Calling all food bloggers out there! The internet is full of gourmet chefs showcasing their latest unique recipe, and wanna-be-foodies simply copying recipes from their Ina Garten cookbook and calling it their own. So how do the truly innovative chefs keep their hard-earned recipes from being copied by imposters posting their recipes online without permission? You may be thinking copyright law, and you’d be partly right.
Copyright law protects original works of authorship, which includes things like literary, musical, architectural works, and motion pictures.
Copyright law does not cover any idea, procedure, process, system, concept, or principle.
Unfortunately, copyright protection isn’t really available for individual recipes. (See 17 U.S.C.A. § 101).
Courts have held that individual recipes in a cookbook are not entitled to copyright protection, where recipes merely comprise of required ingredients and directions for combining them, without “expressive elaboration”. Expressive elaboration like – this would be good with a Malbec and aged cheddar, with some Marvin Gaye in the background. Luckily, if you made a cookbook of multiple recipes, you’re more likely to get protection. That’s because copyright law seeks to protect creative expression, i.e. originality, and books meet that standard.
The Verdict: Even if it’s not “illegal” to copy recipes, it’s definitely bad form.