Copyright for bloggers is a funny topic once you consider the special rules that apply to recipes, ingredients, and instructions. In this post, you’ll find an explanation of those special rules and how they affect copyright protection for a blog.
Copyright for Bloggers: Protecting Recipes + Instructions
You can’t understate the prevalence of do-it-yourself (DIY) blogs and stomach-grumble-inducing recipe blogs. But first, the bubble burst. Copyright law does not protect recipes that are mere listings of ingredients. This means that the collection of ingredients that goes into your Sunday funday salmon scramble is not protectable on its own. Similarly, “procedures” “processes” and “methods of operation” are all excluded from copyright protection. (For the official Copyright Office word on this topic, see here.)
Copyright does, however, protect a unique “description, explanation, or illustration” that accompanies a recipe. What does this mean? It means the more your voice and unique, original “expression” come through in a particular post, the more protectable that post is under U.S. copyright law. Think of original expression as the things that make your blog unique. (In other words, your branding, text, photos, graphics, etc.)
Blogging and Ideas
Recipe and instruction protection directly relates to the conflict between copyright and mere ideas. We’ve previously talked about how ideas alone are not protectable. How does that apply to bloggers?
Consider an “idea” for a post about creating a garland out of flowers. Just like the example of the idea behind uber and lyft, an “idea” for a business, or a blog post, is not protectable by itself. A list of ingredients, without more, is not protectable. The same rule applies to a list of craft supplies needed for any particular DIY project. It’s the execution of the blogger’s particular idea that is protectable. Photographs, original and creative literary expression (text), video, and graphics aren’t just the special “something” that make a particular post memorable and beautiful. They are the elements of the post that are the most protectable.
The fact that you’re using thread instead of string, and your prose describing why and how to do it? Those are the unique elements of an otherwise unprotectable “recipe.” Basically, the more unique the expression is, the higher the likelihood and extent of protection. In other words, the more the author’s voice and aesthetic comes through, the more likely the post, and the important elements in that post, are protectable under U.S. copyright law.
Want to learn more about copyright registration for blogs? Click here for the first post in this series.