Questions and Answers – Can You Copyright Recipes
I am interested in writing a cookbook. I have quite a few recipes and relatives and friends are sending me some but what I need to know is that with the thousands of cookbooks on the market and the thousands of recipes on the Internet how in the world do you avoid plagiarism?
I would like to use the recipes in some of my cookbooks is that possible or some I have found on the Internet? Do I have to give credit for every recipe that I may want to use that I found in a book, newspaper, magazine or Internet? Do I need to ask permission first? What if I change some ingredients, do I still need to give credit? After all how many different ways are there to make a pie crust or loaf of bread without someone saying that you are stealing their ideas? Please can you give me some advice? – Barb Rich (9/27/00)
IN ANSWER TO YOUR LEGAL QUESTIONS:
A fact cannot be copyrighted, but the manner of presenting that fact can be.
A recipe’s ingredients and the order in which they are listed and used cannot be copyrighted.
All the remaining elements of a cookbook can be and usually are copyrighted – the wording of the recipe comments, the wording of the recipe method, the general and the section introductions, and the the wording of captions for illustrations as well as the illustrations themselves.
It is common courtesy when using a recipe to give the author’s name and the book, newspaper, internet, or etc. that the recipe is from.
Here is the text from the U.S. Copyright office:
29. How do I protect my recipe?
A mere listing of ingredients is not protected under copyright law. 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 collection of recipes as in a cookbook, there may be a basis for copyright protection.
It also says Copyright protects only the particular manner of an author’s expression in literary, artistic, or musical form. Copyright protection does not extend to names, titles, short phrases, ideas, systems or methods.