Monday, October 27, 2008

Copyright Law Applies to Recipes Too

by Heather McPherson

October 27, 2008

I must confess. I stole something from a very nice Quaker fellow. My oatmeal cookie recipe is the one my mother used and her mother used. And it was taken from the paper canister of Quaker oatmeal.

Baking those cookies isn't the problem -- publishing the Quaker Oatmeal Cookie recipe in this newspaper or a cookbook and claiming it as my own is where you can stir up trouble.

Home cooks spread recipes around the world in a chain-letter fervor. But what happens when you take that recipe of unknown or known origin and retitle it Jean's Best Ever Oatmeal Cookies?

Copyright law is clear as corn syrup and as muddy as fudge, all at the same time. And it's public record for all to read at

The chemistry of baking, for example, revolves around known edible equations. It's when you put your thumbprint on the language of the recipe that ownership can begin to take shape -- for example, describing an accepted procedure for combining wet and dry ingredients in your distinctive voice and tone.

"A recipe infringes on another's copyright if and only if it copies some of the creative content of the recipe," says Siva Vaidhyanathan of the University of Virginia Department of Media Studies. "In other words, a simple list of ingredients, measures and amounts, and the order of steps, is not copyrightable. Facts and ideas are never copyrightable. Only the arrangement, order, illustrations and other creative expressions are protectable under copyright.

"So the bottom line is that recipes are very hard to protect. And that's probably best."

Indeed, who would want to slap Aunt Betty's hand for sharing those oatmeal cookies in her church cookbook that is raising funds to build a community playground?

What about cookbooks?

There isn't big money at stake in small-circulation books, says Orlando attorney Ava K. Doppelt, who specializes in intellectual property law. But there have been legal cases between large publishing houses where entire chapters were lifted from previously published cookbooks.

"Cookbooks as a whole are very easy to protect, says Vaidhyanathan, who wrote Copyrights and Copywrongs: The Rise of Intellectual Property and How it Threatens Creativity ( New York University Press, 2001). "They have a specific order, creative text and descriptions, and photographs or other illustrations. So copying pages from cookbooks would clearly infringe. But the recipes themselves are not the same thing."

There are occasions when fair use and one-time use come into play, says Doppelt. This newspaper, for example, is routinely granted permission to reprint published recipes in the Cooking & Eating section because publicity sells cookbooks and drives people to restaurants. When those recipes are used, credit is clearly given to the chef or cookbook author that shared the work.

Stating the source offers no clear legal protection. However, it's a good place to be, some legal experts say, should someone cry foul.

"Granting credit has nothing to do with copyright," says Vaidhyanathan. "Copying materials legally requires permission, but not necessarily credit. However, not everything written down is copyrightable. For instance, the phone book is pure information with no creative expression. So it's not protectable under copyright."

Food-industry standards

While U.S. copyright law does address recipes, within the food industry, trade groups encourage writers to engage in ethical practices as well.

The guidelines of the International Association of Culinary Professionals, for example, stress giving proper attribution to recipes. IACP advises using the words "adapted from," "based on" or "inspired by," depending on how much a recipe has been revised. But having good ethical standards is not a legal defense. It's just the right thing to do.

Recipe copyright infringement is taken seriously by the producers of high-profile cooking contests as well. For amateur cooks who participate in the Pillsbury Bake-Off, the recipes they submit as their own had better be their own. Bake-Off officials perform exhaustive "originality" searches on the 100 finalists, says contest publicist Peg Ilkka. Contestants whose recipes do not have at least several significant differences are disqualified.

For the rest of the story, read on here.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

That Comes with a Side of Blarney

'Spitfire' Waitress Going Strong at 88

NEW YORK (AP) -- She's petite, white-haired and 88 years old. And if you ask Rosie the waitress what's in the meat loaf, she's likely to tell you, "It's made of old socks."

Order clams and she'll say, in her delightful Northern Ireland brogue, "I'd rather be shot than eat clams."

Rose Donaghey is a bit of a legend in the East Bronx, so well-liked and well-known that she can attract business to a new restaurant -- as she's doing these days at the Wicked Wolf.

The restaurant's manager, Kathy Gallagher, hired Donaghey 14 years ago at Charlie's Inn, a German-Irish hangout that was the traditional ending point for the local St. Patrick's Day parade.

"She was, what, 70-something then, and when she asked me about a job I thought she meant for her daughter -- or granddaughter," Gallagher said. "My mother-in-law said, `Just give her a chance."'

Charlie's closed last year, and Donaghey figured that was the end of her career.

"I felt lost," she said.

Then the Wicked Wolf hired Gallagher. Two months ago, she called Donaghey.

Gallagher says Donaghey's success is built on "her personality and her charm -- she's a little bit of a spitfire. ... She can take orders, come out and serve people, and then talk to them and keep them entertained. I know they're coming in to see her."

Attorney James Newman comes in only when Donaghey is working -- Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

"Any time you joke with her, she jokes back," he said this week. "She always tries to order for you. You ask for a burger well done and she says, `I'll have it cremated."'

Donaghey can't rush around any more, and other waitresses enter her orders into the computer. She brought a Budweiser instead of a Bud Light to one table, but turned it into a joke: "I'd blame the bartender," she whispered.

Rose McElroy, born in 1920 in County Tyrone, married James Donaghey in 1947. They came to America in 1949.

Her sister had a bar in Queens. "I arrived on a Friday and she put me to work on the Saturday," Donaghey said.

"My first customer was a lady who came in off the beach with all these kids and said, `I'm so tired. I need a screwdriver,"' Donaghey said. "Well, I didn't know what a screwdriver was except for the tool you'd use, so I went in the back and asked the boss for a screwdriver. `It's a drink,' he told me."

Things went better after that. She had four children and part-time jobs: a Fifth Avenue tea house; a Jewish deli in the Bronx.

Donaghey was retired when her husband died in 1994. The funeral lunch was held at Charlie's Inn, and Donaghey apparently thought the place could use her help.

Donaghey says she doesn't have to work. There's Social Security, and her three surviving children would help out if needed. She won't say what she gets paid, but Gallagher thinks she knows where the extra income goes: into the church basket. Donaghey takes in a Mass every day, in person or on TV.

"The world might have changed but I never change," she said.

Asked what it takes to be a great waitress, Donaghey said, "Be pleasant, and let them take their pick of tables." Later she thought of something else.

"I guess it's the blarney," she said.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

"Food Jobs" Dishes on Career Options

Book explains jobs for food enthusiasts

Chewing-gum taster. Fortune cookie message writer. Spa chef.

These are just some of the jobs in the food industry author Irena Chalmers dishes about in her latest tome, "Food Jobs" (Beaufort Books, Sept. 1, 2008).

Author, publisher, producer and teacher at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, Chalmers offers advice for those looking to embark on a new career and those with a passion for the food industry who want to get started in the business.

The book offers details on choosing a professional school, the types of jobs available (vinegar taster, mushroom grower and caviar producer are just a few of the jobs out there) and where and how to find these jobs.

Chalmers shares her musings on the food industry and provides real-life wisdom from celebrity chefs such as Bobby Flay, Todd English and Anthony Bourdain, among others.

The paperback, which sells for $19.95, is available from online booksellers and her Web site,

Monday, October 6, 2008

The Chef Jeff Project

Chef Jeff Henderson is changing lives with food.

His new show The Chef Jeff Project, premieres this Sunday at 10pm/9c on the Food Network.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Congratulations To Class 51!

Congratulations to Class 51 of the Second Helpings Culinary Job Training Program who graduated on Friday, October 3, 2008

Pictured are (Front row, Left to Right) Linda Morgan, Daniel Montalvo, Marcie Mann, Oneka Randall, (Back row) Chef Conway, Marco Barnes, Earl Dunigan, Christopher Johnson, and Anthony Murray.