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Feb 16, 2012 08:57 AM

Anne Thornton Axed

According to the NY Post this morning:

Food Network have axed the show, ostensibly for recipe plagiarism.

Not familiar with the show or demise circumstances, but in the 'nothing is new under the sun' vein, it must be tricky for Chefs to come up with 'fresh' recipes all the time.



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  1. Agreed. I'm not defending her, but there really are only a few ways one can make cream cheese frosting, lemon squares, etc. I bet Martha doesn't create her own original recipes, either. I've "invented" many dessert recipes (ingredient combinations and techniques) only to find them in some cookbook or another.

    It's also easier to be original (add "riffs") with savory recipes than pastry, which has to follow stricter rules and proportions.

    1. I have to say I agree. I don't know the details, but Martha's, Ina's and Hershey's chocolate cake recipes are very similar. I often browse multiple recipes and see many are "eerily" similar, and I often make riffs on recipes that are out there.

      1. Yeah I thought that too when I read about it. I mean, really how many ways are there to make something like chocolate chip cookies. And making a change (maple->strawberry) *is* being creative. What else is a chef going to do? One doesn't start from scratch every time. Everything is a "riff".

        1 Reply
        1. re: DGresh

          To call a recipe your own, there has to be a certain percentage of it changed enough to deem it so. I'm really not sure of the particulars. I suspect Anne Thornton was just out and out using others recipes and passing them off as her own.

        2. The below is from the US Government copyright office. If recipes cannot be copyrighted, then how can one be accused of "stealing" the information???

          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.

          Only original works of authorship are protected by copyright. “Original” means that an author produced a work by his or her own intellectual effort instead of copying it from an existing work.

          7 Replies
          1. re: njmarshall55

            If the recipes are collected in a volume (a cookbook, say) then all of that material to include the recipes can be copyrighted.

            1. re: ttoommyy

              Only in the sense that the collection is a literary expression. If a cookbook contains recipes for A, B, C and D, a collection of paraphrased recipes for A, B, C and D would be a copyright violation. But paraphrasing the recipe for A is not a copyright violation. And the actual wording of recipes can be copyrighted. However, the "idea" of a recipe can't be copyrighted, even if it's in a cookbook.

              1. re: Savour

                "But paraphrasing the recipe for A is not a copyright violation."

                Then how come one must obtain permission to reprint a single recipe as found in a cookbook?

                1. re: ttoommyy

                  Because the actual wording as found in a cookbook is copyrighted, so reprinting it without permission is a violation of copyright. But a paraphrase of the recipe reflects the idea of it, rather than the "literary expression" of it, so it's not protected under US copyright law.

                  If you read Chowhound's guidelines for posting recipes from the Home Cooking board, you can see how both ideas are covered (not violating copyrights and legally posting recipes from other sources by paraphrasing):

                  1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                    I understand that. But if Anne Thornton uses the the recipe and then it gets posted on the FN site without proper acknowledgment, that is copyright infringement.

                    1. re: ttoommyy

                      I don't believe it would be if it were just the ingredients she "copied". And it sounds like none of the ingredient lists were exactly the same in any case. It's the description (which would presumably be in her own words) which could infringe if it is substantially taken from the original.

                      1. re: ttoommyy

                        There's also copyright infringement under the law and a whole gray area of "ethics" and "industry practices." I've heard that many publications require three changes to a recipe before you can claim "originality", and some people think you should never use anyone else's recipes at all. (I don't believe this actually -- there are only so many ways to skin a cat. Or make a yellow cake. Or a chocolate chip cookie. On my site, I NEVER violate copyright, but I do use others' recipes quite a bit. I make a serious effort to properly attribute though -- saying a recipe was "inspired by" another, or "adapted from" another, or simply attribute it to (but never copy them word for word.)

            2. Guess they're going to have to axe their Pioneer Woman show as well since her brownies are right out of a popular community cookbook.

              6 Replies
              1. re: Firegoat

                But does she disclose that fact? If so, she is covered.

                  1. re: Firegoat

                    Which of her brownie recipes are we speaking about? Just curious. Thanks.

                    1. re: ttoommyy

                      I believe she called them her Knock U Naked brownies. Might be slightly off in the name but that is what I recall her calling them.

                      1. re: Firegoat

                        Thanks Firegoat. Although there is no mention on the FN site, I did find this on Ree Drummond's Pioneer Woman site:

                        "Several weeks ago, I was gifted with a tin of brownies. To be specific: Killer Brownies from Dorothy Lane Market in Dayton, Ohio. There were four substantially-sized brownies in the tin, and each brownie was coated generously with a sifting of powdered sugar. But they weren’t just any brownies: they were multilayered, with a gorgeous caramel oozing out of the center layer. And the flavor. To die for. I ate them over the period of several days, more despondent with each bite that I was one step closer to being without them. And I didn’t ever want to be without them again.

                        They’re one of the best things I’ve ever tasted.

                        While an official recipe for the Killer Brownies is not available, the classic layered brownie recipe known as “Knock You Naked Brownies” is rumored to be a pretty good match.

                        I decided to whip up a batch over the weekend and see if they measured up. I’d never tried them before.

                        It was all in the name of research, of course. "

                        I believe she has covered herself substantially by disclosing this information.

                        1. re: ttoommyy

                          While Ree's ingredient's list is quit similar to another online one
                          her instructions are quite a bit more detailed. That gets around the copyright issue.