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Can you copyright a recipe?


Silver Member
Recently a girl started a blog on Facebook where she's making all the recipes from the Hummingbird Bakery's Cake Days book. Initially she was putting the full recipe until Hummingbird asked her to stop, saying the recipe was copyright. There was a lot of basklash at the time because people asked how can you copyright the recipe, particularly when it's a standard sponge recipe? And if you deviate from the recipe, even slightly, does it stop being copyright? What if you make up a recipe and it just so happens to be one that's in some obscure baking book somewhere, can you be sued?

Another person mentioned it's only copyright theft if you scan the page and post it?

Now, I'm sort of in two minds about this. I write a baking blog and will be testing 'healthy' baking recipes to see if you can truly get good tasting baking without millions of calories. The blog would certainly be better if I could include recipes (I'd always credit the source unless the recipes were my own) but I'm concerned for both the moral and legal aspects of doing this.

Does anyone know if there are any hard and fast rules about this? I understand it must be frustrating to spend a long time making a book of delicious recipes then have them reproduced for free online. And certainly I wouldn't do that. It would very much be 'this is what worked and here's the recipe'. Can I list their ingredients then write my own instructions?

I'm certainly not expecting millions of people to read my blog, but would be keen to find out what the stand is on this.

Any advice appreciated.
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Hi! Interesting question! I remembered reading something about this problem many years ago and I think if you do a Google search asking 'can recipes be copyrighted?' you'll probably be able to find some answers.


Silver Member
I thought that copyright was being breached if you were passing the work off as your own or were making some kind of gain from it or were depriving the original author of income from the copyrighted item (which you would be if you were to post every recipe from a book on your blog). But I don't know really TBH.

This idea was originally done by Julie Powell who created every recipe from a Julia Childs cookery book. The film Julie & Julia based on her original blog and book is really good.


Silver Member
This could be of use - I haven't read it all but it lists the infringements as being:

Copyright infringement that may be criminal offences under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 are the:

  • Making copies for the purpose of selling or hiring them to others[5]
  • Importing infringing copies (except for personal use)[6]
  • Offering for sale or hire, publicly displaying or otherwise distributing infringing copies in the course of a business[7]
  • Distributing a large enough number of copies to have a noticeable effect on the business of the copyright owner[8]
  • Making or possessing equipment for the purposes of making infringing copies in the course of a business[9]
  • Publicly performing a work in knowledge that the performance is unauthorised[10]
  • Communicating copies or infringing the right to "make available" copies to the public (either in the course of a business, or to an extent prejudicial to the copyright owner)[11]
  • Manufacturing commercially, importing for non-personal use, possessing in the course of a business, or distributing to an extent that has a noticeable effect on the business of the copyright holder, a device primarily designed for circumventing a technological copyright protection measure.[12]

Personally, if you are worried about this, I would write to the copyright holder first for permission to reproduce their recipe ;)


Hippety Hop!
Very difficult reading thro' all that legal jargon stuff but I came away with the thought that it's only illegal if you are copying it with the purpose of making money from selling it.
Could be that the site in question just wanted to be on the safe side as getting sued these days is the "in" thing!


x It's my year to shine x
That's an awkward one - Maybe it's because the bakery have created the "full" recipe, and if it's being distributed under the fact that it is the Hummingbird Cupcakes being made, then I fully understand. The Hummingbird Bakery could then go on to suffer a loss due to this being posted online, through book sales, or if the recipe is slightly wrong and someone tries it and fails, or the oven explodes because you put too much egg in, or the cupcake poisons them, they could end up having their business name tarnished.

I think it's fair in the long run, it's intellectual property. I have this problem daily, I run my own photography studio - the amount of people that say "oh we'll scan the pictures we bought and give some copies to granny" and I have to intervene and tell them it's illegal..

I'm always met with "but it's a picture of me that I paid for!" Well, I created the picture, it's mine (But I'm not the first to ever create a picture of you!)... I'm just selling you a copy... Then they scan the picture and print it, (doing me out of pennies) it will probably NOT look like I want it to look in line with my business... Granny's next door neighbour sees it, it looks naff - word will spread I'm not very good and I lose business... and you're breaking the law by copying a copyright document.

I think pudnpie is completely right - contact the owner before you do anything. Any big names will probably say no though.. :(

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