I'm writing a book. I want to use some recipes from Julia Child. Do I need the permission of Knopf?

I'm not using all recipes. Just Mousse au chocolat. And I would give her full credit.

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9 Comments

sfmiller October 1, 2015
The U.S. Copyright Office distinguishes between a "recipe" as a list of ingredients (not copyrightable) and the descriptive prose (introductory text, step-by-step instructions) and illustrations that accompany it (copyrightable).

From their website:

"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."

So listing exactly the same ingredients as Julia Child's mousse recipe would not violate copyright, but copying her headnote or step-by-step instructions would (whether you credit her or not).

If you paraphrase the instructions, putting them in your own words, there shouldn't be a problem. But it never hurts to run it past the publisher. They deal with issues like this all the time.
 
ChefJune October 1, 2015
Dianna: you should always give full credit to any recipe author - even if you were just inspired by their recipe. That said, if you change the writing of the recipe, you can use Julia's recipe because you will have made it your own. For instance, specify a particular brand of chocolate, or change Semi-sweet to bittersweet, specify a particular vanilla extract, etc.; add or eliminate salt. Message me if you have further questions.
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Smaug September 26, 2015
I would by no means act on this statement, but I have been told by a reasonably dependable source that recipes are not subject to copyright protection.
 
pierino September 26, 2015
Actually they are subject to copyright protection. David Ruggieri who used to be on Food Network stole a recipe from Giuliano Buggiali which he put in his own book verbatim. He changed the background story and claimed it as his own. The giveaway was that it called for exactly 12 leaves of basil. Ruggieri was that dumb. Buggiali's editor or agent caught it. Ruggeri was sued and fined.
 
Smaug September 26, 2015
But was the problem with copying the content of the recipe or the copying of wording?
 
ChefJune October 1, 2015
David Ruggerio (that's his name) had a lot more problems than just copying Giuliano Bugiali's recipe. If he had changed a couple of ingredients, he would have had no problems with that.
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pierino September 25, 2015
There is a rights and permissions desk at Knopf. Contact them. You will probably have to pay a fee. Copyright infringement comes with a fine. Remember David Ruggieri?
 
PieceOfLayerCake September 25, 2015
That sounds like a "better safe than sorry" situation.
 
702551 September 25, 2015
If you copy verbatim, absolutely.

Otherwise, consult your lawyer.
 
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