Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Recipes and Copyright

Lots of the recipes I talk about are kind of my own "adjusted" recipes so I don't mind giving them out. However, I've been careful about distributing recipes from cookbooks and magazines, and especially my favorite magazine, Fine Cooking, because I thought they were copyrighted.

In the last few days I've had some people on the Blog and on Flickr ask me for the roasted red pepper tart recipe which is in the current issue of Fine Cooking magazine. I can give them the link to the recipe but unless they sign up for a fee, they can't open the recipe at Fine Cooking's website. So I've been stewing (pun intended) about whether I should post the recipe. Stewing for two reasons. First because I thought that the recipe was copyrighted and secondly because I didn't want to type up that long, complicated recipe.

Well behold.....On the first issue, I'm not unique in this universe. Someone else was stewing about recipes and copyright issues too over on the blog, Meanwhile, Back in the Kitchen. Her blog entry sites this legal mumbo-jumbo.

Not sure I was interpreting all the legal mumbo-jumbo correctly, I asked a lawyer friend about the issue and she said, "Recipes can't be copyrighted. The list of ingredients absolutely cannot be subject to copyright, because that's just a list. The directions are just procedure. What is copyrightable is a collection of recipes, which would form a book, magazine or article. If you attribute, you're OK. The most that Fine Cooking could do would be to tell you take it off your blog, which you would graciously do when asked. As a matter of practice, unless you reprinted the entire issue, the publisher would probably like the free press you're giving them."

Okay, I guess I don't have to worry about being arrested by the Copyright Police, so sometimes I might post a copy of a recipe in the blog. But I've just discovered that Fine Cooking will let me email a friend a copy of the recipe so if I haven't posted a recipe from Fine Cooking and you want it, just email me.....you'll find my address at the bottom of the side bar of the blog.


Nancy said...

Hi Billie,

I have been a bit peeved at Blogger because one thing they don't allow is for us to upload files...just pictures. And occasionally it would be nice to upload a file...I thought of this again as you offered to email recipes to people on request. Seems like a bit of a pain to me...

So I thought that either you could go online to your Fine Cooking magazine and email the recipe to yourself. Or just copy/paste into a Word document. Or print the page as a Pdf. Just create a file.

Then you could post these files to a free file sharing service and put the link in your blog post.

I just put my recipe for Lentil Soup up on 4shared.com. They give 5 GB of storage for free. I'm sure there are other file sharing websites to choose from, too.

Anyway, I hated to think of you having to bother with random emails all the time, and thought this could be a solution.

Here's the link to my shared file:


Jonna said...

I'm jealous that you seem to be able to get the printed copy of the magazine. Perhaps you are using a mail service?

I can't wait to have my kitchen with some more space and some more tools. I know I could do all of these great things here but I'm just not wanting to. Plus, right now the teeny ants are making me nuts. You'd be horrified at how often we eat standing in front of the refrigerator because anywhere else tapping the counter brings out the little dance-on-the-head-of-a-pin beasties.

Steve Cotton said...

Billie -- Thanks for taking on this issue. It is a tough one for everyone who blogs.

The copyright laws are at least 20 years behind our current technology. They just do not work very well with electronic documents.

I am not certain I agree with your lawyer friend that a recipe can never be copyrighted. I fully agree with the reasoning, but I am not certain the conclusion follows. And there is the rub. Copyright law by its very nature is unclear. I am certainly guilty of walking the line with the Billie Colllins poems I have cited -- and recited --on my blog.

Here is my bottom line. I doubt that anyone is going to get too touchy about potential copyright violations on blogs (with the exception of the Disney Empire that will strike faster than a cobra in a tango contest). I try to be sensitive to other people's work. For instance, even though you have a copyright interest in your beautiful photographs on your blog, I would never use them on my blog, not because of the copyright laws, but because using them would make me feel like a thief. I would ask you. And that is what we should do before we start posting other people's works on line. We need to think more like human beings -- and less like lawyers.

Billie said...

Nancy, I'll look into the file sharing sites. That might be a good alternative although I doubt I'll be flooded with recipe requests.

Jonna, We do have a mail service here in SMA but I heard recently from someone who said that they get their magazines through the Mexican Mail Service. Also you can pay the fee and have full access to Fine Cookings website. However, unless I've missed something there isn't anywhere that you can tab through the pages of the current issue.

I'm sorry about the ants. That must be madding.

Billie said...

Steve, you put into words how I've been feeling about just copying a recipe on the blog. Especially one that is in a current issue when the Fine Cooking site doesn't have it open to just anyone. But I was glad to see that they do have a way to share the recipe with a friend via email.

Thanks for speaking up.

Anonymous said...

"Mere listings of ingredients as in recipes, formulas, compounds or prescriptions are not subject to copyright protection. However, where a recipe or formula is accompanied by substantial literary expression in the form of an explanation or directions, or when there is a combination of recipes, as in a cookbook, there may be a basis for copyright protection." See http://www.copyright.gov/fls/fl122.html

Cynthia said...

Actually, I think Fine Cooking needs to pay you for the great free publicity. The photograph of that tart was beautiful.

Julie D. said...

Steve, also keep in mind that recipe copyrights are not the same as art copyrights (which I haven't looked into as I follow your policy of trying to contact the artist and also giving full attribution). The paragraph that Anonymous cited above is the basis for the recipe copyright issue which has been ruled on by the Supreme Court ... so that is pretty much settled. It is the "substantial literary expression" that is copyrightable. I mean, otherwise you get into issues such as who made the first blueberry pie?

Deb Hall ~ Zocalo Folk Art said...

Billie, this is SO interesting. And I am enjoying everyone's "take" on the topic.

La Gringa said...

Billie, I've read quite a bit about copyright -- as a result of my blog articles being posted on spam blogs.

I do remember reading that recipes can not be copyrighted but any photos with the recipes can be.

I just this morning tried to copy a recipe from Fine Dining after following a link from their free email newsletter. Strangely, when I pasted it to a file, it wasn't the recipe but some references to their website. I tried twice and copy/paste would not work.

Many sites that appear to offer to mail a recipe to a friend, actually only mail a link to the recipe on the website.

Anyway, Fine Dining seem to be wanting people to pay to join the website to have access to the recipes, but I don't believe they can actually copyright them.

Just my dos Honduran centavos.

Billie said...

La Gringa, I'm so glad that you are back to reading and writing after your bout with shingles. I was excited when I saw that I could "email a friend" a recipe from Fine Cooking but you are exactly right. It only takes them to a site where they can pay to subscribe to the site and copy the recipes. Grrrr..... "email a friend" doesn't look like it means "be a salesperson for us for free."