One day in the future we might be able to download pirated versions of real meals from some BitTorrent-like service, and we'll be right there telling restaurants to emphasize that they're destinations as opposed just places to buy food. But for the foreseeable future, this is a problem that restaurants can ignore. Yet some top chefs are worried about food piracy, and are clamoring for copyright protection (via BoingBoing) for their meals. Evidently, chefs frequently steal recipes from other chefs, and plant spies in a competitor's kitchen. While this may be frustrating to those chefs, it's not clear that the lack of copyright protection for meals is harming innovation or preventing those chefs from profiting. In other words, the market is working fine; why introduce a system whereby chefs would have to consult with lawyers before offering a dish? The story sounds very similar to what's going on in the fashion industry, another competitive, functioning industry that wants to introduce tighter measures to clamp down on fakes. Proponents of copyrighting food argue that top chefs would innovate more, since they could expect more profits from licensing dishes. But doling out new rights -- and taking rights away from others -- shouldn't be about helping a select few make a profit at the expense of everyone else. Fortunately, it doesn't seem like most chefs are too keen on the idea, and certainly not as excited by the prospect as their lawyers are.
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