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wow, i actually had a question sort of related to this and have been looking for someone to answer it. i am thinking of starting a food blog but i wonder what you need to worry about as far as posting recipes that you've found in cookbooks. do you just say where you got it?

The deal on recipes and copyright is this: copyright protects the expression of an idea, if there's sufficient creativity, but not the underlying idea itself. (If you want to protect an idea, you need a patent.) Thus, the recipe itself is not protected by copyright. The way the recipe is phrased might be, in the rare cases where it's more than just plain descriptive language, but most aren't.

In addition, there's a basic fair use principle in US copyright law that permits the use of a small portion of a work without permission for the purpose of review and commentary. One recipe is a small portion of any cookbook, so in the unlikely event that a recipe's wording would be considered sufficiently creative to trigger copyright protection, there's still a fair use argument.

KC posts individual recipes, not only with credit to the author, but also with a link to the cookbook they came from so people who are interested can go buy the book. But she doesn't post the stories that go with them, or scan photos from the cookbook. As a matter of fact, many people follow those links and buy the books -- so what she's doing is not only legitimate under US law, but actually beneficial to the authors of the books she cites.

I can't find eGullet's policy, but I'm pretty sure they've taken a similar line. (They allow posting of recipes, but insist that you give credit. They may also ask people to paraphrase in some cases.)

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