- According to American copyright law, lists of ingredients or general methods of cooking are not protected by copyright. However, the cooking instructions or other text involving the recipe (such as a description of the finished dish or a history of where the recipe originated) are subject to copyright laws.
- Entire cookbooks are also protected by copyright.
- Ethically, most people agree that simply copying a recipe and claiming it for your own is wrong. Furthermore, the contest rules may stipulate that your recipe must be unpublished. Make changes to the dish and/or attribute the recipe to its original source rather than claiming it for yourself. Of course, very simple recipes like a plain grilled cheese or hot dog are universal enough that they don't need attribution.
- Some recipe contests may have stricter regulations than others. For example, the Pillsbury Bake-Off, which awards over $1 million in prizes, searches for highly original entries. Derivative recipes will not be chosen to compete.
To sum up - be sure to never submit a recipe contest entry where you've copied the directions word for word. It's always a good idea to use other recipes only as inspiration, and make your own unique changes. And be sure to follow the tips in How to Win Recipe Contests to improve your odds of coming out a winner.