Recipes Are Like Children
Your recipes are not your recipes.
They are the sons and daughters of Food's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
With apologies to Kahlil Gibran
Watching the International Food Blogger Conference online is bittersweet this year. I sold my ticket 24 hours before the conference started when it became obvious it just wasn't going to work out for me this year. Fortunately for those of us who wanted to go but couldn't, there are livestreams of conferences and blog posts are already starting to pop up. Better, there is the twitterstream (The hashtag is #ifbc if you want to follow along.)
One of the sentiments that was being tossed around on twitter today can be summed up as: "Adjusting a recipe doesn't make it yours"
Without going deeply into the legalities of recipe copyright, which are rather straightforward compared to the conversation around them, here's how it works. Ingredients lists are not protected but "substantial literary expression" in the descriptive text and steps is, as are collections of recipes such as cookbooks. This means that if you rewrite the steps, you can republish the recipe without giving credit to anyone. Technically.
Ethically, this gets really muddy. Someone once said "if you change three ingredients it is a new recipe." Somebody was making this up as she went along, and a whole lot of people heard and believed her. There is at least one prominent food blog claiming all recipes are originals that operates under this credo and last I looked, never credits inspiration or source. sigh
In my view, recipes are like children. I 'own' mine while they live at home in my cookbook or website, but once they mature and move out on their own...not so much.
If they get a chive mohawk or pierce their noses, well, that's their thing. I'd appreciate it if there was a shoutout to me - sort of like keeping the family name after marriage - but own them? Nah.
Take my recipes. Please. Use them. Tweak them to make them yours. Just give me a backlink, okay?
How about you: Do you write or adapt recipes? Where do your draw your lines?