Saturday, July 10, 2021

Recipe For Disaster?

Sharing favorite recipes is a great way for authors to reach new audiences, and ever so subtly to promote a book that perhaps mentions a particular dish.  Often, authors will get together to publish a multi-author recipe book, or blog series.

Can that get one into legal hot water?

That depends. A published recipe is generally fair game if treated as a list of facts... that is, the list of ingredients, and the sequential list of actions necessary to assemble, mix, and otherwise prepare those ingredients.

However, it would not be prudent to lift several consecutive recipes from the same publication. Just as a photographer can copyright a photograph because of the unique choices made by the photographer about light quality, angle, shadow, time of day, exposure, and other ephemeral elements, so the creator of an anthology of recipes makes unique and artistic choices about what to include and in what order.

One is asking for trouble if copying and publishing someone else's images of the ingredients or the dish. Much better to take ones own photographs (and copyright them in bulk). Try to use unique and original illustrations.

Unique and original words are always good to use in the description and specification of ingredients and in the instructions... assuming that the unique words are your own.  Perhaps avoid the appearance of a product endorsement of a trademarked kitchen implement, even if you do use a miniature hockey-stick/mashie (golf-club) hybrid to fold, lift and pummel your pastry.

Canadian law blogger Kiera Boyd  for Fasken offers some interesting "Takeaways" on whether or not recipes are protected by copyright in Canada, also insights into US case law. 
Katharine Stevens, partner at the UK law firm Bird & Bird LLP, discusses intellectual property rights in recipes and food (in the UK), with especially interesting analysis of trade secrets and patents for unique creations.
For the aptly-named Chip Law Group (pardon the pun) Pramod Chintalapoodi covers specific samples of food trade secrets, food patents, food trademarks, recipe copyrights in the USA and offers great tips for those who would write about other peoples' recipes.

The original is an AWS document.

Watching the movie Julie & Julia from a copyright enthusiast's perspective, it is not so hard to understand why Julia might not have been a fan of Julie.

All the best,
Rowena Cherry
PS. Publishing early owing to past and expected power cuts.

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