A Guide Through the Legal Jungle Trivia Question
Next week, I’ll begin a blog series on recipes and copyrights. The series will include my commentary on rights issues in two culinary-related books, Deceptively Delicious: Simple Secrets to Get Your Kids Eating Good Food a cookbook written by Jessica Seinfield, the wife of comedian Jerry Seinfeld, and Julie & Julia in which a New Yorker chronicles her project of cooking every recipe in Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking.
This recipe-related Saturday trivia question is a kick-off for the series. Colleen Mulcrone, a law school student who worked with me as a summer 2007 research assistant, contributed an initial draft of this question.
Frankey has created her own special raspberry pie. She writes down the recipe, signs it, and distributes copies of the recipe at the Bonaroo Music Festival. A couple months later, she sees her recipe, printed almost word-for-word, in a newly published cookbook, Munchies for Music Fans. Does Frankey have a copyright infringement claim against the writers of the cookbook?
- Absolutely Yes.
- No. Recipes are not copyrightable. Frankey’s recipe is a procedure, and procedures are not copyrightable.
- Maybe. If Frankey's recipe contains expressive elements that were duplicated in the Munchies for Music Fans. cookbook,she may have an infringement claim.
- It depends on how distinctive the ingredients in Frankey’s recipe are when compared to other raspberry pie recipes.
correct answer is C. A recipe which
simply lists ingredients and basic cooking directions is a list of processes
and procedures and is not copyrightable. However, a recipe with expressive
elements can be copyrightable. For example, if Frankey discussed which Pink
Floyd songs compliment the flavors in the pie and her suggestions were closely
repeated in Munchies for Music Fans,
she would likely have an infringement claim.