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andrestorrubia

Can you blog about recipes from a cookbook?

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I am getting MC for Christmas, and I'd like to try some of the recipes in the book.

I'd like to document my experiences in a blog but it would be of little use for non MC owners if the recipes are not (partially?) described along with results, thoughts, etc. In one extreme, I am sure simply transcribing all the recipes into a blog would not be OK, but I wonder if one can use a recipe as a post topic, describing the recipe and adding some value without risking being sued or DCMA'd.

Any guidance?


Edited by andrestorrubia (log)

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There are many examples of people doing an excellent job blogging cooking through a book without posting recipes. You can describe what you're doing, the ingredients you're using, the results, talk about the difficulties, etc. without going into specific measurements. Yes, you will have people asking for recipes in your comments section. That doesn't mean you have to give them. If you make it entertaining, you won't need to post the recipes to attract readers. As for whether or not you'll get a cease and desist if you're determined to post the recipes anyway, I don't know.


It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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Hey, it worked for Julie/Julia. You're right, though: posting one recipe is fair use; posting all of them is not. Describing them should be fine. I agree with Mjx, though: play safe and ask the authors.


Gene Weingarten, writing in the Washington Post about online news stories and the accompanying readers' comments: "I basically like 'comments,' though they can seem a little jarring: spit-flecked rants that are appended to a product that at least tries for a measure of objectivity and dignity. It's as though when you order a sirloin steak, it comes with a side of maggots."

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US Copyright office:

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.

You can write the list of ingredients. You can describe exactly what you did to execute the recipe. But you can't MC's instructions verbatim--you must do it in your own words. Heck, if you simply copied the book, the blog wouldn't be very interesting, would it? But you should feel free to include quotes from the book if it would help you in discussing the recipe (for example, if you discuss altering a technique, or highlighting one that you think is especially effective, you might want to quote a portion of the text, which the Copyright Office allows).

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IMHO, if someone is not going to buy modernist cuisine because they can get some of the recipes online, they've kind of missed the point of Modernist Cuisine.


PS: I am a guy.

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Many bloggers occasionally write up recipes from cookbooks. They usually specify the book, copy the ingredients list and then write up the method in their own words. One thing I've seen a lot of bloggers do is make some small "tweak" to the recipe. Some of this I think is just the natural home-cooking style ("We had some spare potatoes lying around so I added them too") and some of it I think is fear that they will get in trouble for copying. Done in this way I see nothing wrong with it. It probably just makes blog readers want to buy whatever book the recipe is from, so I guess it is free advertising for the book.

However, I do think there is some tricky moral ground if you're going to do a LOT of recipes from one book. The legal issues have been covered above, so I'm not talking about that. I just mean that if you occasionally blog a few recipes from a book then you are kind of just advertising how great you think it is and it gives people a taster which is an incentive for them to buy the book. Fair enough. But when you blog pretty much everything in the book then you are basically making the majority of the material available for free to anyone with internet access. You may not legally be able to pinned down for anything, but I'm not sure that I would be comfortable doing that.

Of course, Modernist Cuisine is more than just a recipe book. It has a lot of knowledge in it and I really can't see you being able to get all of that up online in such a way that there will be nothing left for people to learn from the books themselves. As Shalmanese says, those with a passion for modernist cuisine will probably still buy the book anyway or may even already have it but just be interested in seeing you blog your way through it.

So to summarise, regardless of legality, I think it's morally better to not try to "fully document" everything in a cookbook. But if we are talking MC, then you're pretty much not going to be able to do that anyway, so use your discretion and remember that the book's authors deserve all credit and praise.


Edited by Jenni (log)

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Why give the recipe at all?

People read blogs to connect with others' experience. The interesting bit is why you made the dish, what worked, what didn't, how you felt making the dish, what it looked like, how it was received by others, etc. Julie and Julia didn't become popular because the blogger gave the recipes but rather about the impact of the recipes on her life.

On eGullet, many people write about cooking from different books (type "cooking with" into the search area at the top of the screen). Check out how they write about recipes, see what fits your style and emulate them. If I wanted to be a successful blogger, I'd be looking more at how other successful blogs work and copying and adapting their style to my own rather than considering including the recipe.

Properly done, you should be exciting others not only to read your blog but also to read and use the books for themselves.


Nick Reynolds, aka "nickrey"

"The Internet is full of false information." Plato
My eG Foodblog

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Why give the recipe at all?

...

On eGullet, many people write about cooking from different books (type "cooking with" into the search area at the top of the screen). Check out how they write about recipes, see what fits your style and emulate them. If I wanted to be a successful blogger, I'd be looking more at how other successful blogs work and copying and adapting their style to my own rather than considering including the recipe.

Why include the recipe? Because many readers, and I count myself among them, are probably interested in what the recipe indicated you do--if you said you needed more milk than called for, I want to see how much was called for, how much water, eggs, flour, etc. If it gives me the opportunity to try to emulate what you did, all the better.

At the very least, I don't see how including the recipe could be detrimental to a blog post--recipes and good posts certainly are not mutually exclusive. Maybe it's the scientist in me, but when I read about recipes and techniques, I want to be able to think about them independently, question the author's assumptions, experiment on my own, etc, and this means trying to get as much info as possible. Sure, you could say, "well, go buy the book," but why make it harder for your readers than necessary? It seems totally stupid to have a blog with an entry about "Totally Awesome Way to Make Noodles with Xanthan Gum" and then say "you have to try this, just buy the book to find out how." At that point it's a teaser for the nightly news, not something I'd be interested in.

The "Cooking with" threads are a little different, because they're organized naturally to appeal mostly to the owners (or probable future owners) of the cookbook being discussed. I suppose a blogger could similarly limit his/her audience, but that seems unnecessary.

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If I were discussing my own recipes, fair enough.

But if you're basing your blog on one book, presumably because it excites you, it would be disrespectful to the authors to do so.

I reiterate my point, be creative, be interesting, don't just blog recipes that you didn't create.


Nick Reynolds, aka "nickrey"

"The Internet is full of false information." Plato
My eG Foodblog

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I am getting MC for Christmas, and I'd like to try some of the recipes in the book.

I'd like to document my experiences in a blog but it would be of little use for non MC owners if the recipes are not (partially?) described along with results, thoughts, etc. In one extreme, I am sure simply transcribing all the recipes into a blog would not be OK, but I wonder if one can use a recipe as a post topic, describing the recipe and adding some value without risking being sued or DCMA'd.

Any guidance?

As the editor of the book, I can assure you that we're thrilled whenever readers cook from the book and blog about how the recipes turned out, what they learned, what new directions they took them, etc. In fact, we set up a cooks forum at http://modernistcuisine.com/cook/forum where readers can post questions for our research cooks and each other, share results and ideas, and upload photos.

If you'd rather write about your experiences with MC on your own blog, that's great, too. If you make it a regular thing, we'll even put a link to your blog on our website.

Every recipe in Modernist Cuisine is the product of a substantial investment of research, time, money, and talent, so we do ask others to respect our copyright and stay within the bounds of fair use, which have been discussed earlier in this thread. But Modernist Cuisine is intended to be a launch pad for creative cooking--so if you want to take one of our recipes to the next level, make it your own, and write up that new culinary idea in your own words, please do!


Wayt Gibbs

Editor in chief, Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking and Modernist Cuisine at Home

The Cooking Lab, LLC

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I figured the eGullet policy on posting recipes might be of interest:

If you are like most eGullet Society members, you like to play around with recipes when you make them. Perhaps you read three or four recipes for the same dish and then construct your own using ideas from each. Posting the results of such an experiment is clearly within bounds, and is encouraged.

Suppose, however, that you make a recipe with exactly the ingredients that appear in a copyrighted recipe belonging to someone else. If you post this ingredient list, along with your own description of how you made the final dish from the ingredients, then you technically have not violated the letter of copyright law. However, we ask that you not make a habit of entering recipes in this way [in the RecipeGullet database].

Instead, whenever a recipe you enter is based on or inspired by someone else's recipe, we hope that you will acknowledge the source or your inspiration in the recipe's introduction. Something simple like, "This is based on Mark Bittman's recipe, but I use more peanut butter than he does, and I also add jalapenos, which I think makes all the difference in the world." Doing so acknowledges both the source of your inspiration and your own innovation in respectful ways.

I'd think that the original content in any blog worth reading would go well-beyond the example in that policy. One may or may not agree with its guidance, but it does give some context. The International Association of Culinary Professionals ethics guidelines (pdf, see p. 6-9) for cookbook authors have a similar focus on attribution.


Edited by emannths (log)

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