Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Copyright Infringment of a Recipe?

I came across a post in my favorite forum (the foodie blogroll) about a fellow food blogger Melissa at Alosha's Kitchen having a bad day when it came to her modified recipe of America's Test Kitchen's "perfect potato salad". She was asked to remove the recipe because one she did not ask permission to post it. Now that would be all well and good had she not modified it by more than 4 ingredients. (which she did) Melissa gave them credit because it was their recipe she was inspired by.

Apparently not asking permission was only strike one. She had modified it. She was informed that ATK does not allow modifications to their recipes because they test them until they get them "perfect"!

In her post Melissa talks about some research she did regrading the copyrightablity of a recipe. Below is her take on the two copyright laws that pertain to recipes.

1. A list of ingredients cannot be copyrighted.
This is a point that is not up for debate. Even if it were, I didn't post their list of ingredients. I changed it by 4 ingredients.

2. Directions and methods can only be subject to copyright if they are "substantial literary expression."
And just what is substantial literary expression? Well, luckily (or not), I've read far too much on the subject the last few days and have come up with a pretty decent way to describe it. What it means is that someone has to have verbiage in their directions that is unique or personal. Anything else is public domain. For example, there are only a couple of ways you could say "heat oven to 350°, cook chicken until no longer pink." But if someone said they preferred a certain type of dough, or reminisced about their childhood, or used some really specific personally invented method by which to execute the recipe, then that may be copyrighted as "substantial literary expression."

She also has her correspondence with the ATK Representative. If you are interested in reading her entire post please visit her post illegal or not? You will enjoy I did. She has more patience than I would have.

Also let me know your thoughts on the subject of copyrights and blogging!

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Julia said...

left a comment on her pg too..think it's crazy! I didnt realize recipes could be or were copywrited. If you dont want other people to enjoy, share, modify, etc you recipe, then dont publish it! Food is to be shared and I think that CI should really think about why they are fighting with a blogger over potato salad!

Bryan said...

What kills me is that they do the same thing. They don't even cite their source. You know they did not create every single recipe. They modified one. I can garuntee they did not invinte potato salad let alone well over half of their recipes.

They modified an orginal to fit their goals for that dish. They are just afraid to loose the money from subscriptions!

Kait said...

That's always my worst fear -- despite ATK's insanity, this is actually very helpful. I always post modified recipes, too (at least since I've started taking blogging seriously) so it's a relief to know that that's ok!