Saturday, April 16, 2005

[Recipes] Speaking of legality...reprinting of recipes

I am wondering if anyone has ever been told to take down a recipe that was reprinted without express permission.

On the rare occasions I post someone elses recipes, I note where they are from, but am curious if this is actually a potentially bad thing.


Amy Sherman said...

I try to go with original recipes but I think as long as you credit the source you are ok. While I'm not a lawyer I think this would be considered "fair use".

Sylvie said...

This is a question I also was curious about. It would seem that the same rules apply as writing an article for a journal. As long as you reference the source it should be ok. The rules might change when you try to profit from the use of the recipe.

drbiggles said...


I just bought a cook book and it says right inside a few pages that reproduction or transmition in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage or retrieval system without written permission from the author, excerpt for the inclusion of brief quotations in a review.

That pretty well covered it for me. I've always attempted to track down the author for recipes or images. If I can't find it, I do it anyway. I have documentation of all my attempts & failures. In more ways than one.


Kate said...

What this boils down to is essential copyright laws. Recipes are a strange beast when it comes to this. Here's the scoop by use of a simple recipe as an example:
I love PBnJ sandwhichs they so remind me of my youth.

-2 slices of bread
-1 Tablespoon peanut butter
-1 Tablespoon grape jelly.

Toast the bread in your favorite toaster. When complete, spread the peanut butter on one slice of the bread, and jelly on the other. Combine the slices so that the Peanut butter and Jellly touch.



Everything generally before the ingredients is considered prose, and is copyrighted. It should not be used. So my treatise on my youth is off limits.

The ingredients are not under copyright, as they comprise a formula/compound. One cannot copyright H20 (as an example) and one cannot copyright how to make a bechamel sauce.

Below the ingredient list is tricky. Techniques cannot be copyrighted. But prose can. You could probably get away with copying the recipe techniques here, but in a larger, more comprehensive recipe, you probably cannot. It all comes down to a matter of "voice". When you read a recipe, does it sound like a list of instructions, or does it sound like a person telling you how to make a dish. If it sounds like a person, you should probably rewrite, or give proper attribution.

When I write a recipe, I often make sure that the recipe is no where in site, so that I have to write in my own voice. If I don't change any ingredients to a very specific and probably unique dish, I try to give proper acknowledgment.

Sam said...

I am with Kate on this one.
I do what she does too - and rewrite recipes when I use them by making bnotes as I go along and usually changing something. If I use online recipes - I just link to them.

There was a great discussion about this on IMBB. here is the link definitely go and check it out if you are interested.

And here is the official word which itself could be construed as ambiguous.

ejm said...

And I too am with Kate and Sam. If I have made few changes to any of the ingredients in a recipe I'm writing down, I usually make a note about where I got the recipe - as full credit as I can locate: author, publication, date.

Unless express permission has been given with verbatim copies of recipes, it's my feeling that this is a nono, voice or not.

As DrBiggles mentioned, some cookbooks say that any reproduction is forbidden; others say that small excerpts may be quoted without permission in reviews.

It's all a matter of commonsense.

Cate said...

I'm with Kate, Sam and ejm... I recall reading a recent discussion on this (and can't for the life of me remember where), but like Kate said, it's a tricky thing. If I am highlighting someone else's recipe, I include the source and even a link to their cookbook so the reader can buy it at Amazon (free marketing for the author!).

David said...

The Australian Copyright Council has a special information sheet for recipes:

I presume that much of this will be similar to US law.

There is also another emerging non-binding license, the Creative Commons:

JoAnna said...

I've been researching this lately...

Click here

Culinary Fool said...

Like Sam, ejm and Sweetnicks I use a combination of methods to give credit where it's due. It's nice when you can just link to an online source. I often stay away from posting a recipe if I use it "as is" from a cookbook - instead I link out to the cookbook through Amazon or some source.

If I have changed anything I may post it and explain what changes I made.

Something that no one has mentioned though, is that in many cases, even recipes you find in cookbooks are actually sort of commonly held. Think of something like Beef Stew. If you look at ten cookbooks, several of them may have the exact same (or not significantly different) recipes. So your particular recipe may not match any or may match all of them. In those cases I think you can post without worrying about source.

And, since none of us owns every cookbook in publication (although I seem to have made a significant dent!) you may create something and post it as your own but that is actually in some cookbook. I don't think you can really worry about it.

The worst case is that someone might ask you to pull a recipe down. In order to really sue you they have to prove a bunch of stuff - like you intended to harm them and that by posting you affected their sales, etc.

So just be smart and give credit where credit is due and you should be fine!

Rachael said...

The funny thing is that the one time I did post someone elses recipe I gave credit, and then jokingly wrote "reprinted without any permission at all." The author of the book (or a publicists assistant, but whatever) emailed and thanked me for writing about her book. So there is one example of someone not minding at all...

efoodie said...

Another thing to consider, that I didn't, is whether the source wants to be credited publicly. I had posted a recipe and credited the person, a family friend, who was not comfortable having her full name on the internet. I took it down immediately, and felt awful, because I just didn't think twice about it, and should have.

jh said...

It seems to me that if you define a recipe simply as a list of ingredients, there aren't many original combinations out there. It's what you write about it based on your own experience that makes it yours. Otherwise what's the point in posting it?

Last month, for example, I did a posting on pizza dough. Who can claim to own pizza dough? I started with a published recipe, credited the source, and set out to develop "my" recipe, meaning the one that works for me. I doubt my version is unique either, but my comments and reasons for doing it that way, as written up in the posting, are mine.

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