Recipes & Copyright Law

This may seem like a weird post to have on a recipe sharing site, but there’s been some questions regarding some of the recipes I’ve been posting and whether or not I’m breaking copyright law by including them here. For the record, recipes are exempt from copyright law, so sharing lists of ingredients and directions is perfectly fine and has been done for hundreds of years.  Straight from the Copyright Law website:

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.

Copyright protects only the particular manner of an author’s expression in literary, artistic, or musical form. Copyright protection does not extend to names, titles, short phrases, ideas, systems, or methods.

Recipes are meant to be shared, that’s why they are exempt from copyright law.  If someone writes up a block of text describing the “breathtaking flavor jamboree“, I am not allowed to copy that from the recipe. Likewise, people can share the recipes listed on my site, but not my comments about the recipe (although, I’m not real picky about that to be honest).  The ingredients and directions are fair game.  Another reference point would be this post by Schwimmer Legal citing a couple of cases regarding recipes, copyright law and recipe books.

One should distinguish between a recipe, a textual rendering of a recipe, and a compilation of recipes. Publications Intl. v. Meredith, 88 F.3d 473 (7th Cir. 1996) dealt with alleged infringement of a recipe book.

“The identification of ingredients necessary for the preparation of each dish is a statement of facts. There is no expressive element in each listing; in other words, the author who wrote down the ingredients for “Curried Turkey and Peanut Salad” was not giving literary expression to his individual creative labors. Instead, he was writing down an idea, namely, the ingredients necessary to the preparation of a particular dish. “[N]o author may copyright facts or ideas. The copyright is limited to those aspects of the work–termed ‘expression’–that display the stamp of the author’s originality.” Harper & Row, 471 U.S. at 547, 105 S.Ct. at 2223. We do not view the functional listing of ingredients as original within the meaning of the Copyright Act.

As the Supreme Court stated in Feist: Facts, whether alone or as part of a compilation, are not original and therefore may not be copyrighted. A factual compilation is eligible for copyright if it features an original selection or arrangement of facts, but the copyright is limited to the particular selection or arrangement. In no event may copyrights extend to the facts themselves. Feist, 499 U.S. at 350-51, 111 S.Ct. at 1290.

So trust me on this, both Jesse and I looked into this before I started Open Source Cook a few years ago.  Plus, I will always state where I found the original recipe (if I know where it came from).  A good example of that is the Peanut Brittle recipe, which I found at Better Homes & Garden.

Open Source Cook started out as my recipe box.  I have family and friends who wanted to see a few of my recipes and comment on the ones I’ve sent in with Jesse to work.  This was the easiest way to do that. Now, a few years later, a few of my family members are also submitted recipes to this site.  Those of us who are posting recipes are sharing our experiences with everyone.  That’s all we’re doing.

Why am I posting this? What’s with the pedantry? Some of the recipes I’ve been posting lately have come from the Pampered Chef.  They are easy and quick to make and why not share them?  I thought, if I could share a Better Homes & Garden recipe, why not a Pampered Chef one?  Then I started receiving comments/emails saying that the recipes were copyrighted by the Pampered Chef and I would have to take them down.  I couldn’t see how this was possible since we’d actively looked into exactly this issue before we started the site to make sure we were in the legal right.  It turns out the Pampered Chef is (wrongly) claiming the recipes as their Intellectual Property, despite the fact that they can’t be trademarked, copy written or patented.  Hence the reason for the rant/article.

Plus, in December, I became a consultant for with a kitchen tool company, and as any techie would do, I (for lack of a better word) “synergized” the two.  I have recently been told that I am in violation of their policy, which states that no one, not even I, can link to my personal website (that I have to pay extra in order to use, no less), so I’ve had to take a lot of that stuff down.  I’ll still mention individual items, but I will refrain from mentioning the company as the manufacturer.  Edited to appease the mass mob: I can’t say anything about the company, so if you’re interested in any of the products I mention on this site, email me at myjaxon AT gmail DOT com.

January 29, 2009 · jackie · 48 Comments
Posted in: News

48 Responses

  1. JustMe - January 30, 2009

    You are still in violation of policies. The policies clearly state that you can not advertise on any type of internet venue that you are a PC consultant, or post your PWS.

    You are entitled to your opinion, but until the policies change, we all have to abide by them.

    I don’t think it’s the recipes you have posted so much that have got peoples panties in a bunch, its the fact that you have the direct links to your PWS. It makes the playing field unfair to those who abide by the rules and work hard to earn their sales.

  2. jackie - January 30, 2009

    Actually, the policy states that I can’t link to my PWS, not that I can’t say that I am a consultant. I’ve taken down all the links so I’m not linking to my PWS anymore.

    If you want to prove me wrong, then post the section of the policy that says I’m not allowed to tell anyone that I’m a Pampered Chef consultant. Because if that is the case, then how am I suppose to get bookings? Word of mouth only works if you have a network and my network is virtual. This is the virtual age people; print media is going down the tubes as more and more people are turning to the internet.

    As for my facebook page, when I can run a search and find at least 5 others who have their websites up, then I don’t see why I can’t have mine as well.

    Just because I’m trying to use the internet as the great marketing tool that it is, should not be held against me when someone else is mad that they haven’t thought of it before. I’m not linking to my site, so I’m good there.

  3. morgajel - January 30, 2009

    Outstanding- To hell with Pampered Chef. If they have their heads that far up their ass you’re better off not selling their stuff.

    They really need to catch up with 1997- The Internet is here to stay.

  4. Sandra - January 30, 2009

    Man, there is nothing worse than a bunch of catty, nasty, b$tchy, jealous woman. It makes it embarrasing to be one. I love the product Pampered Chef. I respect that you are a consultant. Don’t let people, other consultants, get you down. Keep up the good work and stick to your guns. So you don’t put a “link to your Pampered Chef website”… so what….. but for goodness sakes if someone asks you about the product you would tell them about it in a grocery store. So why not when in a virtual network? And on the other hand, what a blessing to those that don’t have anything else WORSE in their lives right now. Because obviously they have too much time on their hands, their life must be wonderful to spend so much time concerned about others. Of course this is only my humble opinion.

  5. JustMe - January 31, 2009

    I’m just trying to help her out. I wouldn’t want to see anyone lose their business because of others turning her in. I didn’t find this on my own, I was told of it. I also did not report her to the company. I do know that others did though. She is not the only one that they have reported, and she won’t be the last. Once again, I’m just trying to help out.

  6. Another PCer - January 31, 2009

    They are quite specific as to what is and isn’t allowed.
    Other consultants aren’t making up the rules, and may not even agree with them, but a level playing field makes it fair for everyone. We’re not upset because we didn’t think of it first; we’re upset because we’re abiding by the rules even though we would certainly like to market online, when others aren’t following the same rules!

    I would love to be able to talk about PC on my Facebook account and my blog, and hopefully PC will agree with me sooner rather than later! In the meantime, it’s pretty clear that I can’t, and just because other people violate the rules doesn’t mean that you and I should do that.

  7. bystander - January 31, 2009

    Actually it does say in the PC policy manual that: Quoted from the Policy manual
    ” Other than signing up for a Pampered Chef® Personal Web
    Site or approved vendor sites, do not list the company name
    when filling out personal profiles on the Internet.”
    And “Our recipes and their photos are considered Pampered
    Chef’s intellectual property, along with any other photos we
    take, product descriptions, trademarks, logos, etc. We have
    to place limits on what intellectual property Consultants are
    allowed to use and where, in order to protect the value of
    these assets. If we allow Consultants to use these assets
    however they see fit, we will not be able to enforce our
    rights against those who misuse them, for instance those
    who sell on eBay.”

    I understand some people think PC guidelines are behind the times but if you do not like them do not be affiliated with them.

    I considder this an ethics question.

  8. bystander - January 31, 2009

    In response to Sandra…
    The point is you may think some of us have “too much time or concern on our hands” and have nothing better to do but in reality If you see someone doing something detrimental to themselves or their biz wouldn’t you say something?
    PC wants us to develop personal relationships. If the owner of this page spent as much time on the phone connecting with customer and hosts she would not need to advertise her biz in this forum.

  9. jackie - January 31, 2009

    Bystander – and what I’m saying here is that PC can’t legally claim their recipes as Intellectual Property. They can claim their descriptions and any pictures related to the recipe, but the actual list of ingredients and directions are facts and thus not entitled to copyright protection. The lists are not an expression of literary license which is needed to claim copyright protection.

    As for what can and can not be done online, I’ve talked with the Home Office. All they said was that I am not allowed to say that I am a consultant online. They have not said that I can not talk about the products online. So as long as I don’t link to any website for the PC or claim that I work for them, then I’m not violated any policies.

    As for the continuous stream of comments with the policy posted in them (yes I’ve been deleted that portion) – I’ve seen that policy and technically – do me a favor and look at the website before jumping on the bandwagon. I had already taken down everything people were complaining about and now you’re just copying everyone and being harassing. Please think for yourselves and look before you comment on anything. Once it’s been said once, does it really need to be said again?

  10. jackie - January 31, 2009

    And one other thing, the Home Office told me to write in with feedback requesting that this policy be updated to the 21st century. So anyone else out there who wants to be able to talk about their business online (and potentially get more clients and bookings), should really write in. I’ve already done it.

  11. Another PCer - January 31, 2009

    “As for the continuous stream of comments with the policy posted in them (yes I’ve been deleted that portion) – I’ve seen that policy and technically – do me a favor and look at the website before jumping on the bandwagon. I had already taken down everything people were complaining about and now you’re just copying everyone and being harassing. Please think for yourselves and look before you comment on anything. Once it’s been said once, does it really need to be said again?”

    If you deleted it, how are people supposed to know it’s been said before? Not trying to be snarky here!

    I’ve already written in to HO about the online policies. Hopefully they’ll adjust it, given our digital age.

  12. jackie - January 31, 2009

    I left the first comment that posted the policies in it and deleted all the subsequential ones. 🙂 Or the ones that were just plain b!tchy.

  13. Jane in TN - February 5, 2009

    And you think your hateful remarks about the PC policies are acceptable? If you don’t want to be a consultant and the only reason you signed to be one was to “use their recipes”, then you are not in the right business. I was using an internet daily email newsletter for advertising. I did not think about the fact she had a website and this made me in violation of HO policies. I immediately stopped advertising on it. I would have loved to continue since it was local but the contract I signed with PC says no… I personally think you are deliberately flaunting your affiliation with PC to see what more you can get away with. It’s a shame you have to badmouth PC to do it. You have also said in the remarks on your home page that you will book PC shows by people emailing you! What don’t you get about the internet advertising policies?

  14. jackie - February 5, 2009

    First off, the only reason I mentioned the PC was because that was what brought this topic up. If Better Homes & Garden had brought this up, I would have used their name.

    Second, the PC is not the only place to find recipes and not the reason I joined the business. Why you would think this is beyond me. Obviously you’re not familiar enough with the internet to realize there are a gazillion different recipe sites out there (for example, look at the side bar for a few of them). Of all the recipes on this site, only a small few are from the PC and there are far more from other sites – sites that haven’t complained that they are here.

    Third, I have stopped all the advertising 2 weeks ago when I was informed of this policy. In fact, I contacted Career Solutions to get clarification on the topic. I was also informed that I could write in requesting an update to this policy, which I have done. If you haven’t done that yet, don’t get mad at me for taking the initiative.

    Four, how am I flaunting my affiliation? As a customer, am I not allowed to say that I love using some of the products for my recipes. I’ve told Career Solutions that I do this and they have yet to say I can’t do that.

    I have never once said anything bad about PC, just that I’m confused towards their online policy. In an age where print media is going out of style, it shocks me that the PC hasn’t been willing to keep this policy updated as much as they claim they keep their products updated (CS even confirmed that this policy is the same policy from 15-20 years ago). That is all. I have an opinion, it’s neither bad or good, but it’s an opinion and I am allowed to have those.

    And yes, I have no problem using my email as a way to connect with others. It is far more convenient for me and I give my email out more than my phone number. So if someone emails me, I’m not going to turn them away. I would be an idiot to do that.

  15. morgajel - February 5, 2009

    Jane, the only hateful comments are against Jaxon. Her very valid complaints are towards the outdated PC internet policy; in the mean time she’s done what PC asked her to do, and she’s taking steps to get the rules updated so they make sense. All I see now are a bunch of disgruntled PC consultants attacking her and the site.

    She’s at least trying to be helpful for PC and get their policies updated. As far as I can see, the people giving her grief for no reason other than to be spiteful are the hateful ones.

  16. Danielle A. - February 5, 2009

    I’ve been following your site for a while now, and this just sounds horrible. If you’re interested, Barefoot Books is another direct marketing company that actually gets the Internet- you’d probably be better off with someone else. Let me know if you’re interested- I’ll send you my email address later.

    And to all those bitter consultants attacking her, you should be ashamed of yourselves. You’re supposed to help each other, not be catty. The attacks here have convinced me to not buy another pampered chef product.

  17. yojimbo - February 5, 2009

    Holy crap, I never knew Pampered Chef was so badassed.
    So if I’m reading this right then:

    The first rule of Pampered Chef is, You do not talk about Pampered Chef.

    The second rule of Pampered Chef is, “You DO NOT talk about Pampered Chef.”

    Doing some research on the internet I’ve also found that:

    If someone says “stop”, goes limp, or taps out they have to buy a spatula.
    Only two PCs to a party.
    One party at a time.
    No shirts, no shoes.
    Parties will go on as long as they have to.
    If this is your first night at Pampered Chef, you HAVE to fight.

    I guess that’s why they’re so against the internet.

  18. Sandra - February 5, 2009

    Danielle I can totally understand how upset you are,because I am too! But remember its really the bitter and nasty FEW consultants that are giving her a hard time after she was made aware. I still love the PC product and I will continue to buy. In my world – IT ROCKS! However just like going to a store, I am VERY selective on who gets my business. If my consultant were anywhere near as nosey or ugly in personality as the few we have witnessed on this page,(or the where it all started and pointed Jackie out) she wouldn’t get any sales from me at all. And Jackie – I love this website – Great job! 🙂

  19. shaldannon - February 5, 2009

    And this makes me glad I buy my cookware from Target (that’s tar-zjay for you snobby types) or at the Corning Ware store.

  20. Nice Mommy~Evil Editor | Friday Confessional 2-6-2009 - February 6, 2009

    […] An interesting post on recipes and copyright (where I learned, though was not surprised, to find that recipes aren’t copyrighted). […]

  21. Lori - February 7, 2009

    Jackie – has any of these so-called “PC Police” people offered you any help/support in trying to figure out other ways to advertise our PC business through other means rather then just continuously reporting you?

  22. morgajel - February 9, 2009

    They’re destroyers, not builders. They can’t be constructive, only nag and tear people down.

  23. JustMe - February 13, 2009

    I resent a lot of comments on here, they just are not true to all of us PCers as we are being called. I came on here trying to help her from losing her business over a stupid policy. I never reported her, although I do know a few that did. I do however agree with some of the other PCers having their heads up their a$$e$, and being snobby b!tches. Just please don’t label us all the same, and don’t give up on PC just because of them. They really are great products!

  24. JustMe - February 13, 2009

    PS… I don’t see any violations now. Hopefully that will shut them all up now! I doubt it though, they don’t know how to drop sh!t. They now think its funny that they have been refered to by the specific website where this all started. If that site wasn’t a great source of information, and I didn’t pay for a subscription, I’d be long gone.

  25. jackie - February 13, 2009

    JustMe – Don’t get me wrong. I am thankful that someone told me about this policy before being reported because if I had found out from HO that this policy was in place, I would have seriously thought about quitting.

    But, I do love the products and I know that not everyone is like the few that feel the need to be vicious towards others when they don’t know any better. I’ve only been with PC for 2 months, so I’m still learning the ropes.

    However, I have to agree with Lori. The ones who have left comments here are part of a forum that is there to help others (and it’s not that secure since I could browse around through it and saw the convos involving me) and yet, they never once offered advice on alternative methods of advertising. I’m part of the internet generation and print advertising is a little foreign to me. I’m looking for all the advice and suggestions I can get, yet none of those ladies even offered to help. That’s the part that disturbs me the most and kind of tells me that they are just bitter about their own businesses right now.

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