Food Bloggers are Abuzz About The Right to Post a Potato Salad Recipe

9 years ago

A few days ago, food blogger Melissa from Alosha's Kitchen wrote a post about her Fourth of July dinner, including her first potato salad, one she made using a recipe she had adapted from Cook's Country, a well-known food magazine. She credited Cook's Country as the source of the original potato salad recipe, mentioned how she had modified the salad, and published the post. The story Melissa tells about what happened next is leaving food bloggers everywhere shaking their heads in disbelief.

In a post called Illegal or Not? Melissa tells how the morning after she wrote that post, she received an e-mail from Deborah Broide Publicity, the company that handles PR for Cook's Country, America's Test Kitchen, and Cooks Illustrated, a huge conglomerate of cooking magazines, cookbooks, and food television shows. In the e-mail, Melissa was asked to remove the recipe from her blog because "Permission was not given to use this recipe," and told "Also we do not allow our recipes to be modified (in print.)"

Melissa says she was on the way out the door when she got the first e-mail, so she originally dashed off a reply saying she would take the recipe down. However, when she got to work and had more time to think about it, she was certain she had done nothing wrong. She then went back and forth with the PR person in an e-mail exchange that became progressively more frustrating to her.

Even though she took the potato salad recipe out of the original post, Melissa was still upset by the incident, and a few days later she wrote another post, reprodocucing the e-mail exchange she had with the representative from Cooks Country, giving her thoughts about the request, and sharing the information she found on the web about recipe rights. And she posted her version of the potato salad recipe!

To date, more than 120 food bloggers have left comments of support for Melissa's position that even a small amount of internet research will show that recipes are not subject to copyright except when they are accompanied by "substantial literary expression" and even then, the list of ingredients cannot be copyrighted. Bloggers also seem to agree that it's silly and illogical to claim that you do not allow your recipes to be modified.

What makes this story especially interesting is that nearly all food blogs focused on recipes do post recipes that are adapted from other sources, almost always giving credit to the original source, and mentioning how the recipe was adapted. Even recipe blogs which claim to have "original recipes" often have recipes which are noticeably similar to others found on the web.

Other bloggers weigh in on the issue:
Peter at Kalofagas goes on a Blogging Rant.
The Compost Heap raises the question of reproducing e-mails on the internet.
Joanne at Frutto della Passione definitely supports Melissa.

What are your thoughts on the ownership of recipes?

Kalyn Denny writes about food and at and shares her passion for cooking at Kalyn's Kitchen. She frequently adapts recipes from cookbooks, magazines, and other blogs, and gratefully credits the source where she found the recipe.

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