A lemon square is a lemon square whether it’s made here, there, or on the Food Network, right? Yes and no.
Although all lemon squares may taste just the same to you, even the difference of an eighth of a teaspoon of salt can result in you losing a mega-dollar Food Network contract or your own website. Just ask pastry chef and former Food Network host Anne Thornton, emphasis on the “former” aspect of her job.
Find out how to share recipes on your own grocery store website without finding yourself in the middle of a raging public foodie feud.
Can You Share Recipes Online Legally?
The law on this is about as cut and dry as a charcuterie board. Some parts you will like, and some parts you’ll leave on the board as they just aren’t meant for you.
When it comes to sharing recipes, copyright laws are fairly straight forward. They essentially do not exist.
That means that the specifics of recipes are not copyrighted, unfortunately. The Australian Copyright Act has a long list of things that can be copyrighted, recipes just aren’t on the list.
A matter is copyrighted when it is original, and neither Australian law or international law is prepared to say any recipe on the planet is completely original.
Water, yeast, and flour make bread. Boom. This was true in 1800, 1900, and even now in 2019. This is also the case of a lemon square being a lemon square.
When chefs post their recipes online or on TV, they expect you to use them.
Many food cases have gone to court on the very topic, and historically the courts around the world rule that recipes are functional things that can not be copyrighted.
When you need a cup of sugar, you need a cup of sugar, and nobody can say they are the creator of that line.
But some parts of some recipes online can be. Here’s what you need to do.
Can Recipes Be Copyrighted?
Generally speaking, no, recipes can’t be copyrighted. And you can share recipes online to your heart’s content.
Recipe ingredients are states of facts. And so are the steps. How many ways can you write, “Bring water to a boil”?
Maybe just a few different ways. And no matter how you write it, you are still not plagiarising anyone that previously said, “Bring water to a boil.”
The law recognises this. But you still need to be careful.
There is case precedent when it comes to how much you can and can’t share.
For example, let’s say you find this gorgeous buttercream recipe and it comes, as many online recipes do, with a long tale of a beautiful summer’s day, a daughter’s 9th birthday, and the huge pots of hydrangeas that inspired the cupcakes in question.
You definitely, absolutely, cannot copy the entire story and say, “Look at the cupcakes I made after I looked at my hydrangeas!”
A lot of people can bring water to a boil. But only one person is going to look at hydrangeas, make cupcakes for a daughter’s 9th birthday party that are identical to the flowers in question, and then write about them.
Share the recipe, don’t share the story of the party you never went to.
You want your online grocery store to appear more professional anyway.
Learn how to sell food online first. Then, spruce up your website with professional recipes.
Do the Same Rules Apply to Recipe Photos?
Online photos also can’t be shared without attribution or credit to the source in question for the same reason.
Let’s say you steal the whole shebang, cupcake recipe, hydrangea story, and picture too. You could wind up in court over that.
But not if you only shared the recipe ingredients and the cooking methods.
A judge will acknowledge that you both made the same cupcakes. But you’ll never convince a judge that you both attended the same party and took the exact same picture, which are the two elements that are protected by copyright law.
This is even more important if you are making money off of those cupcakes, which you are if you are selling them in your store. Aunt Suzie that went to the daughter’s 9th birthday isn’t.
Any judge is really going to frown on you for that.
And you never want it to get to that point anyway.
Recipe Copyright Basics
As easy as it is to share recipes online without breaking copyright laws, you still need to keep a few points in mind.
Sharing recipes ingredients and methods doesn’t break copyright laws, but sharing other elements may. Don’t share photos without attribution or permission. It’s also a good point to keep in mind that even if you are using someone else’s recipe, crediting the source of the recipe you are using builds good relationships amongst foodies.
It’s not necessary, but it’s a good ingredient to add to your stockpile of preserves of having a good website.
At the same time, don’t be afraid to tweak it and just say so. If you used Chef Ramsay’s Beef Wellington, say how you made it your own. It’s just as creative.
At the end of the day, originality can’t be beat either. Spend some time in your kitchen one weekend and invent away, and that could even boost your online sales.
Stay In Your Lane
Every foodie or aspiring Master Chef wants to show off their creations as their own. And you do too when you are selling food online.
You just need to follow a few simple rules. The most basic one will always be, attribution, attribution, attribution.
When in doubt, attribution.
Every chef wants their recipes tried, it makes them feel good to know someone thinks they are good enough to replicate on their own. But when you start your own grocery store, give credit when credit is due.
At the same time, don’t sweat the wording on how to bring water to a boil when you don’t have to. Share recipes with peace of mind and start your own online grocery store today.