Terms of Use: Open Source Code Versus Recipes

Unauthorized duplication, while sometimes necessary, is never as good as the real thing. – Statement found under the copyright notice of many Ani DiFranco albums.

Are recipes like songs? Maybe not. What are they like? ________________________________________________________________

Recently, a food-blogging friend sent me an email comparing recipes and computer code.

Her claim: Without open source code computer programmers would not be able to learn as much about writing code and about developing software. If we all refuse to allow others to share our recipes and/or build upon them our knowledge will not increase as much and recipes will not improve over time.

For the pursuit of good food (and of knowledge), it makes sense to tell the world about a dish we’ve made, even if the source of that dish is another person’s recipe.

But, is there a difference between recipes and open source code?

Yes: Open source software comes with a license stating that it may be used free of charge under certain circumstances and sometimes that it may be adapted and/or even distributed.

Cookbooks and magazines have something similar to this license, a Terms of Use Statement, normally found under the copyright information. It usually says that no part of the book/magazine may be reproduced or transmitted in any form without permission in writing from the publisher.

Cookbooks and magazines do not allow for free dissemination.

It is a violation of the terms of use of the publication for a food blogger to post the recipe without first obtaining written permission, even if appropriate credit is given. It’s nice to imagine a pretty world where we can all trade recipes regardless of their source but it seems that someone out there does not want us to do so.

Does this seem fair to you? Why or why not?

If you answered no, consider the situation where the food-blogger is making money on their blog through advertising or promotions. Many pieces of open source software would not even be useable under this circumstance (the licenses often state “not for commercial use”). Do you think it matters whether the food-blogger is making money or is it irrelevant?

by Chris from Cook the Story and Food Blog Best Practices

Follow @cookthestory on Twitter


In order to comment on BlogHer.com, you'll need to be logged in. You'll be given the option to log in or create an account when you publish your comment. If you do not log in or create an account, your comment will not be displayed.