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Oh. No.

This is not the “best and worst” post promised for Saturdays, although that may come later after I feel better; I have bigger fish to fry. The only “worst” involved here is my guilt.

I had a tough day yesterday, and was delighted and amazed to see in my e-mail “inbox” that I had received a comment from none other than Barbara Kafka, cookbook writer and food journalist extraordinaire. Back in the summer when I first started blogging, I used her newest book Vegetable Love quite a bit, and published a recipe for a Zucchini Custard which I had made. (I will not link to the entry because that perpetuates this problem; I am, in fact, going to delete the recipe portion of the post directly). I was a little horrified that a famous personage had seen that I couldn’t make the dish quite right, and that it was kind of burned in the picture, but I was still thrilled that she had somehow found my blog.

Then I saw this. (Edited to add: I can’t seem to link directly to Ms. Kafka’s blog; so you’ll have to follow this link, enter her blog and read the Noveber 14th entry). One can only assume that Ms. Kafka did not drop by my insignificant little blog because she was so pleased that I had tried one of her recipes; she was amassing evidence of internet recipe stealing. I am beyond humiliated. As I said in a (apologetic) comment on her blog, I am an attorney in my “real” life, and I did some research early in my blogging life on this issue, including speaking with a friend who is an attorney specializing in intellectual property issues. I was told that books are copyrighted and cannot be reproduced, but that recipes could not be copyrighted, mainly because it is the general consensus that there are relatively few recipes that are actually “invented” by the writer as opposed to being tweaked. As Ms. Kafka correctly points out in her post, the precise wording of a recipe is copyrightable. I copied her exact words, which means I violated copyright law.

I was also told by my attorney friend that I was probably okay if I was always sure to say where I got the recipe and to link to the source. Apparently this is not the case. In my naivete, I honestly thought I might be doing some authors that I admired a favor by highlighting/plugging their books to the readers of my blog.

I’m not sure what I’m going to do going forward; I always feel comfortable publishing a recipe I have “adapted,” although I also always publish the original source so that a reader can find and use the original if s/he prefers. I am honestly not “tweaking” or “adapting” so that I can get away with violating copyright law; I make changes to suit my preferences and those of my family. I will continue to do that, because its my firm belief that once I change/adapt/revise a recipe it is my own. I also feel comfortable reprinting any recipe I originally discovered on the internet. I guess in the future I will refrain from printing any recipe from a book unless I have changed it in some way; I will simply say what I made and indicate the source of the recipe. I offer a genuine, abject, humiliated retroactive apology to all from whom I have inadvertently stolen the recipes they work so hard to create, collect and publish.


About imagineannie

I feel like I'm fifteen - does that count? I'm lots of things, I get paid to be the Managing Editor for a local news publication, and I love my job. I am also inordinately fond of reading, animals (I have four), elephants, owls, hedgehogs writing, tramping in the woods, cooking India, Ireland, England, avocado toast, Sherlock Holmes, Harry Potter, Little Women, Fun Home, Lumber Janes, Fangirl, magic, Neil Gaiman, Jane Austen, YA books, not YA books, classical music, Salinger (OMG SALINGER), Brahms, key lime pie, indie music, podcasts, sleeping in, road trips, marmalade, museums, bookstores, the Oxford comma, BBC, The Miss Fisher Mysteries, birdwatching, seashells, kombucha, and stickers. Not a huge fan of chewing gum, jazz, trucker hats or dystopian and/or post-apolcalyptic fiction (but I'll try anything).

6 responses »

  1. i don’t know what to say so i’ll let it go at simply “wow!”

  2. This is a tricky area. How is Joy of Cooking’s white sauce different from Goodhousekeepings?

    I recently posted a recipe that I had tried and liked and after I posted it, realized I had probably been originally inspired by a blog I frequent. Although I hadn’t used that person’s recipe, the recipe I did use WAS similar.

    I think it is very possible over the internet to accidently step on toes without intention. So, you bring up a good subject anyone who posts recipes does face.

  3. jolynna, you’re right; there are some recipes that are sort of “in the air,” like white sauce, Bearnaise, Hollondaise and others where there are standard elements that can be tweaked as to volume but remain basically the same. I guess we live in a Brave New World as far as this issue goes, and I hope I can be responsible and sensitive without leaving myself nothing to post. Honesty, despite my tremendous wit and style, most folks really just want a recipe….

  4. That is really a bummer. I too thought that recipes were not “copyrightable.” I also that that as long I was not selling them, it was o.k. (I almost always give credit).

    Thank you for blogging about this, though. I guess even if you give credit and make no money from the publishing of another’s recipe, it’s still not o.k. Bummer.

    What will we write about???

  5. oy vay
    what a pain in the ass…

  6. Barbara and claudia, I think I’ve worked this out. If not, you may contribute to my legal defense fund?


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