Every artist is a cannibal. Every poet is a thief. All kill their inspiration and sing about their grief.
I don’t receive any form of compensation (cash or product) for recipes or other information written by me on my blog.
I have no problem with people who use short quotations from my blog, provided proper attribution is given to Live, Laugh, Cook, Eat or to me individually, along with a link back to the appropriate blog post.
Please keep in mind that all of my blog content, except recipes (e.g., posts, photographs, drawings, etc.) is copyrighted, so please ask me for permission before you re-post my stuff. I’m pretty nice about allowing people to use my stuff. Flattered actually. As long as proper attribution is given.
As for recipes, they are exempt from federal copyright law, so sharing a list of ingredients and basic method of preparation is perfectly fine and has been done for hundreds of years. Laurie Colwin, who is one of my favorite food writers, once said that if it wasn’t for people sharing recipes, mankind would not have survived (She said something like that; that’s not a direct quote. If it was, it would have quotation marks around it.) Anyway, so you can understand the long-standing tradition of recipe sharing. But please, whether you are using one of my recipes, or anyone else’s, you should always cite your source of inspiration.
Copyright Law as it Relates to Recipes:
Here is a section of the relevant copyright law:
Mere listings of ingredients as in recipes, formulas, compounds, or prescriptions are not subject to copyright protection. However, when 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.
Well, now that makes perfect sense, right? Huh? No. That basically tells me recipes cannot be copyrighted. Okay, so what about those recipes that I’ve submitted to contest sponsors? Most of the rules for these competitions provide that once you hit the submit button, the recipe becomes their “property.” That always confuses me. If the recipe can’t be copyrighted and it was never “mine” to begin with (even though I spent hours testing and tweaking and making a disaster of my kitchen over and over in an attempt to perfect my tasty “artwork”), how does the recipe become a sponsor’s property? Again: huh?
Well, sponsors (or their attorneys) hardly ever use the word “copyright,” but they always make it clear that the recipe you submit becomes their property. Here is an example from one sponsor’s rules (and this sponsor actually uses the word “copyright!”):
All entries and all legal rights and interests in them, including the rights of copyright, become the exclusive property of the [Special Neato Important Contest Sponsor] who reserves the right to edit, adapt, copyright, publish, transfer and use any or all of them, without compensation to you or any third party and will not be acknowledged or returned, or any portion thereof.
A cookbook (or other “compilation” of recipes) can be copyrighted, so I assume that the sponsor quoted above is referring to the “rights of copyright” if and when the recipes are compiled and presented in their cookbook. But it’s also pretty clear that the sponsor believes that even the “losing” recipes (the ones that won’t be published by the sponsor, or even disqualified recipes) become their property. I beg to differ. But it doesn’t really matter.
Back to Recipe Attribution:
In the big ol’ world of the interweb content theft is rampant, and I’m not just talking about recipes. So just be sure to do the right thing:
- If you’re looking at someone else’s recipe and modifying it slightly, you should refer to it as “adapted from.”
- If you’re looking at someone else’s recipe and modifying it more than slightly (but not substantially), you should say it’s “inspired by,” which means that you used else’s recipe for inspiration, but changed it to suit your needs or taste.
- If you’re looking at someone else’s recipe, or several recipes by the same person or different people, and the recipe you have written as a result of your research is substantially different, in most instances you can call the recipe your own. I’m being vague on purpose. I’m not going to define “substantially.” And yes, I said “in most instances.”
There is no clear line. Just your own sense of right (or write) and wrong.
I’m not a lawyer. My husband is, but he didn’t contribute to this page, or even read it. He doesn’t give a rip about recipe copyrights or attribution. He just likes to eat whatever I cook. So please understand that nothing on this page is intended to be construed as legal advice. The ideas expressed here are just my interpretations and opinions. Just do the right thing.