The invention of cookyright

German cook asking to introduce copyright-like right for recipes.

Remember the parody about Cold Pizza Piracy? Here is another one, only this time it is not a joke. Imagine yourself in the year 2025, you open your virtual mail box and the certified document printer spews out the following:

    Dear consumer,

    it has been brought to the attention of the Guild of Guide Michelin
    approved restaurants (GOGMA) that you have violated the cookyright of
    its star chefs, as defined under directive 2008/29/EC.

    Law-abiding visitors of your appartement informed us that you violated
    in particular the recipes "zucchini flower I+II" of chef Heinz Beck,
    whose family is thus deprived their sustenance by your piracy. You
    furthermore violated the moral rights of chef Heinz Beck by not using
    any cardamom, which is a small but important trace substance in these

    As you know from the legal information provided to you when dining at
    our restaurants, which you signed together with your pre-dining bill,
    you are in particular NOT AUTHORISED to ANALYSE, IMITATE, COOK FOR
    YOURSELF AND OTHERS, LEARN FROM or be INSPIRED BY recipes provided to
    you by THE RESTAURANT.

    This act constitutes copyright infringement of the most serious kind.

    According to Directive 2001/29/EC of the European Parliament, GOGMA
    orders you to destroy your circumvention device, colloquially known as
    kitchen, and will further take legal action against those who supplied
    you with said circumvention device.

    Violation of cookyright deprives thousands of restaurant owners of
    their living, and harms the food industry, one of the largest
    employers worldwide.

    GOGMA therefore finds itself forced to set you a one week deadline to
    comply with this order, effective immediately.

    S. Hark
    (General Attorney of Guild of Guide Michelin approved restaurants)

It may sound ridiculous, but only seems like the logical consequence of what I read in the Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) today:


German star-cook Heinz Beck of the restaurant "La Pergola" in Rome asks to introduce a copyright on cooking recipes. His argument is based on cooking also being a creative form of art. Naturally, no matter how stupid the idea, someone will always go for it. In this case Giorgio Assuma, head of the Italian Collecting Society (SIAE). FSFE already had the displeasure of meeting this group in relation to Italian law 248/2000, which makes it quite hard to distribute any software legally in Italy.

Now Giorgio Assuma considers "culinaric art a serious issue" and asks for a EU directive to introduce a kind of cookyright. One can only marvel at the horrors of a European Cookyright Directive.

Chef Heinz Beck claims he only wants the credit and no money from people who cook his dishes. But how much will the creation of a cookyright administration cost, how effective will it be at tracking authorship and forcing proper credits — and who will pay all that?

Furthermore: will other chefs see this the same way, what opinion will the collecting societies for cookyrights have, and how he himself will feel if his restaurant is one day not doing as well anymore and someone else runs a successful restaurant, cooking some of his creations.

Maybe he’d be better off with publishing his creations early, making sure the world knows what he has tried, and thus obtaining his place in cooking history. Future generations should in any case thank him for not pursuing the idea of cookyright — I hope.

About Georg Greve

Georg Greve is a technologist and entrepreneur. Background as a software developer and physicist. Head of product development and Chairman at Vereign AG. Founding president of the Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE). Previously president and CEO at Kolab Systems AG, a Swiss Open Source ISV. In 2009 Georg was awarded the Federal Cross of Merit on Ribbon by the Federal Republic of Germany for his contributions to Open Source and Open Standards.
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