Can You Copyright a Recipe?

Copyright Protection Can You Copyright a Recipe?

Avoiding the Kitchen Nightmare—Can You Copyright a Recipe and How To Do It?

Cooking requires creativity. You would assume that when chefs (and talented, enthusiastic amateurs) want to copyright their work, more precisely their recipes, it wouldn’t be a problem. 

As it turns out, U.S. copyright laws don’t protect recipes, at least not in the way copyright protection works for other creative works. 

What Is the Problem With Copyright Laws and Cookbook Copyright Infringement Rules?

The U.S. copyright legislation, which includes the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), grants you complete ownership over your work as soon as you create it, and the copyright lasts during your lifetime and an additional 70 years. 


Copyright laws cover a lot of different content, including literary works, photos, and artwork. Since a cookbook is basically a combination of text and pictures, why is the copyright protection questionable here?

The problem lies in the functional aspects of a recipe. Courts generally rule that recipes are functional items, and therefore cannot be copyrighted. 

As long as a recipe is mostly a list of ingredients, it is considered a statement of facts or a utilitarian product, not creative content. If someone copies that list and posts it on their blog, it’s not considered copyright infringement.

When Can You Copyright Recipes?

If your cookbook or a cooking blog post doesn’t go beyond listing the ingredients, you cannot copyright that content because copyright laws do not protect facts, procedures, or processes.

You can make your work copyrightable by adding a literary expression, something like:

  • Explanation or directions
  • Combination of recipes that are in some way connected
  • A personal story

You can also include original photos and artwork in your cookbook or a blog post since they are always copyright protected. 

How To Copyright a Recipe in the USA

Apart from the default protection (if your recipe even qualifies for it), there are additional tools you can use to ensure no one steals your content. 

Adding a copyright notice to your blog or your cookbook can be one method of dealing with would-be thieves. 

Copyright notice is a short text that consists of the copyright symbol, year of publication, and the owner’s name. 

It’s not a legal obligation, but adding it to the footer of your blog or any part of a published cookbook can deter someone who wants to copy/paste your recipe to their website.

It can also serve in court. If the defendant claims they didn’t know the content was copyrighted, you have clear proof that they are lying. 

Another option is to register parts of your recipe with the U.S. Copyright Office. This process will create a public record of your ownership over the content and allow you to sue anyone for stealing your property. 

Registering Your Recipe With the U.S. Copyright Office 

You will probably have to register the text and images separately, which will add an extra fee, but it could be worth it if someone steals your content. That way, you will have every part of your work protected. 

There are two ways to register for copyright: online (a cheaper option) or via post.

How To Copyright Recipes Online

This is your cheapest option, and the process is pretty simple:

  1. Visit the U.S. Copyright Office website
  2. Click on the Register tab
  3. Scroll down and select either Literary Works for your text or Visual Arts or Photographs
  4. Click on Register
  5. Sign in to your account or create a new one
  6. Choose Copyright Registration on the left
  7. Click on Register a New Claim
  8. Select Start Registration
  9. Fill out the form
  10. Pay the registration fee 
  11. Upload a digital copy of your work

How To Copyright Recipes via Post

You can mail your application to 101 Independence Ave SE, Washington, DC 20540, United States.

 Don’t forget to include the following in your letter:

  1. The filing fee of $85
  2. A printed version of the application
  3. A copy of your work

Someone Posted Your Recipes Online? Send Them a DMCA Takedown Notice!

The most effective way to report copyright infringement and ensure the DMCA protection of your digital content is to find the Internet Service Provider (ISP) hosting the website that stole your recipes and send them a DMCA takedown notice.

This document serves as a copyright infringement notice powered by the DMCA, and it should get your content taken down from an infringing website. 

Drafting a document like this may look simple, but it’s far from it. ISPs tend to disregard half-done or unprofessional looking takedown notices, so if you decide to write one by yourself, make sure to include the following sections:

Contact Info State your name, email, phone number, and mailing address to make it easier for the ISP to contact you
Links Include both the link to your original content (like your cooking blog post) and the stolen content
A Statement of Good Faith You have to state that you, as the copyright owner, claim in good faith that the content you reported has not been posted by you or with your permission
Affirmation Under Penalty of Perjury Another declaration you need to provide is that you assert under penalty of perjury that everything you included in the DMCA notice is the truth, to the best of your knowledge
An Electronic Signature Include your signature or the signature of the copyright owner

Use DoNotPay To File a Takedown Notice

With all the mandatory parts mentioned above, you may think you need a lawyer to draft a takedown notice for you. 

It’s a convenient option, but consider the costs, and you may think again. 

DoNotPay is more than qualified to draft a takedown notice tailored to your case. 

Our app is the first robot lawyer in the world and was honored with the American Bar Association Louis M. Brown Award for Legal Access.

Follow these steps to file a DMCA notice with DoNotPay:

  1. Open DoNotPay in your web browser
  2. Tap the DMCA Takedown feature
  3. Give us details about your recipe, cookbook, or a blog post
  4. Paste the link to the website hosting your content without your consent
  5. Provide us with the link to your blog post or original recipe source
  6. Click on Sign and Submit

Stay Safe With DoNotPay 

DoNotPay is a perfect helper for anyone trying to focus on their craft and not waste time on ridiculous administrative tasks. 

Since you want to keep your recipes safe, you may consider publishing a cookbook. If you plan to include photos, DoNotPay will help you copyright an image and fill out a photo copyright release form

We can also show you what type of content you can use to avoid copyright infringement and the penalties associated with it. 

You should get familiar with how copyrighting books works and whether you should register a copyright before sending your book to the publisher. If you decide to promote your craft online, we cover everything from Instagram copyright infringement to YouTube copyright claims

DoNotPay is skilled in non-copyright related areas as well. Sign up to your account from your web browser and check how we can take over: