Tuesday, April 06, 2021

Recipe scraping site generates controversy and resentment for "lowballing" but probably does not commit copyright infringement


landing at DFW 2018 

Recently there has been a controversy about a site called “Recipeasly”.  This site apparently prints lists of ingredients from recipes from any other sites in a format convenient for the user.  The owners were anticipating a subscription business model.

And there is a lot of blowback, as with this article on “eater”.  The fear is that this site will lowball real sites earning revenue from legitimate culinary work and presentation.  The owners of the site appear to have apologized and taken it down, but this was probably not legally necessary. 

A mere list of ingredients from a recipe cannot be copyrighted.  Expressive material surrounding it might be (including photographs and videos). 

Leonard French, a copyright attorney who runs the “Lawful Masses” YouTube channel, explains here.

A cookbook in its entirety would normally be copyrightable, I would think, as it adds a surrounding expression.  Back in 2002 or so, the Writer’s Guild, as I recall, awarded a cookbook from a restaurant in Waxahachie, Texas called “The Dove’s Nest” an award for best self-published book of the year, although a cookbook is a different beast from a normal fiction or non-fiction (or maybe both in DADT3)  narrative book. But obviously it takes attention to a lot more than just lists of ingredients to write and put together such a book.

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