The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Recipes and Copyrights

colinwhipple's picture

Recipes and Copyrights

I have been wondering about the copyright status of recipes that we find in books and post here.  I found an article on Slate:

with the following quote in it: 

"Copyright protection is weak when it comes to recipes. The U.S. Copyright Office states, "Mere listings of ingredients as in recipes, formulas, compounds or prescriptions, are not subject to copyright protection." Explanatory notes—like the paragraph before the recipe where the author reminisces about dinners on the family farm—are protected, but the recipe itself is not. That's why Colonel Sanders has had to work so hard to keep his recipes a secret. "


TableBread's picture

This is a REALLY vague area in the law.  I did a poll and had a guest lawyer do a post on this:



Floydm's picture

That seems to be the accepted wisdom: that it is OK to copy ingredient lists and paraphrase instructions but that copying text verbatim or reproducing images or pages from cookbooks without the publisher's permission is not acceptable. That is the approach that we as well as the 8 million other food blogs out there are typically taking.

It is also is courteous to always credit your source. It probably wouldn't make a difference in court, but it might reduce the likelihood of you ending up in court to begin with.

suave's picture

The way most book recipes are used here - as a starting point in development of own variation is a straight up fair use.  And I agree with Floyd - citing the source is always a good idea.

GrapevineTXoldaccount's picture

If I post it on a blog then I don't mind if someone 'adopts' it, copies it, and claims it as their own. How on earth would I ever know? LOL. But...for those indiduals, and I'll use Peter from BBA as an example, that have worked endless hours on perfecting their recipes and their rewrites, it is most unfair to take credit for their work. It is fair to discuss the generalities of their recipes, what did or didn't work for oneself, but to copy a work and cast it as an original thought is a downright sin.

Can you tell I'm an old timer? Oh, and while I'm discussing Peter, let me publicly thank him for leading me down the road of all things bread. My life will NEVER be the same. Many, many thanks!!!!!!

Floydm's picture

Seeing your screenname and interest in Peter Reinhart, I should mention that Peter is going to be teaching classes throughout Texas in late January and early February. According to his blog, his schedule is:

January 29: Houston, TX (Central Market Cooking School)
January 30th: Austin (Central Market)
January 31: San Antonio (Central Market)
February 1: Dallas (Central Market)
February 2: Fort Worth (Central Market)

Maybe you can catch one of his classes and thank him in person!