Friday, December 26, 2014 04:23:21 AM


Can a newspaper or magazine copyright a recipe?

In a case involving Dannon yogurt’s claim that a competing cook book copied its recipes, the court noted the “recipes have the same titles but display certain differences in the listing of ingredients, directions for preparation, and nutritional information.  However, it doesn’t take Julia Child or Jeff Smith to figure out that the PIL recipes will produce substantially the same final products as many of those described in DISCOVER DANNON.”  Nonetheless, the court held, “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.”  For that reason, there is no copyright in a recipe.

One exception to this general rule would arise if the recipe include creative, expressive languge.  One might imagine an account that included not just a recipe but also memories of one’s great-grandmother making cinnamon buns at Christmas time.  That expression could be copyrighted.

Can I re-publish a column I saw originally printed in another newspaper, so long as I give proper attribution?

It is important to distinguish the principles of copyright infringement and plagiarism. Giving proper attribution to a source cures the problem of plagiarism. However, a newspaper may not – even with attribution – publish another person’s or another newspaper’s work without permission. To do so is a copyright violation. April 2002