selling origami & food made with copyrighted recipes

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  • A question has arisen in the origami community about the legality of selling models constructed using instructions found in copyrighted books (ex: John Montroll's "Origami for the Enthusiast".)

    In thinking about this, it seemed to me that the closest analogy would be selling food made using recipes in copyrighted cookbooks. I tried to find any on-line resources dealing with this, but was unsuccessful.

    Note that I am NOT talking about selling either the origami diagrams or the cooking recipes, merely works derived from them.

    Would it make any difference (other than a point of common courtesy) to cite the book containing the instructions? Do I need the copyright holder's permission?


    Joe Power
  • Joe, That's an interesting question. First of all, I don't think the analogy to recipes is necessarily a good one. Recipes cannot be copyrighted. Compilations of recipes, layout of design, etc., can all receive copyright protection, but not the recipe itself. I thought that maybe knitting patterns would be a good analogy, and it turns out that knitting patterns can indeed be copyrighted, and anyone creating a knitted item from a copyrighted pattern would have to get permission from the pattern's copyright holder in order to sell that item (at least according to what I read from relatively trusted sources on the Internet). The knitter could personally use or give away the knitted item without having to get permission, however. This all seems to come from a part of copyright law with which I was not previously familiar, The Protection of Original Designs. See: . I did a brief search for information on origami copyright, and it appears that the jury's still out on whether origami designs are copyrightable (as original designs) OR qualify for patent protection. Apparently, some people in the origami community think that each folding structure is patentable, and patents have been granted for origami. In conclusion, I would say that it's probably a good idea to ask permission from the designer of the origami pattern(s), if at all possible. Good luck, JMiller
  • I am certainly no expert in the history of origami, but I would think that most of them are in the public domain. Origami has been around for hundreds of years and while I'm sure new designs have been created, the first book was published in 1797. The book you are using may be in copyright, but odds are that the 'pattern' is not. I don't know if this would be indicated in any way since as JMiller points out, it might be a patent issue. If the book does not say, I would probably assume public domain.

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