Can recipes be copyrighted?

The U.S. Copyright Office is clear on this point: Copyright law does not protect recipes that are mere listings of ingredients. Nor does it protect other mere listings of ingredients such as those found in formulas, compounds, or prescriptions. Copyright protection may, however, extend to substantial literary expression—a description, explanation, or illustration, for example—that accompanies a recipe or formula or to a combination of recipes, as in a cookbook.

However, Burnt My Fingers thinks it is poor sportsmanship to reprint a recipe without giving attribution to the source that it came from. I rarely invent recipes from whole cloth but I almost always tinker with recipes to get the results I want. Here is the policy I will try to follow in my recipe posts and I’d appreciate it if you would contact me if you think it is off base.

  •  When the recipe is widely available over the internet from multiple sources, I’ll mention that it came from the internet without giving a specific link. The reason is that links change or go dead, individual posters do their own tinkering, and if you don’t want to stop with my rendition you are welcome to do your own sleuthing.
  •  When the recipe comes from a specific source I will give attribution to that source, including a link to purchase the book if it is for sale. An exception will be made for books that are long out of print or recipes of uncertain provenance, such as my brisket recipe.
  •  Some cooking blog authors are very proprietary about their recipes and refuse to allow their recipes to be reprinted, even though I believe they have no legal right to do this. I’ll always try and research the blogger’s preference before publishing the recipe (though not if I’m simply giving a link to another resource). If you are such an author and feel I have done you wrong for any reason, please email chef at burntmyfingers dot com and we’ll fix it.
  • You are welcome to reproduce (and use!) any recipe from Burnt My Fingers, but please provide attribution in text with a (working) link either to the recipe directly, or to my home page.

UPDATE: I found an interesting approach to this at White on Rice, a blog of beautiful food photography that also includes recipes: 

“hello! all images & content are copyright protected. please do not use our images without prior permission. if you want to republish this recipe, please re-write the recipe in your own words, or simply link back to this post for the recipe. thank you.”



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