CAN MY RECIPE BE COPYRIGHTED?
CAN ANYONE POST IT OR USE IT?
In the United States, recipes are considered by law to be functional and therefore not able to be copyrighted*.
However - you do have the rights to your photos, illustrations and the instructions of HOW you made the recipe if you add extra chatter or explain something in detail. But you cannot own the rights to the list of ingredients and amounts you use or basic directions.
I have a number of recipes I've made up myself and posted them since I started this site in 2006. And yes, I've seen them pop up on other peoples sites. I've even found 2 companies that recently came out with products incredibly unique and similar to items that I made up in the late 90's and another in 2002 that weren't available back then - posted online within the last 8 years and became very popular with visitors, message boards and blogs; and you can find versions to purchase now. Chef's on television and in restaurants grab our recipes and make buckets of money off them. It's all part of posting online and in our own recipe books.
However they can't take your exactly worded directions or your photos and use them as their own.
I actually had this happen to me a few years ago when someone stole my photo and recipe from my site and was selling her baked goods on Etsy. Luckily, a reader of mine saw and recognized my photo and let me know. There is nothing I can do about her using my recipes... but she needs to at least take her own picture or credit me for it! :)
Basically; f you've slaved over a recipe that you dearly love, or it's a recipe handed down in your family through 4 generations and you don't want anyone else to blog about it or post it - do not post it, share it or publish it.
Copyright law does not protect recipes that are mere listings of ingredients. Nor does it protect other mere listings of ingredients such as those found in formulas, compounds, or prescriptions. Copyright protection may, however, extend to substantial literary expression—a description, explanation, or illustration, for example—that accompanies a recipe or formula or to a combination of recipes, as in a cookbook.
Only original works of authorship are protected by copyright. “Original” means that an author produced a work by his or her own intellectual effort instead of copying it from an existing work.
For further information about copyright, see Circular 1, Copyright Basics. Note that if your recipe has secret ingredients that you do not want to reveal, you may not want to submit it for registration, because applications and deposit copies are public records.
Deposit requirements depend on whether a work has been published at the time of registration:
- If the work is unpublished, one complete copy
- If the work was first published in the United States on or after January 1, 1978, two complete copies of the best edition
- If the work was first published outside the United States, one complete copy of the work as first published
- If the work is a contribution to a collective work and was published after January 1, 1978, one complete copy of the best edition of the collective work or a photocopy of the contribution itself as it was published in the collective work
FL-122, Reviewed December 2011
U.S. Copyright Office
101 Independence Ave. S.E.
Washington, D.C. 20559-6000