Edible Plagiarism: Reconsidering Recipe Copyright in the Digital Age

Edible Plagiarism: Reconsidering Recipe Copyright in the Digital Age

Meredith G. Lawrence · 14 Vand. J. Ent. & Tech. L. 187

Abstract

Sharing recipes through food blogs is an increasingly popular activity. Bloggers publish their own recipes, claiming copyright protection, but they also publish others’ recipes. Food publishers who distribute recipes online may be harmed when bloggers include the entire text of the food publisher’s recipe on a blog without the publisher’s knowledge or permission. The blogger’s inclusion of an entire recipe often reduces site traffic to the food publisher’s website, thereby damaging advertising revenues. Copyright law, as courts interpret it today, does not provide these publishers with recourse against bloggers who publish their recipes without permission.

This Note analyzes the various issues related to the copyrightability of recipes, beginning with the current rule on copyright protection for recipes. The current rule should be changed due to the prevalence of recipe sharing through food blogs. Any such change must comply with the constitutional requirements for copyright law as applied to recipes. In order to demonstrate successful enforcement of recipe copyright, this Note looks to examples of copyright licensing organizations such as the Internet licensing organization, Creative Commons, and the American Society of Composers, Artists and Publishers (ASCAP). Ultimately, this Note proposes that the challenges arising from recipe use on the Internet require a new approach to copyrighting published recipes that includes copyright protection combined with an establishment of an industry licensing the enforcement organization.