Rage Against the Machine

by Cate on July 26, 2008

And in this case, the “machine” would be the folks behind the America’s Test Kitchen/Cook’s Country/Cook’s Illustrated brand.  When it comes to copyrighting recipes, the law gets a bit murky at best.  Actually, maybe that’s not the best way to put it.  The law is, I guess, fairly clear.  You cannot copyright a list of ingredients, but you can copyright the method of the recipe if it’s written in a unique style (i.e., Preheat the oven to 350 is not a phrase that is copyrightable.  You would have to phrase it in an unusual way like Set your oven to preheat to 350 degrees and breathe in, to prepare yourself for the mixing and baking).  If you take a recipe and modify it, it’s essentially a new recipe and now yours. 

Quite honestly, that’s never sat well with me.  I mean, if you spent months or even years tinkering with a concoction to come up with the perfect fill-in-the-blank, do you want someone to come in and swap out the lemon juice for lime juice and slap their name on all your hard work?  Nah, I didn’t think so.  To me, more should be done to protect said inventor.  But if I only ran the world…

So anyway, back to the “machine.”  It turns out that recently, a fellow food blogger made a recipe from Cook’s Country.  While making it, she made several modifications, but still gave full credit to Cook’s Country.  Given the law, that was generous of her since technically she changed enough that the recipe is hers now.

But it’s what ensued after that has food bloggers collectively shaking their heads … and the folks at Cook’s Country have some ‘splainin’ to do or, at the very least, some retraining of their hired publicity team, because the only thing they’re courting right now is bad press.

Go on and read the details here.  You will be shaking your head right along with us, particularly at the whole e-mail exchange.  I’ll be here when you get back to discuss – fire away.

P.S.  And to think I was closerthanthis to doublebacking today at Costco to pick up the most recent issue of Cook’s Country.  My money is better spent elsewhere.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Merry July 27, 2008 at 11:20 pm

Yeesh! It’s a good thing everyone isn’t like the lady from Cook’s Country! Otherwise we would all be getting emails to take recipes down from our sites. I can find recipes from blogs all day (and do) but I still buy cooking magazines and cookbooks. Often the ones I buy are the same ones that the recipes I’ve found come from. I really don’t think that the internet cuts down on sales. There is (and always will be) something about a cookbook that you just don’t get from a recipe printed from the internet. (or maybe it’s just me).


Amy July 29, 2008 at 2:16 pm

I finally had time to write up my thoughts on this. It is absurd and out of the realm of their copyrights for CI to do this.



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