Thursday, January 8, 2009

Culinary Complications Conclusion

In response to my recent legal issues I have spent a considerable amount of time researching the topic of recipe copyrights and proper blogging practices in regards to these copyright laws. The U.S. Copyright Office states that:

Mere listings of ingredients as in recipes, formulas, compounds, or prescriptions are not subject to copyright protection. However, when a recipe or formula is accompanied by substantial literary expression in the form of an explanation or directions, or when there is a combination of recipes, as in a cookbook, there may be a basis for copyright protection.

Protection under the copyright law (title 17 of the United States Code, section 102) extends only to “original works of authorship” that are fixed in a tangible form (a copy). “Original” means merely that the author produced the work by his own intellectual effort, as distinguished from copying an existing work. Copyright protection may extend to a description, explanation, or illustration, assuming that the requirements of the copyright law are met.

So as far as I understand, I am in violation of this law since I have previously been copying and posting the exact recipes from the Cooking Light website into my post. Citing the source (as I have always done) is not sufficient enough because I could potentially be decreasing the traffic to their website since I have the recipes posted in total on my website. Their ingredients lists are not copyrighted, just their procedure for putting the ingredients together.

So this leaves me with 4 options:

1.) I can delete all of the Cooking Light recipe text out of my blog post and only provide links to the original recipes on the Cooking Light website just like Jason "Devil" Horn ordered me to do.

My issue with this approach is that I love providing step by step photos of the process as they occur in the text and by eliminating the recipe text I would be left with nowhere to embed those photos. Plus, I just hate change. And a total format change would be huge. So that is out.

2.) I could delete all of the Cooking Light cites I have under the titles and change the recipe text to my own words and just refuse to give them credit for their inspiration and hope that would put me in the clear and if it didn't then let it be their word against mine where I got the recipe from in the first place.

My issue with this approach is that my Parents raised me too well, I would be plagued with Catholic guilt, and Jiminy Cricket would bug me so badly I would lose sleep at night if I didn't give credit where credit was due.

3.) Quit Blogging

Oh the horror! I won't say it again. I had to get Forrest to type #3 because the mere idea of that prospect sent me into dry heaves.

4.) Post the link back to the original recipe on the Cooking Light website. Then make sure to change the original text enough in my steps that it no longer resembles the original in my blog post. In the past I have made sure to keep the recipe the same and note my changes in parenthesis.

This is the approach I am going to adopt. From now on I will make the parenthesis (my updates) text the actual text in my post and if someone wants to see the original recipe I used for inspiration then they can link back to the Cooking Light website. I will use this new approach starting with my next post (yes, I am finally going to blog about food again) forward. I will indeed change the 30 something Cooking Light recipes I have in my archive. However, I do have more than a full time job, a loving husband, a household to maintain and no web administrator. So this process may take a while but I will make a concerted effort to complete the edits in a timely fashion.

Let's all hope that this approach is going to "cut the mustard" (I'm eagerly hoping that reference will make this post count as a food entry). Please all keep your fingers crossed that there are no further issue in regards to this mess. I truly appreciate the support my readers have shown during this time of blogging trouble and I have been extremely entertained by the responses I have received both via email and comments over the last day and a half.

To End I would like to share with you a few of the more interesting responses:

There was a reader who felt that I was free advertising for the Mag and they were looking a gift horse in the mouth:

"I agree their letter and the entire situation is ridiculous. Despite the research, you are not making money off your blog and you cited the original source. It is free advertising and a testimony to how great their recipe is. I would think that magazine and such would want to embrace the food blog community for the benefit it offers them. I subscribed to Cooking Light this year and it is because of recipes I have found on blogs (yours specifically).

I think you are doing a great job. And I know it is hard no to feel bad about it, but there was no malicious intent. It is just the lawyers job. I work in Compliance; I understand the position but it is a stupid one."

There were your fair share of Anti-Establishment Readers:

"Can I get your attorney's phone number? FIGHT THE POWER!" - Ricky

"Can I donate money to help you fight this battle? I hope this works out for you because the house won’t be as entertaining without the blog. It is a source of great fun and stress (my stress as the action photographer and chef ingredients getter) in our house. I agree with Ricky, DAMN THE MAN SAVE THE EMPIRE!" - Woody

And my personal favorite, Natalie from Birmingham:

"I totally agree with Gabriela- Post the recipes anyway and just change the name up, and don't give credit to their stupid asses. I've also been lurking here, though never commented, and find it ridiculous that this could happen. I also, living in Birmingham, want to drive to this asshole's office and throw a burrito at his window. But I won't, I promise. Seriously though, they obviously don't understand that imitation is the highest form of flattery, and for that, they are idiots."

Natalie, I LOVE YOU!


rogerheise said...

Post the recipes and screw the man! Don't be a wuss.

Another thought - Cite your new recipes as "Cooking Right!" - that'll get'em.

Anonymous said...

Their cooking directions are NOT "substantial literary expression in the form of an explanation or directions".

There are only so many ways to say "Crack and egg and scramble it."

"substantial literary expression in the form of an explanation or directions" is much, much different than regular cooking directions. I've explored this topic in depth, but I understand if you want to change your recipes for the sake of keeping cooking light happy. :)

Angie said...

I'm glad you're changing your recipes. What a PITA! Who knew a recipe was subject to copyright?

Does this mean if I use a CI recipe I have to rewrite the directions? Crap. I'd better come up with some new ways to state "Preheat the oven." What about, "Set your oven dial to broil?" Or, "Make sure that box in the kitchen is around 350 degrees."

Thanks, CI lawyer dude. Thanks.

Laura P. said...

I'm sorry you're going through this. I'm glad that you're working things out though. I'm even happier you're not going to go with option 3 because then I would have dry heaves. : ) GL with everything!
P.S. I think you should do option 4 but with a competitor mag. JMO. : )

Natalie said...

Yeah you better not stop blogging. There are allready enough duds out there,(food blogs that never get updated).

When I was in high school, I worked at Taco Bell for a couple of months. I will never forget the night an angry customer threw a burrito at our window as they drove off- mainly because I had to clean it off- and I thought to myself, whilst scrubbing- "Man- that guy is THE SHIT! One day, I, too will throw burritos. What a perfect way to exact sweet revenge."

That being said, I'm glad you've found a morally acceptable way to continue posting their recipes, *ahem* YOUR recipes. Have a swell weekend!

phammy said...

Natalie rules! I'm sorry you ran into this snag. I love all of your recipes!

Ingrid said...

Many, I think I lvoe Natalie, too! She rocks, I jsut read her comment here.

I'm coming in on the tail end of this seems everything is settled. I'm getting quite the chuckle. Sorry I'm certain it was funny at the time.