Using Recipes from Other Sites - Copyright Issues?

13 replies
Are recipes held under the same copyright laws as typical website content?

I am working on a niche cookbook/ebook and a website all for a specific type of food, I have some my own homemade recipes along with a bunch I have gathered over the years from various sources.

I plan on rewriting the directions as much as possible, but there is only so many ways to tell someone to set their oven to 400 or to spray their pan with cooking spray first.

Anyone here have experience with this?
#copyright #issues #recipes #sites
  • Profile picture of the author wolfmmiii
    Recipes (ingredient lists) are not protected by copyrights. However, photos and directions are.
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    • Profile picture of the author Josh Range
      Originally Posted by wolfmmiii View Post

      Recipes (ingredient lists) are not protected by copyrights. However, photos and directions are.
      So just need a few changes to the directions to be safe?

      For example, if it says preheat oven to 350f and spray cooking spray on pan, I could just rewrite it as Turn oven on and set to 350F, then spray your pan with a nonstick cooking spray.
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  • Profile picture of the author wolfmmiii
    I would suggest that you cook the recipe yourself and write what you do in your own words as you go about creating the finished product. That way, you have no worries about 'derivative works" or anything.
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  • Profile picture of the author rakhwas
    Check the site, some sites says that they isnt under any copyright.
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  • Profile picture of the author pizzatherapy
    wolfmmiii is giving great advice.

    Don't just copy recipes and directions..

    You leave yourself wide open for copyright infringement. Why risk that?

    I have re-created some public domain cookbooks with limited success.

    My most successful recipes are my own recipes. Stick with that!

    You need to make the recipes your own.

    The best way to do this is to re-create the recipe in your kitchen and write them down using your own words.

    There are many ways you can do this by giving tips, tricks and time savers that will really make your recipes stand out and zing!

    My advice is to try to give a different spin on the recipes. There are a bazillion recipes for free on the Internet...but there are not many recipe books for niche audiences.

    Say the Seniors Simple Cost Saving Italian Recipe Book.

    Or Indian Food for Single Moms

    The Tex-Mex Cook Book for Book Keepers..

    You need your own unique spin. you need to make the recipes your own. You need to stand out from everyone else..
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    • Profile picture of the author JohnMcCabe
      If you still have the original source, there's nothing wrong with giving credit where credit is due.

      When I cook with a recipe, the first time I make it I follow the recipe. The next time, I tweak it - add little of this, take out a little of that, swap one ingredient for another. When I publish the new recipe, I say it's "adapted from a recipe in such and such magazine." If I end up making major changes, I say the recipe is "inspired by" the original.

      That way, the subject never comes up.

      Unless you really are a master chef with a reputation for creating new recipes, people know you started with something else.

      Even if you do go to culinary school, they don't hand you a chef coat, point you to the pantry, and say "have at it"...
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  • Profile picture of the author artflair
    I've published a few recipe books and never had a problem with it but I always changed the recipes a bit (you can call it putting your own twist on it...) and also made original photos.
    One time I even had Amazon contacting me back before publishing the book but my answer was simply - 'All of my recipes are original but the ingredient mix can be found online in a number of different recipes.' - it worked!
    Good luck mate
    Art
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  • Profile picture of the author Josh Range
    Thanks for the replies, I am going to rewrite every recipe I post. The type of recipes I am working with are not very common, but there is a growing niche market that I will be reaching out to for marketing and such.

    I need to figure out what route to take, do I offer them all free on my website and try to make money off traffic/ads, write an ebook and submit it, or get an actual physical cook published? The first two options are obviously the cheapest.
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    • There are thousands of recipes posted free online, but if you position yourself right, you can sell your own ebook.

      Look at the different recipes books doing well on Amazon. Cookbooks for the man cave, cookbooks for busy moms, cookbooks for XYZ.

      The key is to set yourself apart from the crowd.
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  • Profile picture of the author dee4d
    Most recipes are very brief. When you add content in the steps, you actually own them, and give everything your personal touch. This has worked for me.
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  • Profile picture of the author Green Moon
    As many have noted, while the list of ingredients itself cannot be copyrighted, the accompanying material ("a description, explanation, or illustration" as set forth on the page of the U.S.Copyright Office in kindsvater's link) may be subject to copyright.

    If you only make "a few changes to the directions" you may still have a derivative work, and copyright infringement. It needs to be your own original expression.

    In addition, it is important to note that the selection and organization of the recipes may also be copyrighted. If you tested and rewrote the directions for every recipe in a cookbook and took new photos of the results, but kept all or most of the recipes and preserved the organization of the original cookbook, you are probably infringing the copyright of the cookbook's author.

    You should plan on testing recipes from a variety of sources, and selecting the ones that best fit your theme. Make it your own work.
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    • Profile picture of the author LilBlackDress
      In addition, there are very zealous reviewers on Amazon looking to pounce on recipe books that they feel are not quality or original. These people got fed up with the poor quality recipe books found on Amazon due to authors thinking they could slap together foodie books (encouraged also by some early WSOs) and make bucks.

      Anyone writing a recipe book should be sure to offer up quality content or risk negative reviews at the get go. This is true of any genre but the recipe niche seems particularly unforgiving.
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