using recipes for commercial use.

'Is it legal', 'can I do this' type questions and discussions.
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using recipes for commercial use.

Post by janet81 » Wed Feb 27, 2008 4:10 pm

Hi! What is the copyright law, regarding using recipes for commercial use? I am puting together a cookery book which I hope to sell. I have included many public domain recipes from America, which are stated as being copyright free, but I have also included recipes from an up-to date British cookery book, which doesn't have any copyright symbols or info on any of the pages. I read somewhere that recipes cannot be copyrighted, but I need to be sure where I stand. I haven't included any recipes from any material that contains the copyright symbol, or copyright information, but would I be breaking the law if I did?

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Post by CopyrightAid » Thu Feb 28, 2008 10:12 am

As a general rule a simple 'list of ingredients' may not be considered unique enough or substantial enough to be subject to copyright. BUT! if the recipe includes a written description/instructions/method of preparation of any significant length, this will be classed as a literary work and will therefore be subject to copyright.
(Also note that what a judge decides constitutes a copyright infringement is often a subjective decision based on the specifics of the individual case).

You should be fine using other people's recipes if you are:
a) using recipes that are stated to be in the public domain, or
b) using recipes where the original copyright has expired (i.e. the author of the recipe book died over 70 years ago), or
c) creating your own version of 'old standards' (i.e. the ingredients have been the same since year dot, and you write your own method/instructions/description).

In all other circumstances, I would urge you to get permission from the current copyright owner (you would normally go via the publishers for this).

Here's what the US Copyright Office says about recipes:

Delia Smith clearly believes that copyright exists in her recipes: ... 69,AR.html

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