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Malaysia Seeking to Copyright Food? 330

Techdirt is reporting that Malaysia seems to be jumping on the copyright/trademark bandwagon and attempting to protect the "ownership" of certain ethnic foods. Of course, this may just be a massive PR push in an attempt to grab some eyeballs. "Last year, around this time, we noted that the country of Lebanon was trying to claim that it owns hummus and other middle eastern foods, such as falafel, tabouleh and baba gannouj, and that no other country could produce them. It seems that other parts of the world are seeing the same sort of thing, as Malaysia is trying to declare that it owns popular Malaysian dishes, like nasi lemak."
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Malaysia Seeking to Copyright Food?

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  • no worries (Score:4, Funny)

    by bugi ( 8479 ) on Monday September 21, 2009 @12:59PM (#29493125)

    Worry not, there will be cheap knockoffs coming out of China soon enough.

    • Re:no worries (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Tuidjy ( 321055 ) on Monday September 21, 2009 @01:52PM (#29493859)

      In the same way that Bulgaria, Serbia, and Belgium produce 'cheap knockoffs' of Feta cheese, but have to call it something else, because Greece has been awarded the 'copyright' by the EU?

      "Appellation d'origine contrôlée" has existed for centuries, and there are plenty of sensible arguments for and against it. I would not mind seeing where Slashdot stands on that issue, but presenting what Malaysia is doing as a brand new concept is ridiculous.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by GoCal92 ( 695108 )
        Actually, this is different. In the EU and US, names of food is controlled as trademarks. You can still produce sparking wine in the Napa Valley, but you can't claim it came from the Champagne region. What Malaysia is claiming is that they own the "copyright" to these food and that no one else is allowed to even produce it elsewhere. Of course, the US and EU fight over their trademarks - the US considers "champagne" (little "c") to be a semi-generic term, thus "California champagne" is o.k. Same with terms
        • Re:no worries (Score:5, Interesting)

          by vux984 ( 928602 ) on Monday September 21, 2009 @02:41PM (#29494593)

          Actually, this is different. In the EU and US, names of food is controlled as trademarks. You can still produce sparking wine in the Napa Valley, but you can't claim it came from the Champagne region.

          Of course not, because that would be an outright lie. It was produced in Napa Valley, USA not the Champagne, France, so of course you can't claim it came from Champagne, France.

          I think you meant that you can't call California sparkling wine "Champagne", which is true for the reason you outlined.

          That said, things are getting pretty dodgy with Wine.

          A current problem in BC for example is that less reputable companies are taking grapes grown in wineries in Croatia and elsewhere in Eastern Europe, and are shipping them to be bottled in British Columbia, Canada and are thus legally and accurately bearing labels claiming 'bottled in the Oakanagan, British Columbia'.

          Of course, since the grapes aren't actually grown in the oakanagan, the whole thing is a complete farce. But these wines are ending up on "BC wine lists", and being sold out liquor stores as "BC Wines" I don't know offhand but I wouldn't be surprised if California's good name is being similarly tainted by this practice.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by raju1kabir ( 251972 )

          What Malaysia is claiming is that they own the "copyright" to these food and that no one else is allowed to even produce it elsewhere.

          I don't see that in TFA. It just says that they want some the dishes to be declared as "Malaysian".

          Which is sort of stupid, since almost everyone in Malaysia with a famous recipe is a relatively recent immigrant - only the indigenous people have been around for any significant amount of time and the government treats them like shit.

          But it's not particularly aggressive or co

      • Re:no worries (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Estanislao Martínez ( 203477 ) on Monday September 21, 2009 @02:22PM (#29494301) Homepage

        "Appellation d'origine contrôlée" has existed for centuries, and there are plenty of sensible arguments for and against it. I would not mind seeing where Slashdot stands on that issue, but presenting what Malaysia is doing as a brand new concept is ridiculous.

        The problem here is that what Malaysia is doing, as described by the article linked from the article linked from the posting (grrrr), isn't in fact a form of AOC. AOC has never been applied to recipes; it has only been applied to ingredients and processed agricultural products.

        In the case of an AOC, the intent is clear: if the region of Sancerre makes a remarkable wine and people seek it out as being special, it would be good to prevent winemakers not from Sancerre from labeling ultra-cheap wines as "Sancerre" and selling it for inflated prices. In the case of Malaysian recipes, on the other hand, it's not at all clear what the intent is, since it just cannot be analogous. Recipes are things that people prepare when they want to eat them, not a finished foodstuff that they buy. The closest I can stretch this analogy would be some sort of ban on preventing non-Malaysian companies from labeling frozen or instant packaged meals with the names of the Malaysian dishes, but even that just degenerates into absurdity when you try to apply it to restaurants who cook their own nasi lemak on a per-order basis.

    • Actually, I'd guess Malaysia would produce their own cheap knockoffs.

  • by blcamp ( 211756 ) on Monday September 21, 2009 @12:59PM (#29493131) Homepage

    I don't think anyone is going to challenge Scotland's copyright of haggis.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      Perhaps not, but to be on the safe side, I advise Scots to patent the genome of Haggis scoticus.
    • by MrHanky ( 141717 ) on Monday September 21, 2009 @01:12PM (#29493317) Homepage Journal

      Or, rather, the Champagne district's right to Champagne and the Cognac district's right to Cognac.

      There's nothing unique in the attempt to protect the designation of origin [].

      • by wastedlife ( 1319259 ) on Monday September 21, 2009 @01:40PM (#29493707) Homepage Journal

        According to that article, the U.S. does not generally recognize protection of the designation of origin, unless it is for products made within the U.S. Apparently you can have American champagne, but vidalia onions can only come the Vidalia, Georgia region.

        However, I'm pretty sure protection of designation of origin is not covered under copywrite laws.

        • Fuck, I need more caffeine, "copyright". Wheres the damn edit button?

        • by Estanislao Martínez ( 203477 ) on Monday September 21, 2009 @02:32PM (#29494479) Homepage

          You're not generally allowed to mislabel your products in the USA to make consumers believe that they come from some region that they do not, especially if you do so to mislead consumers into paying a higher price. There exist specific exceptions in regional wine names that are recognized as semi-generics [] with special rules, and some regional product names that are seen as generics ("parmesan"). You can take your Wisconsin cheese and label it "Parmesan," and nobody will go after you in the United States; but if you label your $5/lb Wisconsin cheese as "Parmigiano Reggiano," that's not cool.

      • by Zocalo ( 252965 )
        Especially in the EU as far as I know, although I've never really found a satisfactory citation for it. If a product incorporates a place of origin in the name such as "Cornish Pastry", "Cumberland Sausage", and any number of cheeses etc., then apparently it has to have actually have been made the the geographical location being referred to, even if the recipe is identical. Another bright idea brought to you by the numbnuts that spent taxpayers money in order to regulate the permitted curvature of bananas
        • by xaxa ( 988988 )

          How is it stupid?

          Many people want, for example, to know that their champagne comes from Champagne, and that their cornish pasty is from Cornwall. It's a simple consumer protection measure.

          No one is stopping you from buying "meat and potato pasty" (made in Leeds) if you prefer, or the sparkling wine (made in Germany).

          • by Zocalo ( 252965 ) on Monday September 21, 2009 @02:39PM (#29494565) Homepage
            It's stupid because of the bit about the recipe and lack of any concession to where ingredients are sourced or whether the production process used is identical.

            As an example, historically (and we're talking at least a thousand years, since it gets mentioned in the Domesday Book) Cheshire cheese was manufactured by the same process in no less than five counties; Cheshire itself, plus Denbighshire, Flintshire, Shropshire and Staffordshire. The first two of those are in Wales, while the latter two and Cheshire itself are in England. According to the EU rules, only Cheshire cheese which is manufactured in Cheshire itself is now entitled to the name, despite all of the historical precedent to the contrary.
            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by zevans ( 101778 )

              ...which in itself no longer has any meaning given the amorphous nature of Cheshire's borders. The majority of Cheshire farms have been in Manchester or Merseyside at least once in the last 40 years (never mind the last 400.)

        • No such thing as a "Cornish Pastry" - should be "Cornish Pasty", without the r.
    • Haggis: brought to Scotland (before it was Scotland) by either the Romans, Vikings, or another group, via most of Europe ....

      Not a regional food at all ...

    • by Abcd1234 ( 188840 ) on Monday September 21, 2009 @01:53PM (#29493875) Homepage

      Oh come on, give haggis a break already! It's really not that bad, and in fact has been described as having "an excellent nutty texture and delicious savoury flavour" (source of source [])... 'course, as with all foods, it'll vary based on who made it.

      I urge you, give haggis a chance! I actually rather like it! Black pudding, OTOH... *shudder*

      • Funny, that's how Austin Powers described Fat Bastard's feces. Doesn't make me want to try that, either.

      • Odd; My wife was born in England and attended COE schools. She had haggis every friday and she does not describe it with the same terms as either you or wiki does. Needless to say, she has outlawed it EVER being in our house.
      • BTW, had to laugh about the black pudding. I assume that is basically Blutwurst. When I was in Germany working, I had some of that. That had to be about the blandest sausage that I have ever tried. Did not care for it just based on that. Had they put in some spices to it, say some Habenero, that might have improved it.
    • I don't think anyone is going to challenge Scotland's copyright of haggis.

      Attribution for haggis is controlled by slander laws, not copyright.

  • by Absolut187 ( 816431 ) on Monday September 21, 2009 @01:01PM (#29493153) Homepage

    Sorry Malaysia.
    All your recipe are belong to us. []

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      There is a great deal of difference between publishing the recipe in a book, where it can be made by people at home, and someone selling something that has not been produced in Malaysia.

      The recipe for Stilton Cheese [] is well known, but you can only call it Stilton if it has been made in the three Counties of Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire. It cannot be made in the village of Stilton that gave it its name since, at the time the EU came up with the definition, it had been forgotten that it had

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Daimanta ( 1140543 )

        "The recipe for Stilton Cheese [] is well known, but you can only call it Stilton if it has been made in the three Counties of Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire. It cannot be made in the village of Stilton that gave it its name since, at the time the EU came up with the definition, it had been forgotten that it had ever been produced there!"

        But wait, there is more.

        - it can only be produced in the three Counties of Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire
        - it must be made

    • Kind of amusing (Score:4, Informative)

      by PCM2 ( 4486 ) on Monday September 21, 2009 @02:37PM (#29494539) Homepage

      I find it interesting that Malaysia would be claiming there should be copyright protection for foods, when there isn't any kind of copyright protection for anything else in that country/region -- not in any real sense.

      This isn't a troll -- just try going to any market in Malaysia. You'll find whole tables of knockoff DVDs, knockoff Paul Frank T-shirts, knockoff shoes, knockoff handbags ... the average person sees nothing wrong with it.

      I once went to a DVD store in a mall on the island of Penang, off the west coast of Malaysia, probably around 2002. I mean this was a real store with one of those roll-down metal cages that go in front of the plate glass windows when they close shop, inside a real mall with a food court and everything. This store had one small bookcase full of legitimate, imported American DVDs. The entire rest of the store was given over to knockoffs. You could get DVD-5 copies for about $5 and the DVD-9s were about $8. They were well aware what they were doing; they even had DVD players and TVs on hand so you could double-check the video quality of the copies you were buying. I picked up a set of the original Star Wars trilogy on DVD-9, plus a copy of Raiders of the Lost Ark. In passing, I told one of the kids working there (he was wearing a polo shirt with the store's logo on it) that you couldn't buy any of these movies in America (at that time, none of them was available on DVD). He looked at me like I'd just told him I'd never seen rice before.

      Mind you, technically it was all illegal. Malaysia actually seemed to have a pretty strong force of "copyright cops" that would do sweeps for pirated DVDs. The problem was that copyright law was one of those laws that was so poorly respected by the average citizen -- basically, everybody living in Malaysia had broken it at least once, and probably did so routinely -- that there was absolutely no respect for enforcement, which in turn leads to corruption. Everybody involved in the knock-off trade seemed to have a contact who would tip them off when a sting was about to happen. I met some Australian tourists who were hoping to go to the DVD store I mentioned, but when they went (on a Wednesday afternoon) it was closed. Apparently they had been warned not to open that day. Similarly, even guys who were hawking their wares on blankets at the night markets would occasionally get calls on their cell phones, then immediately roll up their bundles and walk away while customers were still waving money.

      Still, no doubt this effort by the Malaysian government does a couple things:

      1. It gets some attention for local cuisine, which isn't as well-known outside the region as (say) Thai food
      2. It gives Malaysia brownie points with the Western countries for acting like they really care about intellectual property law

      Personally, though, I doubt the average Malaysian cares much more about it than Americans care when we find out our home city is now "the sister city of Vladivostok." Sounds great, but what difference does it make to me?

  • by Vinegar Joe ( 998110 ) on Monday September 21, 2009 @01:02PM (#29493171)

    Because Malaysia has been claiming certain Indonesian dances are Malaysian. []

  • RMS (Score:5, Funny)

    by K. S. Kyosuke ( 729550 ) on Monday September 21, 2009 @01:04PM (#29493209)
    RMS has been making recipe analogies (with respect to free software) for decades. Finally, the until-recently-lawless world of cooking is catching up with the highly developed and modern law-abiding world of software. That will teach our bearded gourmet! There's no free(-as-in-speech) lunch!
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by fluffy99 ( 870997 )

      I think you just described all the flavors of Linux! They all follow the same general recipe, but they are all slightly different after baked/compiled. One company likes to add a splash of gnome, the other likes kde, etc. Naturally this plays hell at a banquet when the guests see the bowl labeled with the name of the dish but have no idea if their utensils will work quite right with that particular homemade dish. They prefer the storebought box of mac-n-cheese that tastes the same every single time and

  • I hereby copyright the idea of putting chocolate pieces into a cookie -- pizza fillings inside pastry dough available for microwave or oven bake -- and the idea of diet sodas.
    let's see how this goes over
  • Surprising (Score:3, Interesting)

    by imkonen ( 580619 ) on Monday September 21, 2009 @01:08PM (#29493245)
    It sounds a little silly, but how different is it from other copyrights? I think most people would agree that culinary arts are as as much an exercise in creativity as visual or audio art. A particular combination of available flavors creates whole greater than the sum. Certainly copyrighting a recipe doesn't seem any different to me than a piece of software code. I guess the weak part in Malaysia's claim is that they seem to be trying to retroactively pull public domain works (recipes that have been around for generations) back into the copyrighted realm, but even that is nothing new []. If they can get back the rights to their ethnic food, it seems like Beethoven's descendants should be able to continue collecting royalties on his works.
    • Recipes (that is, listing of ingredients by proportion) are not copyrightable, at least in the USA. This has nothing to do with copyright. You don't understand what you're talking about.
    • Re:Surprising (Score:5, Insightful)

      by cpt kangarooski ( 3773 ) on Monday September 21, 2009 @01:49PM (#29493803) Homepage

      It sounds a little silly, but how different is it from other copyrights?

      Copyrights cover creative works; it's patents that cover useful arts. Food is rendered uncopyrightable due to utility. Methods of preparing food, i.e. recipes, are uncopyrightable as well. While inventive chefs could seek patents, and some do, it seems to be fairly uncommon, and the requirement of novelty would make it useless here anyway.

      What this really sounds like to me is a designation of origin issue, which is somewhat like a trademark. Personally, I'm not a big fan of them. Champagne, to me at least, is a product which can be made in many different places around the world. I don't mind putting a national or regional appellation on it (French champagne, Australian champagne) if it is applied equally to everyone, but I don't like the idea that it can only be called champagne at all if it is from a specific part of France, regardless of how similar or even identical it might be with the same product made elsewhere. This, IMO, doesn't inform customers, but misleads them, and doesn't aid the market, but hinders it (by implicitly discouraging competition by outside manufacturers).

    • Why just musicians descendants? Let's extend it a little.

      I am of predominantly English and Scottish extraction, and have traced my descent from several of the most prominent inventors of the 17th through 19th centuries. If we could only make this scheme universal, For just one, I am probably close enough to both Fulton and Babbage to be able to collect royalties on some of the biggest developments in both power generation and computation in human history. There are probably a thousand

      • by vlm ( 69642 )

        I'm also distantly related to Wittgenstein - how do I make money off of that?

        Lets find some quotes and apply them to daily life, or at least daily life for a slashdotter.

        Any internet post of ".jpg or it didn't happen" owes you license fees (note I'm old enough to remember when it was "gif or it didn't happen")

        A picture is a fact.

        The mentally deranged architect whom designed the building I work in probably owes royalties to Wittgenstein

        "A man will be imprisoned in a room with a door that's unlocked and opens inwards; as long as it does not occur to him to pull rather than push."

        And I have worked for several bosses whom stole this management aphorism from Wittgenstein.

        I don't know why we are here, but I'm pretty sure that it is not in order to enjoy ourselves.

    • Copying a piece of code or a program is trivially easy, and your ability to create code has nothing to do with your ability to use the copied item.

      Following a recipe to make food depends entirely on your ability to cook.

      With the code, you already have the finished product (or very close to it, might need compiling, etc), whereas with the recipe, you simply have a list of instructions on how to get to the finished product, which may or may not turn out depending on your culinary abilities and/or experience.

  • in america, and the recipe copyrights as is evidenced by kernel sanders and his infamous C&D orders against imitators are enforced. look in the drinks book at any applebees bar, youll see copyrights. bonefish copyrights all their sauce recipes and mcdonalds copyrights their secret sauce recipe.
    • by PPH ( 736903 )

      and the recipe copyrights as is evidenced by kernel sanders

      Dude. You've been spending too much time hacking your Linux box. But then, who hasn't? Excuse me while I recompile my colonel.

    • by hondo77 ( 324058 ) on Monday September 21, 2009 @01:42PM (#29493725) Homepage
      No, they don't. The secret recipes of McDonalds and KFC are trade secrets [].
    • They don't copyright their recipes, AFAIK, they keep them secret. I used to own a cookbook that taught how to make a taste-alike version of the Colonel's Original Recipe (flour, salt, white and black pepper and MSG) and Big Mac sauce; the author was not sued for copyright infringement. There are trademarks, which prevent you from selling something called a Big Mac, but right now Carl's Jr. (Hardee's) is selling a sandwich that they advertise as being a bigger Big Mac. Legal threats? Not so much.
    • To add to what others have said, The Kentucky Fried Chicken C&Ds were not about recipes. They were about the naming and look of the restaurants. KFC claimed that certain restaurants were trying to lure in customers by appearing to be a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant by using similar color schemes and names such ask Kennedy Fried Chicken and Kantacky Fried Chicken.

      It was a trademark claim, not a copyright claim.

      You don't seem to know the difference between trade secrets, trademarks, copyrights, and pr

    • by Absolut187 ( 816431 ) on Monday September 21, 2009 @02:08PM (#29494123) Homepage

      Everything in your post is wrong.

      Please go to law school before posting rubbish as if it were fact.

      (A) - anyone can send a cease and desist letter (its just a letter from a lawyer - an ORDER comes from a judge). It doesn't make it the law.
      (B) - anyone can put a "(c)" next to anything. It doesn't make it the law.
      (C) - anyone can CLAIM a copyright in anything. It doesn't mean a court will enforce it.

      There is no copyright to recipes. Period.
      See my previous post (which you probably should have read before posting)

  • Diluted Meaning (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Nethemas the Great ( 909900 ) on Monday September 21, 2009 @01:18PM (#29493393)
    The more copyrights, patents, trademarks and the like are applied to all aspects of existence the less people will pay attention to them. People will largely treat them as meaningless and tread all over them even in areas generally considered legitimate.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by eldepeche ( 854916 )
      This is not a copyright or patent issue, nor is it strictly a trademark issue either. It is the seldom-referenced fourth category of "intellectual property," geographical indicators. It, like trademark, is rooted in the principle that prevents you from opening up a burger shop with big golden arches out front. Companies have a right to enforce their brand, and geographical regions have a right to regulate the quality and authenticity of any product bearing a claim of origin in that region. This is the most
  • by H4x0r Jim Duggan ( 757476 ) on Monday September 21, 2009 @01:33PM (#29493595) Homepage Journal

        When people have to campaign for their freedom to share and change recipes, they can simply reverse Stallman's recipe example []:

      But these freedoms should not be strange to you. At least, not if you cook, because people who cook enjoy the same four freedoms in using recipes.

    The freedom to cook the recipe when you want. Thatâ(TM)s freedom zero. The freedom to study the ingredients and how itâ(TM)s done, and then change it. Thatâ(TM)s freedom one. Cooks frequently change recipes. And then the freedom to copy it and hand copies to your friends. Thatâ(TM)s freedom two. And then, freedom three is less frequently exercised because itâ(TM)s more work, but if you cook your version of the recipes for a dinner with your friends, and a friend says "that was great, can I have the recipe?" you can write down your version of the recipe and make a copy for your friend.

  • Indonesia and Malaysia is currently in a...uh.. copyright war. For a few months, there are some cultural stuff (like dance, show, food) that each claims to origin from themselves. I believe it was started by a Malaysia tourism advertisement that claims certain dance to origin from Malaysia.

  • by tsotha ( 720379 ) on Monday September 21, 2009 @01:36PM (#29493657)

    I don't know how you could blame them. In 1997 a US company called RiceTek patented a strain of Rice they called Basmati, a name the Indians have been using for centuries. All kinds of companies take out defensive patents, where they never intend to collect money from other people, but they don't want to pay for obvious ideas either. There's no reason the same thing wouldn't happen in the copyright arena. From here []:

    According to Dr Vandana Shiva, director of a Delhi-based research foundation which monitors issues involving patents and biopiracy, the main aim for obtaining the patent by RiceTec Inc. is to fool the consumers in believing there is no difference between spurious Basmati and real Basmati. Moreover, she claims the "theft involved in the Basmati patent is, therefore, threefold: a theft of collective intellectual and biodiversity heritage on Indian farmers, a theft from Indian traders and exporters whose markets are being stolen by RiceTec Inc., and finally a deception of consumers since RiceTec is using a stolen name Basmati for rice which are derived from Indian rice but not grown in India, and hence are not the same quality."

    It doesn't seem odd the Malaysians would seek to prevent similar problems. The situation isn't exactly the same, since this is a copyright and RiceTek took out a patent, but I think the business objective is the same.

  • Public Domain (Score:3, Interesting)

    by frovingslosh ( 582462 ) on Monday September 21, 2009 @02:02PM (#29494057)

    Although forces of evil like Disney would like to have it otherwise, copyrights are still for a limited period of time. In the U.S. this is even spelled out in our Constitution, with the copyrighted material them passing into Public Domain. This article is talking about traditional foods, not some newfangled "Invention" (which might be covered by shorter lasting patents than longer lasting copyright). So even if the concept of copyright on food were valid (and I believe it is bogus), wouldn't these foods have passed into Public Domain long ago?

    Alternately, can a claim of copyright be made by a country? Wouldn't a copyright claim have to be made by an author? Clearly the government of these countries are not the authors of these foods, so they have no copyright claim on them. It is more reasonable to assume that the real author wanted their intellectual property to pass into public domain than to fall into the hands of politicians.

  • by eldepeche ( 854916 ) on Monday September 21, 2009 @02:04PM (#29494065)
    Uh, this has nothing to do with copyright. The TRIPS agreement formally established geographical indicators as protected intellectual property about 15 years ago. It's similar to a trademark, as it is an assurance of quality and consistency of product. As others above pointed out, the same protection exists for Champagne, Cognac, Parmigiano, Basmati, and several hundred others. I can make no assessment of whether this instance is justified or not, but the linked blog post (and most of the responses here) is kneejerk and uninformed.
  • Does anyone but me have a problem with the title "Malaysia Seeking to Copyright Food?" right above a picture of a human foot?
  • This is probably a move to protect itself from someone else doing the same. Some time ago, a US based Yoga teacher tried to patent some yogic positions, and there was a furor in India for obvious reasons. It happened again for Basmati rice which is grown in India - someone from another country patented it. I'm guessing the Malaysians are doing this so that the same thing doesn't happen to their foods.
  • by zoeblade ( 600058 ) on Monday September 21, 2009 @04:24PM (#29496017) Homepage

    ...then food could possibly one day be copyrighted on the genetic or even molecular level. I wrote a story [] which hints at this a short while ago.

You will never amount to much. -- Munich Schoolmaster, to Albert Einstein, age 10