Copyrighted Recipe for Scrambled Eggs

I’ve often heard it said, most often by lawyers, that “you can’t copyright a recipe.” That has never really been true, but the myth persists. The Copyright Office’s own website seeks to dispel it, noting that while “mere” listings of ingredients and instructions without any creative expression are not copyrightable, a recipe that meets the creative expression requirements all works of authorship must meet (which is a very low threshold) are, in fact copyrightable. See, for example, FL-122 (”Copyright law does not protect recipes that are mere listings of ingredients.”) But is does protect recipes that are not mere listings of ingredients.

But the myth persisted. Back in 2007, I wrote “Copyrighted Recipe for Scrambled Eggs,” just to make a point on a listserv discussion. Although, by law, it was copyrighted from the moment I wrote it, the naysayers might not take my word for it. So, on a whim, I took the next step of applying for copyright registration. This month, the Copyright Office agreed that it is copyrightable, and issued me Registration No. TX0007357813.

You may reproduce a copy of John T. Mitchell, Copyrighted Recipe for Scrambled Eggs, 2007, from the hyperlink.


One Response to “Copyrighted Recipe for Scrambled Eggs”

  1. Adler Vermillion & Skocilich, LLP » Blog Archive » The non-copyrightable object of a culinary work Says:

    […] There is a low-grade but persistent dispute on whether recipes can be protected by copyright law.  Unfortunately, the dispute is mostly just lawyers amusing themselves by arguing the semantics of “recipe” and whether, under one sense of the word or another, recipes may be copyrightable. To that end, I concede the following: to the extent that a recipe is a written set of instructions for preparation of listed ingredients into some foodstuff, a recipe may be copyrightable if it contains enough (that is to say, not much) original stylistic flourish. Copyrightable, that is, as a literary work. […]

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