little comment and asked her to take down the stolen content.  Nothing ever happened and not knowing where to go or what to do, I let it go.

Over the weekend, Chaddy found a group on Facebook called Stop the Cake Thief.  It's a group where you can "out" these unscrupulous people that would take another's cake pictures and present them as their own.

He still had the link to the blog, so he decided to list it on the group so that others might see if their content had been stolen too.  Within a day or two, a few people commented that they recognized some cakes.  But then someone commented that not only had someone stolen her cake but that someone else had stolen it again by claiming it as their own!  And the claimer was me!!  It was the first time I had been accused of doing something un-cake-ethical.  The other decorator was accusing us of design theft.  Chad looked at the 2 photos and while they were entirely different cakes, one was definitely inspired by the other.  Chad quickly worked things out with the lady and wound up giving her a shout out on the post thanking her for the inspiration.

Anytime my family sees a cute cake, they send me a picture.  Not to mention that I get e-mails and printed pictures from clients every week of cakes they like that will inspire their own cake.  If a client is looking for cake ideas, I generally direct them to flickr.  They never provide me with the original baker (or the price!).  I'm absolutely sure this is where this lady's cake came from.

If I know who did the original cake, I like to give them credit, but as I stated before, I usually don't know.  If another baker does a cake that I came up with originally, it really doesn't bother me.  Odds are, you aren't near enough to me to be a competitor, and if you are and can do the cake better, more power to you!

I think there's a huge difference between design theft and content theft, and to be clear, Stop the Cake Thieves focuses solely on photo/content theft, not design theft.  But I do have a renewed sensitivity to it and I will try harder to give proper credit when and where I can.

Have any of you ever had your actual photos stolen and presented as your own?

What are your thoughts on people using one of your cakes as inspiration for their own?

For the record, I got the graphic above from iStockPhoto.


  1. yes! This has happened to me. A blogger, who has since taken down the images, stole some of my post of cookies. It was frustrating, and I never recieved a reply as to why they had done it, but now I make sure to Watermark my images in a way that cannot be duped. It is an extra step to posting, and is silly and detracts from the images, but has stopped the theft.

    good luck!

  2. I agree with you - there is a big difference between content theft and design "theft"! I'm starting to see pictures of mine on other blogs, etc - but most are re-postings of pictures from tutorials, without the text (which ok for me at the moment). I haven't seen anyone who hasn't linked back to/credited me (yet!). I do think I'll start watermarking my images however. I'm totally ok with people using my designs as inspiration - but would love a link back to me/credit if they know that I am the original creator.

  3. I think that it is too difficult to avoid design theft. You may have seen an idea and kept it in the back of your mind and not even remember seeing the original idea. There are a couple of people on Flickr who are very worried about design stealing. I purposely avoid groups they are members of in order to avoid accidentally stealing their ideas.

    I have also had what I thought were completely original ideas only to discover later that someone else had made a cake just like it.

    Now stealing pictures and presenting it as your own, that is a completely different issue.

  4. I don't get what they gain stealing pictures and showing them off as their own? What if someones says, make that cake you blogged about for my event? What then? If they don't have the skills to make a cake on their own like the one they stole then why pass it as their own? Design theft is ok with me. Everyone goes to the internet for inspiration. Sometimes, what I like to do is get little things I love from different cakes and put them all together on one cake... I appreciate all the inspiration as well!

  5. I guess I don't mind if someone copies a cake or cupcake I did and puts it on their own blog as long as the photo they are putting up isn't mine. If they saw my goodie and then re-created it in their own kitchen with their own two hands and took a picture of the result, then more power to them. But if they literally copy and paste MY PHOTOS on their blog/site to pass them off as their own work, then I definitely consider that stealing!

  6. I agree that there's a huge difference between using someone's photos and saying that it's your work (wrong) and using a design and making it yourself. If I know who did the design that I'm starting from I'll credit them, but quite frankly, I agree with Rachel who posted that things that you think are original usually aren't.

    I've seen people claiming that a polka dotted cake is "their design." Really? You invented the polka dot? Sorry, you didn't. If someone brings me a picture of a polka dotted cake I'm not going to worry about crediting anyone. There are very few new ideas under the sun.

    I've had people take watermarked photos off of my website and put them on their sites with the watermarks still on them! I've also had local bakers copy cake designs from my website exactly the way that I did them (and I know I designed it myself.) The designs being copied are irritating but the photos being used is a copyright violation. The copyright violation gets taken down, the designs being used is just irritating but not anything that you should try to fight.

    It's the text thieves that drive me nuts, I'm in the process right now of dealing with turning a few of them in to their ISPs, so this subject is near and dear to my heart!

  7. I don't mind people using my cakes as inspiration, I do mind when they copy my cakes at the point that they almost look the same and claim they just woke up one morning with that design in their minds.
    I do get a lot of clients that give me pictures of somebody else's cake and they want me to make the same cake. I always tell them that I can get inspiration from it, but not coping the same design. I have had people taking some of my post and claiming them as theirs, and the funny thing is that my post some times have grammar issues ( because of my english) and they don't even correct that.
    This is a very good topic to discuss.

  8. I have not had the issue of people stealing my pictures. But I do use other cakes as inspiration and do not mind if someone uses my pictures as inspiration. If you don't want people using your cakes a inspiration I feel you should not post them. I have many customers request a type of cake and usually provide a picture, but I always change it up some. And I would be ashamed to take credit for someone elses cakes.

  9. I think some people are getting 'design inspiration' and 'design copying' confused. I don't mind people taking inspiration from my cakes and using some of the techniques or design IN THEIR OWN WAY. I do not appreciate a blatent copy without the credit, or in fact if they don't know the original designer, to just say so. It takes a lot of time and effort to create unique pieces which is mainly why I am in awe of other cakers. This should be recognised as 'design theft' just like 'photo/copy theft'.

    I have been given a couple of cake designs in the past and on my post I have clearly said 'given to me by the client and I don't know who to credit for the beautiful design'. Unfortunately, in Chad's instance his cake was an identical version of Hannah's cake (Baby Bath Cakes) and really he should be saying the original design was not his in his post regardless of whether he knew who to credit or not. Even the detail in the text on the board was identical in design and that or the dinosaur should have been changed slightly if it was in fact used as 'inspiration' and not a direct copy.

    I do feel photo theft and text/copy theft is also a big problem in the cake world.

  10. @All - Thanks for all your comments! I had no idea this would be such a popular topic. I'm glad to know that most of you feel the same as I do.

    @Karen - Chad is my husband, and the cake in question was mine and not his. The cakes were not identical, but the client did supply Hannah's (not known at the time) picture and wanted a cake like it. Chad rectified the situation to Hannah's satisfaction.

    I'm glad you constantly go the extra mile to give proper credit, even if you had no idea who did it originally. You should publish your Blogger profile so everyone can how it's done! Who do you credit when you do a quilted or wonky cake?

  11. Hi Jennifer, I don't have a blog, but my work can be seen on Flickr or Facebook under "Tasty Little Cakes". I'm in the UK like Hannah. Photo theft has become a big issue for many of us and I only found Chad's comments after finding the "Stop..." group on FB.

    Just to clarify it's not the 'style' of cake I'm talking about (eg. wonky or otherwise), it's if a design is pretty much copied exactly as seen in someone else's photo, or even a book. Credit should then be given to the known or unknown cake artist. I would never pretend something was my idea when it was not. I can see how on a commercial website it's difficult to highlight this as they usually just show the pictures, but if that business puts a corresponding entry on their blog then I feel it should be mentioned. Just a line like "design provided by the customer and unable to track the original designer". That goes a long way.

    Have since looked further at your work and it's very good. Some lovely designs.

  12. Apologies for mis-spelling your name Jenniffer!

  13. I agree with how we sometimes all seem to come up with the same idea at the same time. We all must look at so many cakes it's hard for them not to seep into our brains. However! It drives me mad when I see something I've made reproduced EXACTLY as I made it originally. Work off the design, fine but don't steal the whole thing Unfair. Really unfair. I take time to come up with stuff and yes I use the internet for inspiration but I would never claim something for my own if it wasn't

  14. Jenniffer.. ohmigosh yes, in the cake world there are those evil little people who just straight up STEAL images and claim them as their own work... it's terrible.

    as far as design/inspiration... i love flickr, and other people's blogs, and am constantly inspired by a technique or a colour scheme... i came across a person recently on facebook/flickr (someone pointed it out to me) who was completely copying all of my designs and work, down to my photography style and aesthetic of my whole business - insanity! i sent them a professional email saying that it wasn't proper form and that they should cite where they get their "inspiration" from. anyhow, i agree with other bloggers above... citing your inspiration and giving props where props are due is necessary. but there's only really SO much one can do with cakes -- most and many techniques have been done before, so it's impossible to claim ownership over a general design (ie, a cupcake cake, for example!) or... le cupcake's style of cupcakes (which many many people imitate now).

    there will always be the true artists and originators and those who borrow ideas and copy others. it's like that in every single art form. the only thing to do is continue to work hard, produce great designs, be professional and quality products, and support each other! ^__^

    the sincere and passionate and truly talented people in all genres of artmaking will always rise to the top.

  15. whoops i didn't finish my original train of thought, which was -- yes we can find inspiration in other talented cakers out there, but recreating it in one's OWN style is really what being inspired is about.

    straight up copying an exact design is copying. being inspired by another artist and working from a new challenging perspective and citing the inspiration is the only correct form of action! ^__^

  16. Having taken baking up as a therapeutic hobby while I am on the mend from the very debilitating cancer treatments of chemo and radiation, and being very new at this, I only bake sporadically as gift's for family and friends. I wouldn't mind at all if someone copied any design of mine, as long as they gave me credit for the original!

    However, I used to paint and belonged to a site where some people would just copy the exact painting and merrily claim it as their own! That I didn't like, so I just stopped posting there!

  17. I am not a designer nor a baker. I went to a local cake "artist" I had been following on FB for over a year. I knew what I wanted, and my granddaughter had sketched the main idea for me.
    I set up the meeting in Feb. (event in July) planned on spending &800.00-$1000.00. Got to the woman's house and she did not show for appt. Had friends that had used her several times & recommended her. I left folder with sketches & Ideas @ her home. She e-mailed me, apologized with a plausible excuse & I told her I could meet with her any day but Fri. & wkends. I did not hear from her & continued to e-mail plans & Ideas. March I had called, left several msgs asking Please contact me. Finally late April she did. She could not do our event as she had booked another on that date. I was upset, but it would have been OK if she had given me notice in Feb. Cked her website, she had used my granddaughter's sketch as a Mardis Gras Theme Cake. Was upset, so was going to send her a personal letter via website. Googled her-She had used someone elses NAME!!! I was given the excuse, I had not made a deposit. How could I? She did not show up for the appt!! Still upset because she took my granddaughter's sketch & used it, but it was HER financial loss! 2 wks before our event, she posted (under new name) the date we had requested was open. I never doubted her abilities as an artist, but her ethics are MOST questionable! Judy Woods Bartlett, TN 38135

  18. @Judy - I am so sorry to hear about your bad experience with another baker. I guess it just goes to show that even talented cake artists can be bad business people or act unethically. For wedding cakes, I recommend looking the baker up on a wedding cake review site like Wedding Wire or The Knot. If they have done someone else wrongly, they may do the same to you.

    Deposits and "date saving" are a touchy subject amongst bakers - the best rule of thumb is to never assume your date has been saved until you have paid a deposit. I know you situation was different Judy, but I think it bears repeating for anyone else out there in the blogosphere.

    I hope your event was not marred or tainted by this unethical baker. But if you need a silver lining... at least you didn't pay the baker and still not get a cake, right?


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