The Null Device

Galambosian cuisine

A US lawyer has noticed plugging a dangerous hole in the world's intellectual-property regime, a hole which costs chefs and restauranteurs untold godzillions of dollars: the fact that food cannot be copyrighted, and it is perfectly legal for any pirasite who can determine how you created your culinary masterpiece to rip it off without paying you a cent. Not to worry: Steven Shaw has come up with a scheme for bringing food into the realm of intellectual property:
First, he'd propose changing the copyright code, possibly by making cuisine a subdivision of the existing category for sculpture or acknowledging recipes as a form of literary expression. For enforcement, Shaw leans toward creating a system like ASCAP, an association that collects composers' royalties for public performances of songs--on the radio, in nightclubs and so on...
Magnanimously, Shaw has left classic recipes like French onion soup in the public domain. Anything new, however, could be copyrighted. So if you invent a variant of French onion soup with a few extra ingredients, you could demand a licensing fee from anyone else who serves it. In Shaw's world, restaurants would be billed by collection agencies for the recipes they used, the takings of which would be distributed (after administrative expenses) among the authors of recipes. (It is not clear how this would apply to home cooking; perhaps cookbooks would come with a shrinkwrapped EULA which would give the user the right to use the recipes in their own home, feeding at most N people, as long as they had possession of the book; meanwhile, microwaveable ready meals and jars of sauce would carry a patronising "Don't Steal Recipes / Respect Intellectual Property" sticker.) The sudden influx of financial reward to previously deprived cooks would bring in a new golden age of culinary creativity as never before. The lawyers would allow themselves a moment to bask in the satisfaction of a job well done, though not more than a moment; after all, there are still other domains of human endeavour in need of rescuing from lack of ownership.

There are 2 comments on "Galambosian cuisine":

Posted by: Tony Sat Oct 14 10:31:02 2006

And maybe the food police will monitor all purchases made at supermarkets and IF you happen to illegaly create a copyrighted dish in your own home from those ingredients you could be raided and named and shamed as a culinary pirate...

Posted by: Saltation Sun Oct 15 02:15:37 2006

coupla things here: • food DOES already fall under IP law: an american firm patented basmati rice a few years ago, for example • IP is bigger than Copyright and Patent. recipes are fully protectable under (in the UK) Design law, for example. and yes, what you've described IS fully protectable up to but not exceeding the unique contribution made by the recipe creator. however, should you then place it in near-public domain by say putting it in a cookbook, it's the work of a moment to argue in court (and in my opinion: successfully) that this constitutes implicit but full licence to use the recipe in any way the reader sees fit. that is: copyright/design-rights remain with the recipe creator, such that readers may not claim ownership of it, but by dint of publishing it, the recipe creator has assigned unrestricted rights to The Public to Use the recipe.

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