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Cooks Illustrated's Pursuit of Blogger [Split from Home Cooking]

[NOTE: We've split this discussion from the following thread about Cooks Illustrated on the Home Cooking board: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/729038].

I used to really love America's Test Kitchen. I even "joined up" on their website.

But gradually I've come to the conclusion that there's a real problem with the way they run things, mostly centering around the concept of the One True Holy Recipe that they subscribe to.

They actually threatened a fairly well-known food blogger because she modified one of their Sacred Recipes. She posted about it on her blog but has since taken it down. I was incensed when I read about it and am no longer a member of CI, nor do I bother to go to their website and look for anything.

However, it's true that once somethings been posted on the internet, it never dies. If you would like to see an account of the original exchange, just check out the wayback machine:


The idea that a recipe can be "owned" and never modified is ludicrous. ALL recipes are based on modifications of some other recipe stretching back into the mists of time.

There is no holy grail. Just damn good eats! And what I think is damn good might turn someone else green. So pooh on you, CI and Chris Kimball. Your recipe for Pad Thai stank anyway, LOL! BTW, you owe credit to whoever you stole the original recipe from, so take it down off your website right now! Or else! LOL!

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  1. That is pretty amazing. And disappointing. Thanks for sharing that.

    1 Reply
    1. re: c oliver

      Yep. I don't need to ever hand over another dime to them, either.

    2. Wow, that lady at CC has a potato up her, ahem. Thanks for sharing that poor blogger's experience. I've been a fan of CI for a long time, and use several recipes, some of them highly modified. I find them a good jumping off point, no more.

      BTW, Chris Kimball irritates me more than Martha Stewart, because though she uses the word "perfect" way too much, he's takes himself and the whole perfectionism ethic dead seriously. She at least has a sense of humor about her whole "perfect" persona.

      11 Replies
      1. re: amyzan

        And his monthly column makes me want to puke. All that (what seems like) faux folksiness :) And lose the bowtie.

          1. re: c oliver

            Yes, the damn column, as if the recipes aren't text-heavy enough. I don't buy it either. I doubt he's sitting around the hearth listening to the victrola while the children play mumbley-peg (okay, I've run out of old-timey words but he never will), given that he's probably a millionaire, being the founder of CI.

          2. re: amyzan

            I don't much care for Cook's Illustrated and all it's ilk anymore, but when it comes to Martha Stewart . . .

            Well, this is how I feel about Martha Stewart:



            1. re: ZenSojourner

              Oh, she's crazy alright, crazy like a fox. But, seriously, I understand your urge. Completely. It's particularly difficult to watch her interact with children on tv. While I can't really deal with her, I have to admit I admire her on some bizarro level. Her magazine used to actually be useful, years and years ago. In fact, I learned to knit from it well enough to go take classes at the local yarn shop without humiliating myself.

              But, yeah, I get it. You are in good company, I'm sure.

            2. re: amyzan

              Uggh..agreed. And if you ever watch the PBS show, he seems like such a condescending jerk to all the other show personalities. Definitely not someone I think I'd enjoy working with.

              1. re: erin_grogan

                I don't get that at all. The other people on the show seem to enjoy taking jabs at Kimball. The two women do it, the tasting guy does it. The equipment guy seems to not take jabs at his boss though.

                On further thought, I've always thought he treats the two women (is it Bridgette and Julia?) with respect for their work. He compliments them on the recipes, in fact usually raves about them. I can't say I can recall any condescending comments from him, unless you include a bit of humor. I've always thought the staff seems to like putting him 'in his place' chopping vegetables or stirring a pot while they continue on with the recipe.

                1. re: John E.

                  John E. I've always thought that the whole show is made up of "characters" rather than real people. All of the people on the show work for Chris K. The mag. is his, the show is his. Any insults or jibes are there to make it more interesting and perky. Once you know of his cooking background it seems even more lame to hear him act lame and inept.

                  The whole Cooks Illustrated, America's Test Kitchen, etc. is a staged show.

                  1. re: oakjoan

                    I have to disagree. I think the people that are on those shows appear relaxed and genuine. You can't fake the exchanges they have on-camera. His 'lame' act is the only part of the show that might be an act.

                    1. re: oakjoan

                      That was my reaction, too; scripted "jabs" to make him seem even folksier.

                      1. re: Parrotgal

                        I don't even think they're scripted. If they were, they would be more clever.

              2. That explains why you can't find the recipes online, outside of their sources. I think it's crazy that they don't allow modifications and yet they come up with several variations of what is the "best" for everything. If the "best" is in the "Best Recipe" cookbook, then why do they publish a different "best" in Cooks Illustrated? I think you can publish the recipe they have, just not credit it to them, as did the blogger in the end. The credit given was funny.

                1. I was blogging back when that happened and we were all appalled at the attitude that they thought they owned a recipe and no one could modify it. I have not used any of my money to support that group since, nor do I look at their website. The very gall of them!

                  8 Replies
                  1. re: decolady

                    Prehistoric Cooking School

                    1) Find mastadon.
                    2) stab with spear.
                    3) stab with many many spear.
                    4) stab stab stabbity stab!
                    5) when mastadon fall down, use sharp black rock to cut off pelt.
                    6) cut cut cut.
                    7) cut cut cut
                    8) this boring, make womans do.
                    9) when womans done cutting pelt, take meat.
                    10) stick meat on sharp stick.
                    11) NOT MY GOOD SPEAR!!
                    12) Use other sharp stick, that one there.
                    13) stick meat in Red Flower That Bites.
                    14) Turn stick over so other side meat in Red Flower That Bites.
                    15) pull out of Red Flower That Bites.
                    16) CAREFUL! HOT!
                    17) let cool little bit.
                    18) eat.

                    This first recipe ever. All recipe descend from this. Therefore me, Og, own all recipe. Og wake up from big sleep in glacier and find out everybody steal Og recipe! Make Changes! Not give Og credit! Not even link to Og Blog!

                    Og no like! Og no like at all! You all take recipe down, pay Og royalty! Og own all!

                    MWAH HA HA HA! OG OWN ALL RECIPE!

                    1. re: ZenSojourner

                      Have you had your meds regulated recently?!? LOL, ZS.

                      1. re: c oliver

                        Watch Og Blog. Next week do sharp stick comparison. Which sharp stick best for stab meat? Which sharp stick best for stab mastadon?

                        We find out, use Scientific Method, next week, in Og's Pleistocene Test Cook Pit!

                        1. re: ZenSojourner

                          Og make his own maple syrup. Og know better how to cook masatadon. Og make cave painting to show how, then charge admission to see.

                      2. re: decolady

                        Ok, I'm confused. I just had 2 postings disappear, and someone else's posting also disappeared, from this thread.

                        What's the deal?

                        1. re: ZenSojourner

                          Mods sometimes delete posts if they deem them inappropriate or inflammatory or if someone's complained about them. Happens to all of us at some time. BTW, I was appalled at the behavior of the CI lady--thanks for posting that info!

                          Oh, and I've NEVER considered CI to be THE authority on anything. And I'm sure it's that stupid bowtie that turned me off!

                          1. re: nofunlatte

                            Seriously? Poor Og! Not allowed to post a mastodon recipe! LOL!

                            I don't even care about the bow tie, but the attitude and the inundation of junk mail really turned me off. I got more junk mail from that site than any other I've ever had the misfortune to get spammed by.

                      3. I had recorded America's Test Kitchen recently and when I started to watch the episode (Thanksgiving slow roast turkey) I thought of this situation and found their intro ironically funny. First Chris does a cheesy knock off of the song "Tradition" from Fiddler on the Roof. Then they segue to a photo-shopped image of Norman Rockwell's Thanksgiving dinner illustration where ATK has switched the roast turkey for an image of the dish they are about to prepare!

                        Sort of pot calling the kettle....

                        1. jfood decided a few weeks ago not to renew as he thinks they are focussing on the Rachel Ray demographics recently. And now he is glad he did not.

                          1. I disagree. CI has a reputation that they try hard to uphold. They put a lot of R and D into every recipe and I can understand why they don't want every second home chef adjusting it and than putting the CI name on it. It makes perfect sense that if someone is trying a new recipe from a blog that claims to be from CI, than CI want it to be the exact recipe. They are a business, and are out to make money. Go figure

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: mlukan

                              but they are asking for more than granted in the copyright. they want to eliminate reference to items in the public domain

                              1. re: mlukan

                                You're missing the point. Alosha's blog recipe was adapted from CI's, and said so. It had several ingredient changes. Had she not credited CI as her inspiration, it would not have popped up on CI's radar. It was less similar to the original than are the numerous reiterations of CI recipes which appear on Chowhound, duplicating the ingredient list but paraphrasing the directions, as per CH requirements. Very poor form on CI's part, if it is actually their corporate stance and not just Deborah Broide overstepping her authority.

                                1. re: greygarious

                                  Really. What CI should have done is request that they take the reference to CI off the recipe. Their reasoning was nonsensical: they didn't want their name on it because she had changed it and thus they didn't want people to think it was their recipe, and yet they demanded that she take "their recipe" off her site. Either it was their recipe or it wasn't!

                              2. I am starting to think it may has to do that music industry mentality. That is the same reason why you shouldn't surprised youtube takes down your music video of an famous artist. You may think the idea of ownership of a recipe is silly, but so do many people feel about music.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                  you can receive a process patent on the procedure, not the ingrediebts. if you publish the recipe process with no changes the you have violated the copyright...just read the rules on CH, guaranteed the CBS Lawyers have reviewed them

                                2. I read that exchange and have to say I agree with CI...it is copyrighted material and she asked the blogger very nicely to remove it, I don't know why the blogger kept giving her such a hard time.

                                  41 Replies
                                  1. re: observor

                                    Recipes are not copyrightable. Only the instructions can by copyrighted. She did not copy the instructions. They had not a leg to stand on.

                                    1. re: ZenSojourner

                                      Well, I'm not a lawyer. If they didn't have a leg to stand on why did she remove them? Incidentally, did you attempt that baguette recipe that *cough*cough* may or may not have been illegal?

                                      1. re: observor

                                        You may not realize this, but big companies threaten little people with lawsuits all the time for things that they really have no right to do so. The little people can't really afford legal representation and the big companies have a gajillion lawyers, do the math.

                                        1. re: jgg13

                                          I am a lawyer and, as I used to tell my MD clients, anyone can sue anyone else for good reason, bad reason, color of socks, or no reason at all. Our psychiatric patients did it with some regularity, but only 1 of them won his case (and he deserved to win it!). As jgg13 said, lawsuits are often used as intimidation tactics. Most people will fold or settle rather than litigate. Litigation costs time, money, and a lot of anxiety on the part of the individual being sued. Sadly, there are too many lawyers out there with too much time on their hands.

                                      2. re: ZenSojourner

                                        Not only are recipes not copyrightable, but she changed the recipe so it was no longer their recipe. Their position was nonsensical: they were unhappy that she posted "their" recipe AND then complained that because she had changed it, it wasn't their recipe. It can't be both their recipe and not their recipe! The only thing she did wrong was to mention Cooks Illustrated in the first place -- the name "Cooks Illustrated" is undoubtedly trademarked and I suppose they could complain that she infringed on their trademark by using their name, even though I suspect that this could be considered fair use.

                                        People cave in to unreasonable demands all the time just to get someone off their back -- it has no bearing on whether that person's demands are legitimate.

                                        1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                          Considering the woman has been in public relations for them for many years I would think she would know what was copyrightable and what isn't. I think if the blogger hadn't said it was from CI then she would have been OK. I think if you imply that the recipe is from CI, and then change it, it is kind of like you are misrepresenting them, I think that is where the legal issues can arise.

                                          1. re: observor

                                            If you think that because someone ought to know about copyrights then they do, you'd be wrong -- haven't you been following the whole Cooks Source debacle? Anyway, if the blogger clearly said that she'd changed the recipe -- which she did -- then you can't reasonably say that she was misrepresenting it as being the Cooks Illustrated recipe. And even if it was, it still wouldn't be a copyright issue, it would be a trademark issue (as you said, considering the woman has been in public relations for them for many years I would think she would know the difference between a trademark and a copyright).

                                            The fact is, as has been widely discussed, a list of ingredients cannot be copyrighted. Instructions can be copyrighted, but only if they are accompanied by "substantial literary expression" (i.e., you talk about your experiences developing the recipe or how your grandma made it every Christmas) -- a simple list of instructions cannot be copyrighted.

                                            If you don't believe me, believe the US Copyright Office: www.copyright.gov/help/faq/faq-protec...

                                            You might also be interested in this article, which specifically discusses the "adapted from" issue: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/...

                                            1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                              I don't really care generally, but I will say it seemed like the CI lady was very polite and I found the blogger's response to be overly combative. The blogger would have never even have had a recipe to adjust if it wasn't for CI, so it doesn't seem too out of place to just remove the CI reference and include the final recipe.

                                              1. re: observor

                                                I agree that perhaps the blogger could have been less combative. But the CI rep was basically politely bullying her by misrepresenting the situation (claiming she had a legal right to ask her to take down the recipe, which she did not). I don't think anyone should back down to bullies, no matter how polite the bully is.

                                                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                  Well, I think it is the blogger's responsibility to find out if there is indeed a legal justification instead of harshly combating the company that provided the recipe in the first place.

                                                  1. re: observor

                                                    So one is legally wrong and the other is morally wrong.

                                                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                      I think they're just trying to protect their brand...they can't have people making recipes they think are CI's and aren't. Also, CI's recipes are not typical in that they are methodically developed (apparently)...it's not like taking a recipe from some little regional cookbook, CI is a big company that specializes in recipe development.

                                                      1. re: observor

                                                        A general counsel is charged with the vigorous defense of a company's brand. Sometimes that means a shot over the bow, sometimes a little bluff and bravado. So far, no harm/no foul.

                                                        1. re: steve h.

                                                          Such defense can be Pyrrhic. For example, at the cost of considerable goodwill and public reputation as a bully. This is another story that has resolved my decision not to renew.

                                                          1. re: Karl S

                                                            They made a business decision, you're making a personal one. Both are valid, both are defensible.

                                                            Having said that, I saw CK's "Fannie's Last Supper" on TV today. It was excellent. I said on another CH forum that the show was equal parts "This Old House", "America's Test Kitchen" and a Ken Burns documentary. I highly recommend it.

                                                        2. re: observor

                                                          So it's more acceptable to screw over "little" people than "big" people? I've always thought it was the other way around: don't pick on little people; big people can take care of themselves. But I guess that's what's wrong with America today: the big people just keep getting bigger and greedier at the expense of the little people.

                                                      2. re: observor

                                                        Uhh, shouldn't it be the responsibility of the party making threats of legal action to actually make sure they're not making crap up?

                                                        1. re: jgg13

                                                          Yes, of course. My issue with CI is the fact that they were bullying the blogger by making legal threats of copyright infringement they had no right to make.

                                                          My final word on the subject is that, since (a) recipes can't be copyrighted, and (b) it was no longer the CI recipe in any case, and (c) as people have said, they have a right to protect their reputation and the integrity of their recipes, what they should have said is "Our name is trademarked, please do not use it in association with any recipes on your website."

                                                          1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                            I am perfectly free to say that my recipe was inspired by a CI one. That does not in any way infringe on their trademark.

                                              2. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                While CI was being hard and firm here, I think they need to be. What happens if random posts their recipes w/ changes, even if they say they did, and the recipe is terrible? When people read it and try it, they'll think CI is terrible. What if someone reiterated what you've said here and there, saying they're doing that, but turning it to something you didn't say? Would that be okay with you, or would you want them to remove it from their blog?

                                                1. re: chowser

                                                  CI would need to find another business. What you describe is part and parcel of the receipt tradition. It's happened to much more eminent chefs than CI, and they learned to accept reality.

                                                  1. re: Karl S

                                                    Doesn't mean they don't have a right to preserve their image.

                                                  2. re: chowser

                                                    Sorry, there's no legal right to protect yourself from people being stupid and unreasonable.

                                                    1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                      No legal right but if someone did say you expressed an opinion you didn't have, would you ask them to stop? Michelle Obama did that when she was used in an anti-fur campaign. There was no legal right but there was the interest of fairness. CI wants to protect their name and not be associated with random recipes that might be terrible. I think they can go about it in a less heavy handed way but I can understand protecting brand.

                                                      1. re: chowser

                                                        In an era of social networking and commentary, bullying costs more customer goodwill than it used to as a brand-protection method.

                                                        1. re: chowser

                                                          Huh? There certainly are laws about using your name and your image to promote something without your permission. Michelle Obama, being a smart lady (smarter than Cooks Illustrated's PR person!) knows better than to threaten legal action in a case where the PR would just make the situation worse. However, in this case the Cooks Illustrated name was not being used for promotional purposes, only in the context of describing the history of how the recipe was developed.


                                                          1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                            It depends on how it's done. There was this uproar about this billboard that wasn't illegal with President Obama wearing a waterproof jacket:



                                                            It was in the news about how far companies can go w/out permission, if you're wearing their items.

                                                            Michele Obama's staff did ask that they not use her name/photo but PETA refused to stop, IIRC.

                                                            1. re: chowser

                                                              You are correct. Although Michelle Obama did not personally demand the photo to be removed, her spokewoman has publically condemned this which clearly indicates her position on this matter.

                                                              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                By ignoring it and letting it go out of the news instead of making a big deal about it, they handled it with far more class than I would have. I would have told them, "Hey, for as long as you run the ad, I'm going to deck myself out in fur."

                                                                1. re: chowser

                                                                  I won't say the First Lady completely ignored it, not on day one anyway. She voiced strong objection through her spokewoman and I bet her staffs have met with PETA in private as well. PETA simply ignored the demand. There is no reason for the First Lady to continue to fight with PETA. Any future fight will only benefit PETA and hurt the First Lady. PETA would have loved to get on front page news.

                                                                  Like we always say, "Never get into a wrestling match with a pig. You both get dirty, and the pig likes it"

                                                                  I am not saying PETA is a pig. My point is that some people benefit from entering a fight.

                                                                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                    Not completely ignored it from the beginning but when they refused to change, she didn't pursue it, or have it pursued. Good analogy with the pig and that's what this blogger did, imo. I find both behaviors or CI and this blogger to be bothersome.

                                                                    1. re: chowser

                                                                      I don't condone Cthe CI lady's behavior, but I don't think this particular blogger was exactly polite in her badgering the CI lady (no matter how deserved). Sometimes, it's not what you say, but how you say it and how often you say it. If CI really had no legal leg to stand on, then all the blogger had to do was tell that to CI and say she won't be taking it down because she is not violating any law, and if CI would like to pursue it legally, they'd find it fruitless.

                                                                      She could've blogged about how she did that, but she blogged about how she kept sending responses like this:

                                                                      "Fine. I'll come up with my own potato salad recipe next time and pretend I never saw this one."

                                                                      or this:

                                                                      "And I find it rather pretentious of you to assume that your recipes are so perfect that no one should be allowed to say that they modified them. What right do you have to tell me I can't?"

                                                                      or this:

                                                                      "Deborah, I appreciate that you are trying to play the bigger person and be all kind and patient and whatnot. That's my typical M.O., as I consider myself a spiritual and loving individual. But stop talking down to me about it. It's not necessary.
                                                                      I'm simply annoyed about the modification part. People modify recipes all the time to add their own nuances to it. EVERYONE does that. I guess your recipes are more perfect than everyone else's? I just don't get that, I'm sorry.
                                                                      From now on, I just won't use any of your recipes. There are plenty of other resources out there. I will also never purchase anything from America's Test Kitchen/Cook's Illustrated/Cook’s Country because apparently, our philosophies seriously diverge."

                                                                      or this:

                                                                      "Yes, I get it. I'm not stupid about the copyright issue. It's removed. However, I was just informed by a wonderful cook friend that lists of ingredients are not copyrighted, only method. So I know how to avoid the land mines next time, yes? Later."

                                                                      If I were the CI lady, I'd be tempted (but not really actually do anything out of professionalism) to tell her to stop acting like a teenager who's not getting everything exactly her way.

                                                                      Sometimes, short and sweet works the best. There wasn't really a huge issue to "win" here on either side, imho.

                                                                      1. re: yfunk3

                                                                        I believe my comments reflect yours yfunk3.

                                                        2. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                          RL, I think I love you. Seriously, such well-written, well-argued posts.

                                                        3. re: chowser

                                                          You're missing the point, I think.

                                                          The PR person from CI demanded that the recipe be removed from the blog and wouldn't allow it to be posted even though ingredients were changed and even if reference to CI were removed. CI has no legal right to do that and if they have succeeded it's only by bullying.

                                                          They have a right to preserve their brand, but only within the constraints of the law.

                                                          1. re: taos

                                                            You're right, I missed the part that even if references to CI were removed, they'd have a problem with it. I read the original thread so long ago and haven't gone back since it resurfaced. As I've said, I think CI should handle it in a different way and were being heavy handed with their approach. I'm just saying that I can understand someone wanting brand protection--not to the extent that CI has apparently taken it. Politeness, not bullying, goes so much further.

                                                            1. re: taos

                                                              CI can do what they want...the blogger doesn't have to remove it...she chose to.

                                                            2. re: chowser

                                                              I have posted about a problem I had several years ago with CI which showed me that they are not the folksy, down home people they profess to be.

                                                              Their website said that you could access recipes (or something I was looking for - can't remember exactly now) only if you agreed to receive a complimentary issue of CI. I okayed that and got the info I needed.

                                                              I got the mag and didn't much like it and so decided I didn't want to subscribe. The website said NOTHING about a subscription, just a sample copy of CI.

                                                              Life went on for a few months and then I started getting dunning letters from CI saying my account would be sent to a collection agency. I was really peeved and finally called them up. They were quite nice and said that it wasn't a REAL collection agency, just their in-house collectors.

                                                              I hung up and thought about that. They have a bureau within CI that pretends to be a collection agency to scare folks into subscribing.

                                                              The phone call took care of the problem and I never heard from them again. I sometimes wonder how many folks fall for this and subscribe.

                                                              1. re: oakjoan

                                                                That's one reason I've never signed up for the "free" subscription. There is way too much fine print in anything free for me to deal with.

                                                                CI is diligent about getting their recipes off the web. If you google any recipe from them, they're hard to find, even on blog sites that post recipes for other books. I can find almost any recipe I want from most sources, except CI. I wonder how many bloggers have received notices from them. I have noticed, though, that recipes here haven't been touched, as long as they've been paraphrased. I wonder if it's because CH has some backing behind it and is not some easily intimidated blogger who will back down.

                                                                1. re: oakjoan

                                                                  What you neglected to do was to write 'cancel' or 'decline' on the bill and mail it back. This is plainly stated on they free offer both on the web and the postcards inside the printed magazines.

                                                        4. I write a food column for the local newspaper, and frequently use recipes from cookbooks, blogs, and magazines. If it's unchanged, I credit: "Recipe from XYZ magazine." If changed slightly, I'll use "Recipe adapted from...." If changed a great deal, "Recipe inspired by...." Never had any complaints.

                                                          3 Replies
                                                          1. re: pikawicca

                                                            That is because you are from a newspaper.

                                                              1. re: SmartCookie

                                                                I mean people don't make threat against a newspaper columist or reporter easily, especially for something like Cook's Illustrated. CI ultimately is a business based on reputation. Conducing an unprovoked verbal war with a newspaper is as bad as a business decision it can be.

                                                          2. Why didn't the blogger just ask CI first if she understood (and she said she did) copywrite? Does the blogger consider the material she posts on her personal blog to be her own copywritten material? Does a copywrite footer appear on her blog? What's with the snippy attitude to the CI gal? No one likes to get their hand slapped but I don't think we can take food blogging lightly anymore. The medium has moved to much bigger stakes today and anyone with a financial bone to pick is going to sleuth the use of their material. Like it or not. I think the bloggers sour puss attitude was over the top.

                                                            6 Replies
                                                            1. re: HillJ

                                                              I think the bloggers sour puss attitude was over the top.

                                                              As was CI's demand to take down a recipe that was no longer THEIR recipe, based on the changes.

                                                              1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                A lose-lose for all parties but you highlighted a fraction of what I wrote, LW.
                                                                The context for my comment rests on what is appropriate btwn bloggers and the
                                                                resource of origin when they reprint material under their own moniker. Changed or not,
                                                                said blogger was not the original source. I understand her surprise at being contacted but CI started out pleasant enough and the blogger kept pushing, hence my take it was over the top...and said experience was reprinted by the blogger for her own readers to comment on.

                                                                1. re: HillJ

                                                                  Don't disagree with you. The entire thing did get out of hand on *both* sides.

                                                                  I'll bet one thing - the blogger has learned NOT to attribute an "original recipe" to CI or others from now on if she's made ingredient and method changes. :-)

                                                                  1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                    and, to protect her own original work in the future. For me, it's about that and it goes both ways. It's hard enough TO BE original!

                                                                    1. re: HillJ

                                                                      I see the unfortunate take-away lesson as: don't credit any original recipes when you post your adaptation, and if you expect credit for any recipes YOU post, then you shouldn't post at all.

                                                                      If your original inspiration for pickled frog feet came from Condescending Cooks magazine, but you swapped the cardamom for cilantro, publisher Eustace P. Swilley can't prove you didn't independently think of dismembering and brining
                                                                      Kermit. And when Smother Blagka sees your version but decides he's seen enough of the Geico gecko and likes fenugreek, don't get your bloomers in a twist. He MAY have had the idea on his own.

                                                                      1. re: greygarious

                                                                        Interesting, greyg. My take away is ask first, especially if you know the rules. Second, if you're going to sight a big wig in the food biz, anticipate some online sleuthing is going on. Had the blogger been polite, and demonstrated an understanding that blogging is self-publishing and a growing pond, I think the outcome and the take away for this blogger could have been salvaged. Instead her experience, annoyance and unfortunate result was stuck and gossipy.

                                                            2. My name is Al, and this is my first time here at CI Recipe Modfiers. Like all of you here, I, too am a CRIM. I have taken sacred Cook's Illustrated recipes an modified them. (Gasp from the crowd!) I can hardly find the words that express just how I feel about this perceived transgression. From now on, I will genuflect when in the presence of a Cook's Illustrated Best Recipes cookbook and avert my eyes should I come across a modified recipe on line. Yea, verily, I shall never again stray from Recipe Perfection into the Dark Side of tailoring one of their recipes to my tastes.

                                                              BTW - when they come out with a new edition, doesn't that make it the Second Best Recipes cookbook?

                                                              3 Replies
                                                              1. re: al b. darned

                                                                Ummm. Copyright lawyers must make a lot of money. Several years ago, I wrote a text in which I modified several figures from other publications. In each case, I contacted the publisher and/or copyright owner for permission (with explicit descriptions, of course, of my intended modifications). All publishers/copyright holders save one, an Ivy League press, gave me written permission (ALWAYS get permission in writing--e-mails, unless I am mistaken, are OK). In any event, the press denying permission told me that they never permit their figures to be reprinted by another author or modified. Getting back to food, when I was a stay-at-home-Mom in the 1960s, I was told that copyright of a recipe could be transferred to another if three changes were made in the original recipe. Has anyone heard this? Clearly, it appears that things have gotten a lot more complicated now that the food industry is a multi-billion dollar business. I would guess, also, that lots of egos are now involved.

                                                                1. re: theoreticalphenogroup14

                                                                  To your question.

                                                                  Lists of ingredients cannot be copyrighted but the written methodology can be.

                                                                  The test is for copyright infringement is whether the subsequent work is SUBSTANTIALLY SIMILAR to the original. Whether 3 changes would be enough to creat a new recipe which is not substantially similar to the original would depend on the recipe and the changes, but in general I would think that it would not be enough to avoid infringing.

                                                                  1. re: C. Hamster

                                                                    Close. From the copyright office: "Copyright protection may, however, extend to substantial literary expression—a description, explanation, or illustration, for example." My understanding of "substantial literary expression" is that it means more than a series of basic cooking instructions, since basic cooking procedures have been around since before there was writing. No one can copyright "Boil the potatoes. Cool and cut into chunks." -- it's simply not unique enough for someone to own the rights to.

                                                              2. ugh....I hate how these "folks" are such bullies(reminiscent of Percy Schmeiser and Monsanto)..... I think the CI lady was being very passive aggressive, so to those saying she was nice, well we have a different interpretation. I have both CI and CC magazines and will not renew. Although I do like the back-cover illustrations quite a bit. Plus I had the unfortunate experience of seeing a certain someone on a cozy "business" dinner in Cambridge recently. I don't think touching your dining companion's face and hair are things that I would do with my co-workers....unless it was mistaken identity. Maybe it wasn't him, but his evil twin.

                                                                1. If you want to keep the logrolling going... ATK takes recipes from others without ever crediting them and then tweaks them. We all do and we all have a right to.

                                                                  I say publish whatever you want and never mention CI, CC or ATK.

                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                  1. re: TrishUntrapped

                                                                    Or, write them here, or somewhere with guns behind them that aren't easily intimidated. CI recipes stay on this site, as long as they're paraphrased. I don't know if CH gets heat from them but they stay on. Bloggers w/out resources are far more easy to intimidate than a big company. Or, to avoid their detection (I assume they have people actively googling because you find very few recipes that are CI, CC, ATK, Best Reciepes out there that aren't theirs), use another word in between--Best #$& Recipe.

                                                                  2. Talk about making a mountain out of a mole hill.

                                                                    At the end of the day CI comes off looking like a bully. I agree with that but they do have a product to protect.
                                                                    Deborah comes off looking condescending as well. That's a different matter though.

                                                                    To me Alosha looks like a stand off-ish person who just didn't want to do what they were told. It seems to me that the recipe could have been removed and then redone it in another post without ever mentioning where it came from. Case closed.

                                                                    I'm not sure you can say that either is at "Fault" here since no damage was actually done. But clearly both parties decided to draw a line in the sand.

                                                                    I really like CI/ATK/CC and will continue to do so. Every company has lousy employees. I also don't care for CK but find the dislike for him to be odd.


                                                                    1. They can claim anything they want. But they can't copyright a recipe. They can only copyright unique creative material such as a description. Directions and ingredients are not unique so they can't own a recipe and anyone can modify said recipe because it isn't owned. Lord knows we had been thru that time and time again on another recipe site now sold to the mass market "I can't cook but I can own a site" world. "That's MY RECIPE TAKE IT DOWN." Oh do shut up and read the copyright laws. However once modified, it ain't theirs and the person modifying needs to say it ain't. That done? Just tell them to shut up then go ahead and post the new recipe.

                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                      1. re: philocrates

                                                                        Since this example reopens the ongoing debate over copyright and how it is/isn't applied to recipes I would highly recommend that food bloggers and sites devoted to food containing volumes of recipes sourced and originated from dozens of places have a page devoted to their copyright usage. Make it perfectly clear what you expect from visitors, what you're doing as a food blogger and then moving forward is clearer. I don't see why a food blogger would hesitate to ask or inform their resource of any recipe for support beforehand and avoid the whole "slap on the hand". I don't see why a major food/recipe business won't respond to inquiry. But communicating to each other upfront when this recipe/information is going to be cut & pasted over the Internet (& from there who knows) should be a no brainer and would avoid countless misintrepretations...maybe even build a few unqiue partnerships. Assumptions are the culprit.

                                                                        but hey, that's just how I roll.

                                                                        1. re: philocrates

                                                                          From the US Copyright Office:

                                                                          "However, where a recipe or formula is accompanied by substantial literary expression in the form of an explanation or directions, or when there is a collection of recipes as in a cookbook, there may be a basis for copyright protection."

                                                                        2. "However, it's true that once somethings been posted on the internet, it never dies."

                                                                          Apparently. *SMH*

                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                          1. re: alosha7777

                                                                            now archived by the Lib of Congress forever.

                                                                          2. Saw something of interest today. I receive e-mails from America's Test Kitchen for testing their developing recipes. This is the first e-mail I've had a chance to look carefully at in a while, but I found this paragraph curious and relevant to this thread:

                                                                            "This recipe is under development and is intended for Friends of Cook's recipe testers only. We're glad you love our recipes, but we respectfully ask that you do not post the working recipe online or in any other media until the final recipe has been published in the magazine. And if you do share the final recipe in a public forum, please remember to give us credit."

                                                                            The last sentence seems to indicate a different tack than their approach with the blogger.

                                                                            Edit: The e-mails are form letters, I don't have "personal" correspondence with them!

                                                                            3 Replies
                                                                            1. re: meatn3

                                                                              I think the problem with the blogger was the standoffishness.


                                                                              1. re: Davwud

                                                                                Agreed. Neither side handled this very well -- the blogger comes off looking rather bitchy as opposed to the martyr she appeared to want to be, and ATK/CI come off as the cranky "Mr. Wilson's" off the food magazine world.

                                                                                1. re: a213b

                                                                                  While I think responses like CI doesn't exactly help their cause, the blogger didn't really help the discourse of achieving what should have the ultimate cause. Look at the RIAA vs Napster, neither won in this case (we all know lars ulrich was the one that ultimately lost). Bloggers (no one in particular) have long been ripping off material with no credit given. These businesses or authors are making a living sometimes employing other individuals with what they do. And I see recipes ripped out of the french laundry cook book or Alton Browns material on youtube. I wonder how these people sleep at night.

                                                                                  CI is somewhat of a reliable resource for people. I don't get how people are so upset about the word "perfect" or "best". When McDonald's says their meat is 100% beef, do you get all up in arms about this? Its called marketing.
                                                                                  While a lot of CI's recipes are mostly a base, I find it easy to add what I like to it. If you are in this same position, CI probably isn't for you. I don't know a lot about foreign food, so when a taste test comes along, I am more apt to try their recommendation vs someone that has had one all their life and all they know, nor would I just buy something off the shelf without research of the product. Some of us don't have 5 hours a day to figure out what we want to eat. And in the end if it didn't work, no heart feelings, I'll try something else.

                                                                                  Last thing I'll say is if you sign up for something without reading the fine print, you are doing yourself a disservice to complain about what happens after that. It was your fault and people like you are the reason we will have government control over the internet. Please people, DON'T BELIEVE EVERYTHING YOU READ.

                                                                            2. Yesterday I listened to (what was probably a repeat of) America's Test Kitchen radio. There was a segment with a legal expert, discussing who "owns" a recipe - or doesn't. Chris Kimball pressed his guest repeatedly about authors' rights, but the expert didn't back him up except as regards accompanying photos, unique layouts, and similar ancillary aspects of cookbooks. Essentially, he seemed to be saying that as long as there is even a minimal change to the ingredients or instructions, there is no protection. Furthermore, the expert said it would be regrettable if recipes were so cast in stone that people did not feel free to vary or improve them.
                                                                              That definitely flies in the face of CI's response to the blogging of recipes based on theirs.

                                                                              Another guest in that segment was cookbook author Nathalie Dupree. She related a case wherein someone won a recipe contest by submitting, unchanged, a recipe she had already published. She was advised not to sue because the contest entity was sure the winner had already spent the prize money and did not feel Ms. Dupree would ever be able to collect. Of course a lawsuit would have reflected badly on the contest entity so they had reason to want
                                                                              the matter to go away.

                                                                              6 Replies
                                                                              1. re: greygarious

                                                                                There is something odd about our legal system if you really think about it objectively. We accept many things as acceptable, while some others are not.

                                                                                Why is it that if I create a cookie recipe with various ingredients that my creation is not protected? Meanwhile, if I create a song with various different notes that this creation can be copyrighted?

                                                                                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                    The thing about recipes is that the basis is pretty much the same. The only thing that varies are proportions.

                                                                                    In regards to music, the musical notes are much more varied with many more factors (interval, sequence...) that make a song unique.

                                                                                    The video is an example of songs that are based upon 4 chords, but the results are many unique songs. It's a pretty funny video... I think the F-word is used, but I can't tell if it was the F-word or an Aussie slang word.

                                                                                    Axis of Awsome - 4 chord pop songs

                                                                                      1. re: chow_fun

                                                                                        <The thing about recipes is that the basis is pretty much the same>

                                                                                        I disagree. The ingredient choice, timing, temperature, the slice of the cut, the order of foods which to go into the cookware..

                                                                                        <In regards to music, the musical notes are much more varied with many more factors>

                                                                                        That is an opinion. I would argue the other way around. There are many more ingredients than there are notes -- significantly more. There are thousands of ingredients if not more. The premutation of recipes are much more than that of music because the food recipes have fewer limitations. For example, notes are usually discrete. Ingredients are almost always continuous. You can have 1 tablespoon, 1/2 tablespoon, 3.15 tablespoon. You can have cooking time in 5 minutes, 4 minutes, 3.17 minutes.... Yes, they may look odd, but they are not against any rule. As such, the permutation is infinite.

                                                                                        Anyone can take a few short years in music theory, and understand pretty much every rules in modern music theory. You may not be good at it, but you can certainly understand it. Food and cooking are much more complex. This is why music in a way transcend countries and why some people praise music as the universal language because the basic theory is the same.

                                                                                        There is not a class for food theory, because food cannot be described so easily. You can spend decades in cooking to only find out you only understand the French rules and know nothing about the Mexican food.

                                                                                        It is like comparing chess to Go (although more so). Go has much more permutation than chess.


                                                                                        Regardless, the permutation alone is not basis for copyright. Just because something has more or fewer permutations, that should not be the basis for copyright. If so, I would able to copyright my special "Go" chess moves, but I cannot, and no one would expect so. Math equations are infinite complex. Would anyone expect me to able to copyright a math equation? Why did not Einstien copyright E = mc2? Would it make sense if he did?

                                                                                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                          Music is really about proportions, or shall we say, mathematics. Recipes could be considered mathematics as well. There are limitless variations on both music and recipes.