Repubblica.it has an interesting article (sorry, Italian only) where famous cooks are considering the issue of recipe copycats and how to deal with it. A couple of interesting excerpts are worth a rough translation:
Filippo Lamantia, from Rome’s Trattoria […] restated the opportunity to patent recipes, not really because no one else might use them, but to ascertain that whomever inserts someone else’s recipe in a menu does so with proper attribution.
Even the chef who made Rome’s “La Pergola dellâ€™Hilton” famous, Heinz Beck, born Bavarian but as italian as one can be in spirit and cooking, wants a dish paternity registry: â€œIt’s not a question of moneyâ€, he goes on. â€œActually, being copied means being a reference. The real problem is protecting Italian cooking creativity, a cultural treasure which often gets insulted abroad. All around the world we see horribly dishes, disguised as italian food. This is why we need a normative list, much like what we have with wines. It’s not really about protecting a single recipe from a chef, it’s about made in Italy in generalâ€.
This is interesting. Chefs do realize how protecting recipes and signature dishes is not about a money issue, it’s really about correct information for customers, who shouldn’t think they’re eating Italian food when all they’re getting is some local variation. Compare this the following provisions from the Apache Software License v.2.0:
4. Redistribution. You may reproduce and distribute copies of the
Work or Derivative Works thereof in any medium, with or without
modifications, and in Source or Object form, provided that You
meet the following conditions:
- You must give any other recipients of the Work or
Derivative Works a copy of this License; and
- You must cause any modified files to carry prominent notices
stating that You changed the files
6. Trademarks. This License does not grant permission to use the trade
names, trademarks, service marks, or product names of the Licensor,
except as required for reasonable and customary use in describing the
origin of the Work and reproducing the content of the NOTICE file.
Strikingly similar, uh? Of course something like that can be found in Creative Commons as well, but I find interesting the communality of interests between Open Source and high-end cooking art. Later on, Fulvio Pierangelini (possibly the greatest Italian chef) talks about the role of cooperation and interaction among chefs:
â€œMy chickpeas passatina with shrimps is probably the most copied recipe around: in English speaking countries it’s not even translated in menus, and I like that. It still annoys me sometimes, but my response has actually be creating a sort of rock band of traveling chefs that goes by the name of Gelinaz. When this group meets, every chef gets to perform, with his own sensibility and culture, a recipe from another chef. I find this a civilized way to reproduce a recipe from someone else, while properly recognizing paternityâ€.
Conclusion: the problem isn’t stealing recipes, the issue is ensure proper attribution is given. Not only that: it’s just fine to take a recipe and modify it (but in such case the customer should be informed about the recipe being a variation). This sounds so similar to Open Source that all of a sudden I’m starting to get why Open Source and cooking are such big things to me.