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Old 05-23-2005, 12:55 AM   #1
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Question calling a recipe your own

When exactly can you call a recipe your own? Does it have to be one you created or can it be one that you've modified?

For example, I found a recipe on a package of meatballs. The recipe was basically a sauce for the meatballs. One day when I was cooking some pork & beans, I got the idea to use the meatball sauce recipe in the beans. I of course had to modify the recipe in terms of how much ingredients to use but it came out great. My family really likes it and wants the recipe. So, even though I didn't create the (sauce) recipe, do I have the right to call it my own?

Or what about when I take a recipe and really modify it a lot? It's not exactly the same as the original recipe but the foundation is basically the same.

It seems like these are just lawsuits waiting to happen but I know a lot of people who do it.

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Old 05-23-2005, 01:20 AM   #2
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i only call one my own when i came up w/ it on my own, period. it just doesn't seem right, otherwise.
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Old 05-23-2005, 02:24 AM   #3
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I once asked a quesion in another forum about recipes and plaguarisation but got no replies.

My recipes are the ones that come to me during the day and I start getting things out of the cupboards or the fridge. Then with a vision in my mind I create a recipe. Its probably not unique but it is inspired by my imagination and the products I have available at the time to cook with.
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Old 05-23-2005, 05:09 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lbb87
When exactly can you call a recipe your own? Does it have to be one you created or can it be one that you've modified?

For example, I found a recipe on a package of meatballs. The recipe was basically a sauce for the meatballs. One day when I was cooking some pork & beans, I got the idea to use the meatball sauce recipe in the beans. I of course had to modify the recipe in terms of how much ingredients to use but it came out great. My family really likes it and wants the recipe. So, even though I didn't create the (sauce) recipe, do I have the right to call it my own?

Or what about when I take a recipe and really modify it a lot? It's not exactly the same as the original recipe but the foundation is basically the same.

It seems like these are just lawsuits waiting to happen but I know a lot of people who do it.
Which is basically why it's impossible to truly copyright a recipe, although many have tried. Take any recipe and tweak an amount by even 1/8 tsp. (which more than likely won't change the flavor) and you've now changed the recipe and it's your own.

If you've thought of an idea, and even though someone may have already done it unbeknownst to you, then don't worry about it. You had no idea that it was already being done and there's no way your recipe and that other person's recipe will be exactly the same, so just call it yours. Don't sweat the small stuff. It doesn't matter. As long as you and the people you're serving it to think that it's your original recipe that so be it.
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Old 05-23-2005, 09:41 AM   #5
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What I remember from earlier discussions on this subject is that you cannot copyright a list of ingredients, only the technique for combining them. Any lawyers feel free to step in here.

So, if you take a list of ingredients and rewrite the instructions, it can be called your recipe.

In practical terms, your example of combining two recipes with modifications would qualify as a new recipe created by you.

When I decide to make a certain dish, I hunt for published recipes from my cookbooks and the internet. I select up to a half dozen and compare the ingredients and techniques.

I often end up with a new recipe that takes some ingredients from a couple of the published recipes and has some modifications to the directions. That's now my recipe and I label it as an "Andy M. Original".
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Old 05-23-2005, 12:55 PM   #6
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It's not impossible to copyright a recipe. Many people have done it and many have successfully defended their copyright by suing for copyright infringement.

Andy is correct. You cannot copyright a list of ingredients, but you can copyright THE DESCRIPTION of how you make the dish.

To avoid copyright infringement you must change the recipe enough so that it is not substatially similar to the original, and not capable of being confused with it. Making a minor change in the amount of an ingredient probably isn't substantial enough of a change.

That said, in practical terms the liklihood of running into a copyright problem is pretty low.
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Old 05-23-2005, 01:50 PM   #7
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It would seem to me that this is a moot point anyway unless you are planning to use it for profit. I have a number of things that I make which started as other recipes, but which have mutated over the years into my "own" concoctions. I don't include a list of credits or a bibliography when I pass it on to somebody, nor have I ever heard of anybody doing so. I also don't try to claim them as my own creations. I just like to pass on a good recipe if a friend asks for it.

On every street corner in Texas (and through much of the South) you'll find someone with his own "secret" recipe for BBQ. How many of those are truly original? Yet they guard their "personal" recipes jealously, because there is nothing in law to prevent somebody from essentially duplicating it and then calling it their "own". It may not be ethical, but I certainly can't see it being illegal.

This makes me think of the episode of "Friends" where Phoebe has lost her grandmother's secret chocolate chip cookie recipe, so she and Monica go about trying to duplicate it. After about 3 dozen failed batches, it is discovered that the "secret" recipe is on the back of every bag of Nestle's chocolate chips.
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Old 05-23-2005, 02:35 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RPCookin
It would seem to me that this is a moot point anyway unless you are planning to use it for profit.
You don't have to profit from redistributing a copyrighted work for it to be actionable. The copyright ownder does, however, have to prove damages.


Quote:
Originally Posted by RPCookin
because there is nothing in law to prevent somebody from essentially duplicating it and then calling it their "own". It may not be ethical, but I certainly can't see it being illegal.
Yes there is -- if it has copyright protection. If it is a copyrighted recipe, duplicating it and redistributing it without permission is very much illegal. It's not about "calling it your own," it's about redistributing it without permission. You can give the author credit and not call it your own and still be violating copyright law.




Once you start me on this ....
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Old 05-23-2005, 03:35 PM   #9
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If you aren't using it for profit, at most you would just have to give credit where it is due. If I use a seafood rub that I get off the internet and change one ingredient, or slightly change the cooking temp, or grill instead of bake, is the recipe now mine? It certainly isn't the exact recipe or process I started out with. But it isn't an "original" creation either. How much modification does it take to make it "mine"? I'm not talking about trying to turn around and sell it as a part of a book of recipes, just for my own use and to pass it on to friends and family.

Any recipe made available for public use can't possibly entail rights that would go beyond protection from redistribution for profit. If so, then virtually any amateur cook in the civilized world would be in violation, and that just isn't reasonable. Courts would be tied up 24 - 7 just dealing with recipe copyright "criminals".
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Old 05-23-2005, 04:27 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RPCookin
If you aren't using it for profit, at most you would just have to give credit where it is due.

Wrong, sorry.


Quote:
Originally Posted by RPCookin
How much modification does it take to make it "mine"?
Enough to make it not substantially similar in the court's eyes.

Quote:
Originally Posted by RPCookin
Any recipe made available for public use can't possibly entail rights that would go beyond protection from redistribution for profit.
Again, from a technical legal perspective, you are wrong. What if I read that scads of people here were looking to buy the new Gourmet Magazine cookbook, but they thought it was too expensive. What if I then helpfully scanned and posted all of it here, for the thousands of members to read and print out for free?

If it has been made available for public use by the copyright holder then you are ok.
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