Gransnet forums


Cook book. How does copyright work??

(22 Posts)
isthisallthereis Mon 19-Nov-12 23:48:30

A friend wants to put together a fundraising cook book (for her GS's school).

If someone submits a recipe which is copied from a cookbook or cut 'n pasted from a website is she (or the school as the publisher) comitting an offense against copyright? Having to pulp the book with no sales would be a serious disaster.

Will she need to get each contributor to guarantee in writing that the recipe is not plagiarised? And what if the contributor is fibbing or is forgetful? I am concerned on her behalf. She seems wilfully ignorant of any such pitfalls and I keep thinking "Ignorance is no excuse!"

The idea is very much to sell the cook book so this may matter. Does anyone have first hand experience in this field? Or am I just being a worrier? Either way, I don't want her getting a solicitor's letter on behalf of Jamie Oliver or Delia Smith.

Thoughts pls. She has already started asking around for contributions by end of Jan so time is fairly short.

Jendurham Tue 20-Nov-12 00:15:40

Not sure if this is relevant, but when I had a cafe, I used to make everything from scratch apart from the bread. I used Cranks cookbooks, but I used to use different spices and herbs and vegetables, depending on what I had in.
However, trading standards says that anything is homemade providing you add something to it. It annoyed me when the person who bought it from me used to make homemade mushroom stroganoff using microwave rice and Campbells mushroom soup.

If the recipe book is just called Favourite Recipes from such and such a school, or Homemade Recipes, I do not see what the problem is.
I'd be very surprised if any recipes can be said to be truly original, even Jamie Oliver's.

isthisallthereis Tue 20-Nov-12 05:17:35

I bet Jamie Oliver's publisher reckons his recipes are original envy and copyright.

FlicketyB Tue 20-Nov-12 07:42:41

Copyright is a complicated subject but essentially it protects an authors right to be paid when their works are published for monetary gain and apply to their work for 70 years after they die.

The following site sums up the situation:

Q: If someone submits a recipe which is copied from a cookbook or cut 'n pasted from a website is she (or the school as the publisher) comitting an offense against copyright?
A: Yes, they are. They need to write to the publisher of the book requesting consent to use. If the book to be published is to be sold for commercial gain a price will be charged but, hopefully, if you explain that it is to be sold for charity this charge will be waived. In either case the recipe will have to be accompanied by an acknowledgement of the author and the original publication.

Q: Having to pulp the book with no sales would be a serious disaster'.
Unlikely to have to retrieve already sold copies but future sales could be stopped or require proper acknowledgement slips to be glued in them. In a different context I had to add slips to a report I edited recently because the originator forgot to acknowledge all those who funded the project

Q: Will she need to get each contributor to guarantee in writing that the recipe is not plagiarised? And what if the contributor is fibbing or is forgetful? A: Everyone who submits a recipe should be asked to sign a declaration that the recipe is original and has not been taken from another book, website etc.

The problem/advantage of publishing recipes is that most of us get a recipe from book, magazine, website and then adapt it to suit ourselves, leave out ingredients we dont like/add others, prepare or cook differently. As soon as this happens, even if the recipe is based on a Delia/Jamie recipe, it is now a different recipe and can be published without concern.

absentgrana Tue 20-Nov-12 08:09:12

I write cookbooks and have done so for nearly 40 years. (I have had a sad life.) Copyright of any published recipe may belong to the author as in the case of celebrities, such as Jamie Oliver and Nigella Lawson, or it may belong to the publisher, as in the case of nonentities such as me. In either case, simply copying the recipe and republishing it breaches the copyright.

• You cannot copyright the title of any recipe.

• The way the recipe is written is what gives it the copyright. So while no one can copyright a recipe for, say, Coq au Vin, the way the method describes how it is prepared is copyright. So if the method is full of a glug of olive oil, several glugs of red wine and cooking until it's pukka, the chances are it has been lifted from Jamie Oliver. If it's basically the same recipe, which of course it will be as this is a classic recipe, expressed in terms of 2 tablespoons olive oil, 500 ml red wine and cooked until tender and the juices run clear when the thickest part of the chicken is pierced with the point of a sharp knife, it's not Jamie Oliver but absentgrana. However, simply changing parsley to mixed herbs and onions to shallots but keeping the style of the method does not make the recipe non copyright.

• Any introductions, cook's tips, variations, freezing instructions etc. are also copyright.

• Generally speaking, neither individuals nor publishers are very willing to release copyright even for charity.

Your friend will need to obtain a signed declaration that the recipe is not copied from a published source.

It can be done. I contributed to a cookbook of recipes provided by local people, most of them amateurs, to raise money for our hospice. It has been very successful.

dorsetpennt Tue 20-Nov-12 09:06:16

At my daughter's primary school many moons ago, someone on the PTA suggested that mums submit recipes to go into a book to be sold for school funds. A solicitor on the board said just as absentgrana has said, unless we followed the rules laid out we could be sued for infringement of copyright laws. It proved to be too difficult and expensive to do this so the idea was dropped.

Anne58 Tue 20-Nov-12 09:40:02

Many, many years ago DS2's school did a recipe book, I submitted a chicken recipe from an old M&S cookery book. The book sold well and there were no problems at all.

isthisallthereis Tue 20-Nov-12 09:49:07

Hmmm. I think the two of us had better go into a huddle and chat! This all sounds way more complicated than I'd hoped. I had thought that if we made sure we'd made each recipe "our own", by exactly what absentgrana says is not enough, ie changing parsley to mixed herbs, then we'd be in the clear. It seems that solves nothing.

I'm glad that phoenix's book went well, but just because she was lucky doesn't mean we can bank on the same. Especially as other people (parents, the school governors etc) will be involved. Any further advice or experiences gratefully received.

"Every day's a school day" has never been truer!

jO5 Tue 20-Nov-12 10:27:26

Would it be enough to just print an acknowledgment at the end of any recipe that came from Jamie Oliver or Delia etc ? (People would have to be honest of course)

absentgrana Tue 20-Nov-12 10:29:52

No it wouldn't jO5 – not without written permission from the copyright holder.

jO5 Tue 20-Nov-12 10:33:55

They could probably get permission easily enough. Considering it's for a school.

absentgrana Tue 20-Nov-12 10:41:55

phoenix The chances are that the copyright of the recipe you "borrowed" belongs to Octopus Publishing. Unless someone actually brought it to their attention, they probably were unaware of the copyright infringement or, if they were aware, didn't feel it was worth pursuing. It might be very different with celebrity chefs' recipes as they tend to have a prima donna attitude.

I have encountered plagiarism of things I have written. It always amuses me, but then I rarely own the copyright. On one occasion I literally made up a "tradition" because the publisher insisted that I should include a traditional thing about a particular subject and no amount of research could uncover anything relevant. I have seen this tradition pop up in in a number of other books. I also worked on a book about royal scandals and have seen the paragraph I wrote about some of the more outré acts ascribed to Mrs Simpson repeated verbatim, even though my style and vocabulary was very idiosyncratic and identifiable.

Jendurham Tue 20-Nov-12 10:43:52

So, I've just done the obvious and searched for coq au vin copyright, and found on the first page there are copyrighted recipes from 2003 to 2012.
Many of the recipes look similar to me apart from Delia's who used cider, and half cooked the chicken, put it in the fridge overnmight, then finished the cooking the next day. This sounds like a recipe for salmonella to me.

gracesmum Tue 20-Nov-12 10:54:32

But surely a classic like Coq au vin is out of copyright or was never subject to it in the first place?

Jendurham Tue 20-Nov-12 10:58:17

So does that mean, Absent, that you cannot use recipes for shortbread or pancakes in a recipe book becuase someone somewhere has the copyright?
I bought a book of vegetarian recipes from the West Country in August and both those recipes are in it.
Winter vegetable stew is the sort of thing that many vegetarians would make off the top of their head, as is a nut roast.

My eldest son is a musician, and his band has done a CD. The thing that took the longest was getting permission from the copyright owners, and there were only 8 songs that were not original.

absentgrana Tue 20-Nov-12 11:20:19

You cannot copyright a recipe but the author/publisher of a published version of the recipe can and does copyright that version. (Heston Blumenthal might be the exception to that first statement, but then how many domestic cooks have liquid nitrogen available in their kitchens?) In other words, if you write a recipe in your own words it does not infringe copyright. But no part of an existing publication "may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means,electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the copyright holder".

FlicketyB Tue 20-Nov-12 20:06:25

Coq au vin may be a classic but there is no one definitive traditional recipe for it that has always been used and can never be varied from. I have several recipes for Coq au vin and each is a bit different from all the rest. As Absent says the recipe has to be different in wording, and style. It is Jamie's/|Delia's version of Coq au vin that is protected by copyright.

You can use recipes for pancakes, shortbread etc because they are items with very specific ingredients and cooking methods but, having listed the ingredients you must then describe the preparation and cooking methods in your own words and not copy those from a recipe book.

Like Absent I have seen my words re-used elsewhere. I even saw views I expressed on Gransnet quoted word for word in an article published on the same subject in a natinal newspaper.

Ana Tue 20-Nov-12 20:08:32

FlicketyB, that's a bit worrying! Presumably the newspaper didn't know your real identity?

FlicketyB Tue 20-Nov-12 20:20:39

No, and they didnt attribute the view, they just used some comment like 'as some people have been pointed out'.

It was that report about older people occupying houses with too many bedrooms. I have some professional knowledge on the subject and researching it and the report was truly appallingly researched and written and I posted some of my criticisms on Gransnet. These then got reported in an article in a national paper. The criticism the journalist reported was one that other people could have picked up on, but there was something about the phrasing that was used that I recognised.

Ana Tue 20-Nov-12 20:25:49

So there's proof, if proof were needed, that journalists are trawling forums specifically to pick out opinions that either confirm or are against the point they're making in their article! I suppose Gransnet is an easy target for opinions on age-related issues - also they probably assume we're all going to be right-wing! hmm

FlicketyB Tue 20-Nov-12 21:04:54

I am sure that when journalists want to trawl pensioner opinion they look at Gransnet in the same way they trawl Mumsnet, although, interestingly, they do quote Mumsnet in articles and it is now a force to be reckoned with. I have never seen or heard Gransnet referred to as a source. Are they ashamed to quote it or is it that as a forum for older people we get dismissed for just that reason?

I can remember in the early months we used to get real wind-up postings aimed, I suspect, at getting lots of 'Disgusted, Tonbridge Wells' type responses. They never did and presumable gave up.

Ana Tue 20-Nov-12 22:09:55

Yes, more cachet in quoting from Mumsnet! Hmph...