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pattimw

Food Writers

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I was wondering if any of you food writers out there can help me. I've been doing some writing for awhile, and am planning to submit a piece(my first, never published before) to my local newspaper. I have included a recipe I've made a few times that I got from a web site. aside from saying under the recipe title, "adapted from web site name" (and I have edited the recipe somewhat from experience in the kitchen)

------Is that enough? Or do I need permission to reprint?

Thanks.


Edited by pattimw (log)

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You've handled it exactly how I would have. Once you work on, adapt, and improve a recipe, I think you theoretically have the right to print it with no attribution at all -- it becomes yours, in effect. Nonetheless, from the standpoint of good professional comportment, the right thing to do is give a credit.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Some pertinent discussion may be found here and here, among other threads.

If you have modified the recipe, and especially if you use different language, you seem to be OK from a legal standpoint.


--

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So you've changed the recipe? How exactly have you edited it? You've made it your own--not just tweaking the amounts but also the process and language?

Personally, I'd try to steer clear of the "adapted from" language and referencing a website. It's weak. Most recipes and processes you'll find in books and the web have all been adapted themselves--there is little new, little that hasn't been stolen or borrowed or copied or emulated. Either use that exact recipe with full attribution and permission secured OR use your own.

If there is something that really inspired you--perhaps mention that inspiration in the text--like my recipe for Winter squash "so and so" was inspired by "insert famous food writer my editor will recognize"--Paula Wolfert, Julia Child, Dorie Greenspan, Richard Olney, etc. As long as you made it your own somehow, it will be "your" recipe but ethically, morally and "paying your dues food writer suckup-wise" you will still have attributed your creative inspiration. Best of both worlds.


Steve Klc

Pastry chef-Restaurant Consultant

Oyamel : Zaytinya : Cafe Atlantico : Jaleo

chef@pastryarts.com

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Thanks for the input.

Steveklc-

I've edited some of the ingredients and edited the directions as I went along (ie the recipe called for a stuffed pork tenderloin to be browned in a large skillet. Well, I didn't have one that large, so I used a roasting pan, which changed the cooking process a bit, and also the cooking time on the sauce, which was also cooked in the pan, after the tenderloin was removed. I found that I liked porcini broth instead of chicken, and instead of a generic "dry white wine" I found that Sauvignon blanc worked best. Stuff like that. It still smacks of their recipe with my personal stamp all over it.

So I am not quite sure if it is "my own". I would venture to say not, but again, I'm pretty green.

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It's your own in my book.

Stuffed pork tenderloin is very basic. It's everywhere. Unless there is some inventive Ducasse-like low-temp cooking process in this recipe, or some very unique language in the recipe steps that you have not changed--like "massage the loin with your knuckles, kneading lengthwise as if giving a backrub" I think you're fine. I mean, if you're going to rip off Ducasse, you better mention him.

The porcini broth scores big on my "making it your own" scale. Are you including the process to make the broth? Specifying a grape rather than white wine less so.

There are a bunch of more experienced writers and editors on this site, maybe they'll see this and weigh in, but to be really extra safe--you could look up a bunch of other tenderloin/sauce in the pan recipes from just about every cookbook ever written and see how unique this process is. They're usually all variations of the same basic marinade, sear briefly, roast in the oven, create a sauce.

Now, if you changed a very personal very distinctive recipe, say the Jody Adams "Grilled and Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Toasted Pumpkin Seed Sauce" merely by replacing the chicken stock with porcini broth--and kept all the other very distinctive stuff the same--like her neat use of lime in the sauce and her use of serrano pepper, anise and paprika in the marinade--save for time adjustments--that wouldn't be making it your own.


Steve Klc

Pastry chef-Restaurant Consultant

Oyamel : Zaytinya : Cafe Atlantico : Jaleo

chef@pastryarts.com

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I agree with chef Klc.

Plus , a few things I'd like to add: a lawyer from the author's guild once told me "you don't own a recipe, you can only own the language." Just think about a simple dish like chicken with 40 cloves of garlic or huevos rancheros. They are in food literature or oral lore and belong to no one.

On the other hand, I think it is polite to tip your hat if you in fact did get an idea from another food writer. I have my own way of assigning credit, a system that I use in all my books.When I develop a recipe, I base it on various tastings of the dish, the literature and oral lore that surrounds it, and my own amalgam of methods and techniques, most taught to me by someone. I usually just run a tiny italicised line thanking the person, or stating it in the intro in some way. If a chef gives me a recipe, and i write it up with some changes, having tested it and adjusted it to my taste I still try to place hte chef's name in the title or at least in the first line of the intro.


“C’est dans les vieux pots, qu’on fait la bonne soupe!”, or ‘it is in old pots that good soup is made’.

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a lawyer from the author's guild once told me "you don't own a recipe, you can only own the language."

Which is another way of saying that copyright doesn't protect ideas, only the unique expression of ideas. With recipes, there is even some question about whether a standard recipe can ever be unique expression. A basic list of ingredients is a standard example of something that can never be protected by copyright; whereas directions or descriptions that are more literary and unique are more likely to be protectable.

On the other hand, I think it is polite to tip your hat if you in fact did get an idea from another food writer.

I agree but would add that it's more than polite. I think it would be unethical to behave otherwise. That's because, once you get to the question of acknowledgment you are no longer talking about copyright at all. You're talking about plagiarism, which is a separate ethical issue. The works of William Shakespeare are not copyrighted by anybody -- they're too old. Anybody can take all of Shakesepare's plays and reprint them. No copyright issue at all. But if you print a Shakespeare sonnet and you say you wrote it . . . well, you're still a plagiarist even though you were conducting yourself totally within the bounds of the copyright laws. Of course, most recipes aren't Shakespeare, and nobody is a plagiarist for publishing a recipe for hollandaise without acknowledgment. But if you got your ideas from somewhere else, you should always say so, whether you used the exact same words or not.

I think it's also worth noting that there are two ways to make a recipe "your own": the honest way and the dishonest way. What we saw described above -- what pattimw and Wolfert do to recipes -- is the honest way, whereby you work with a recipe and make it better or at least different. It's a time-honored evolutionary process, it's part of the very definition of what it means to be a cook. The dishonest way is to change for the sake of ownership or as an end-run around the law or ethics -- to do a robot-like rewrite of the recipe just so you can say, "See, it's in my own words!" This is the equivalent of the elementary school student who, when told it's plagiarism to copy an encyclopedia article, goes through and encyclopedia article and changes every big word to a synonym, leaving all the ideas, structure, etc., intact, and represents that as his own work. He may have stayed one step ahead of the copyright laws by doing that, but he's still a plagiarist.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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i have to disagree with my esteemed colleagues ms. wolfert and mr. klc, at least in this specific instance. i see a real difference between, say, doing chicken with 40 cloves of garlic, where you look at a dozen or 5 or 6 recipes and then come up with your own version, and looking at one recipe and then making one or two small changes in it. certainly, it's not a matter of legality, but i do think it's polite to give credit where it's due. i don't think it's weak at all.

in today's section, i had two recipes, one was "from suzanne tracht at jar", where she wrote out an exact recipe, i edited it, we tested it in the kitchen and made some minor changes. the other was "adapted from michael cimarusti at water grill" where he basically demonstrated a dish of sauteed sardines served on a bed of red pepper-tomato "jam". that one i had to develop all of the measurements and timing myself based on a pretty loose description. but i couldn't in any honesty claim that it was my recipe.

i see giving credit as part of acknowledging the larger world of food. even if i have an idea taken from a one-or-two sentence description in something like "honey from a weed," i'll credit it as an idea source. i don't see it as detracting from my work at all and the worst thing that could happen is someone will find that wonderful book who doesn't already know about it.

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You wouldn't in all honesty claim that as your recipe Russ because the article was an interesting puff piece about you hanging out with the chefs and shopping for fish: "How Chefs Go Trolling." Those specific recipes are supportive, indeed integral, to your piece and the way your paper wanted to highlight these local chefs. I think "most" other choices, and certainly what we're speculating about here, would be less clear cut.

I don't see us as disagreeing here about much Russ. Your observing this distinctive sardine dish is similar to my caution against someone using that distinctive Jody Adams recipe for inspiration with minor changes and without attribution. But actually, online, the credit for the sardine recipe says "from" rather than "adapted." Personally, I prefer your distinction--and as a reader--I think I would prefer to know the backstory--that Suzanne's recipe came from her and that you watched this other guy make his dish--and then went into your demo kitchen and essentially developed and tested the recipe. That's credit you are due publicly. I'd rather know when a food writer cribs and when he actually develops. While you may not have created the dish, you developed the recipe in this case. A a result of your time and effort you served your readers well--you did not create that dish but you at least co-developed or co-created that recipe and you weren't a thieving magpie.

I'm also glad you and Paula weighed in, because like many things in food and food writing, there often isn't a clear answer, a clear right way to resolve things. I think that's something important Ms. Wolfert added--that usually she finds her own way to attribute and credit others who inspire her--she developed a uniform style--and readers come to know that style over time. So in a sense, given her last paragraph, I'm not sure you and she are in much disagreement--and I don't sense any of us are in disagreement with Shaw's take home message--that there is an honest way and a dishonest way to make a recipe your own.


Steve Klc

Pastry chef-Restaurant Consultant

Oyamel : Zaytinya : Cafe Atlantico : Jaleo

chef@pastryarts.com

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You wouldn't in all honesty claim that as your recipe Russ because the article was an interesting puff piece about you hanging out with the chefs and shopping for fish: "How Chefs Go Trolling."

whoa, steve. i'm going to assume you are not aware that to any serious journalist the term "puff piece" is offensive in the extreme, implying a story that has no other purpose but to provide free publicity for the people involved. i would never write such a thing. i did that story for a couple of reasons:

1) to provide a look inside an important part of the southern california food scene that most of my readers are barred from (the market sells only at wholesale).

2) to provide some ideas to readers who may be more inexperienced about fish about how some experienced cooks approach fish shopping: what they look for and what they think about when they're developing dishes.

i think if you'll look at my track record, you'll find that the number of times i quote chefs as experts is pretty small (in fact, that's something i take a bit of flak for). i'm much more likely to talk to farmers or scientists. but there are times when it is appropriate and i hope i can do it every once in a while without someone accusing me of shoddy work.

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I think he meant "puffer fish" piece.


Arthur Johnson, aka "fresco"

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et tu, fugu?

I'd say poison penmanship is preferable to puff pieces.


Arthur Johnson, aka "fresco"

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Oh, gosh Russ, no offense intended. My bad. That stuff was as interesting and well-written as our best newspaper food sections get. I guess puff popped too freely into my head because it was all so nice, gentle and uncritical. Now that I know how serious a diss that word can seem I will use it much more sparingly--and in more appropriate instances. Thanks. Let's not forget most of my last post was giving you credit--more credit than it appeared the paper gave you for your efforts behind the scenes.


Steve Klc

Pastry chef-Restaurant Consultant

Oyamel : Zaytinya : Cafe Atlantico : Jaleo

chef@pastryarts.com

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Puff Guy.


"I've caught you Richardson, stuffing spit-backs in your vile maw. 'Let tomorrow's omelets go empty,' is that your fucking attitude?" -E. B. Farnum

"Behold, I teach you the ubermunch. The ubermunch is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the ubermunch shall be the meaning of the earth!" -Fritzy N.

"It's okay to like celery more than yogurt, but it's not okay to think that batter is yogurt."

Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

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A basic list of ingredients is a standard example of something that can never be protected by copyright; whereas directions or descriptions that are more literary and unique are more likely to be protectable.

I had this same discussion with some folks a few months back. This was the same thing that was concluded. So, I wonder... why bother to copyright a recipe? What's the point?

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For the most part, copyrighting isn't something one "bothers" to do. Everything you create is automatically copyrighted to the extent it is copyrightable, and putting a little © symbol somewhere is all most people do to make that extra clear. It's also possible to put documents on file with the government as a form of proof. That doesn't create a copyright, it simply makes it easier to prove you were the creator if someone else comes along and claims to have created the same thing first. But I think the reason a publisher, for example, would bother to put a cookbook on file with the library of congress is that even though a single recipe probably can't be protected in court, it's probably possible to protect your work if someone copies an entire collection of recipes. There, you have a question not only of the individual pieces of data (which may not be protectable) but also of the unique assemblage of that data (which often is).


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Reasons why someone would register for copyright: the ability to sue and statutory damages. In the U.S., if I recall correctly, you can't sue someone for copyright infringement unless you've registered your work with the Copyright Office. You can't get statutory damages either. Statutory damages (i.e., damages defined in the Copyright Act) may be higher than the damages you've actually suffered from the infringement.

For example, if someone copied an article I wrote and I didn't register it, the actual damages are likely to be quite tiny (lost profits, for example). If I registered it before the copying occurred, however, the Copyright Act allows me to get statutory damages (I think it's up to $100,000 or something like that) plus attorney fees and costs, depending on the circumstances of the copying. Lots more money, in any case, than my actual damages.

Given that registration only requires $30 and a form, it's often worth it to register a cookbook. I'm not sure if it's worth it to register individual recipes unless the language used the recipes is particularly creative -- protection for recipes is still pretty thin, but if the writer believes that the recipe as written is worth protecting, then why not register it? I'd treat the $30 fee like insurance.


Edited by ChocoKitty (log)

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You can always sue. You don't have to register a copyright at the time of creation to sue; all you have to do is register it whenever you actually file the suit -- that can be 10 years after creation of the work. Statutory damages, yes, you need to register within three months of creation in order to be eligible for those, but in reality those damages are reserved for particularly malevolent cases of infringement. For the most part, copyright enforcement is a matter of notification and it doesn't even end up in court. One wonders, if you're a big company registering thousands of works a year, how many $30 expenditures you'd have to make before collecting $100,000 in statutory damages. It would be interesting to know how many times a decade a $100,000 statutory damages award gets made in a copyright infringement suit. In any event, certainly, if you're a publisher of books or software or other big chunks of work, registration may be a sensible risk-reduction measure. But I'd never bother to register articles, pages on Web sites, etc., without special circumstances being present.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I hate to add a crass point---money. Every once in awhile a food writer wants to reprint my recipe(s) in their book or in some printed material they are preparing and they pay my publisher a fee. I get about half.

I remember when I was writing Mediterranean cooking in 1975. I wanted to republish Elizabeth David's recipe for peach jam. I could have "adapted" it but I liked the way she expressed herself. I had to pay her publishers about $165 for use. And I did.

It's a lot less then ascap charges for reprinting a song. I did a story years ago on tunisian cooking and wanted to quote Dizzie Gillespie' Moon over tunisia. Ascap charged the magazine about $500 for those 4 lines I needed to finish the piece with a little zing. We did.


Edited by Wolfert (log)

“C’est dans les vieux pots, qu’on fait la bonne soupe!”, or ‘it is in old pots that good soup is made’.

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