Can the MasterChef avoid the bitter taste of victory?

 When Julie took home the MasterChef crown after defeating Poh in a spectacular display of high quality cooking and unique plating, one of the prizes, along with a spot in the Reality TV Hall of Fame (with Ben, Guy, Rob and Jack) and $100,000, was her own cookbook publishing deal. She plans to put her own home-style Aussie recipes in her cookbook, as well as open up her own restaurant serving the food she loves.

So, what’s to stop over-enthused (and possibly sleep-deprived) MasterChef fans from copying Julie’s recipes, setting up their own restaurants and releasing identical cookbooks?

Julie’s recipes (in her published cookbook) will be protected as literary works under the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). The section 10 definition of a ‘literary work’ under the Act is not exhaustive and is certainly broad enough to include a recipe in written form, particularly since the threshold for protection is relatively low. Copyright laws would stop MasterChef reenactors from releasing identical (or substantially similar) cookbooks.

While it has long been accepted that a recipe for a particular kind of food is a literary work, the case of Cuisenaire v Reed found that the food made by following the recipe does not amount to a reproduction of the recipe (that is, none of the exclusive rights available to the copyright owner are infringed). So what is to stop MasterChef reenactors from using Julie’s recipes in their restaurants? In terms of exclusive rights under copyright law, probably nothing.  It would be very difficult to protect a dish created from a recipe, since copyright protects the expression of an idea (the written recipe), and not the idea itself (i.e. roasting a chicken on a crown).  However, it may be a breach of Julie’s moral rights for any budding chef to serve the dishes in their restaurant as if they were their own.  Divisions 2 and 3 of Part IX of the Copyright Act, and Meskenas v ACP Publishing protect the author’s right to be identified correctly and prevent someone else claiming that they created the recipe falsely.

 The best of luck to all the MasterChef finalists in their future endeavours though – here’s hoping it will be litigation-free.

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