"rights" and "freedoms"

David Johnson arandir at meer.net
Sat Oct 16 05:14:26 UTC 1999

On Fri, 15 Oct 1999, Derek J. Balling wrote:

> I think you should make time, as this is a very important question. 
> Certainly, you must feel cheated if you buy non-free food, don't you 
> Richard? I mean, if that Frozen Chicken Enchilada isn't JUST the way you 
> like it, you have no ability to tinker with the recipe and make it what you 
> want.  Perhaps a General Food License should be established, requiring that 
> the recipe of instructions for how to make any prepared food be available 
> upon request.

Actually, this brings up a parallel to software development that is somewhat
canny. Homebrewing! But there is nothing at all like the GPL in homebrewing.
The vast majority is public domain, or at the most, BSD like. This is not
because homebrewers are hostile to freedom, but rather because they have a
different culture. 

The recipes are like source code, and homebrewers give them away to everyone.
Magazines reprint them and the authors don't care. Their ego is stroked because
their name is in print. Homebrewers gather together for meetings, share their
product, and if it is halfway passable, everyone is busy scribbling down the
recipe. Ask a homebrewer if their recipe is licensed, let alone copyrighted,
will get you a blank stare.

Of course, there are a very great many differences as well. A recipe does not
equate 100% to the finished product. In practice, it may only be about 25% to
50% of the beer. Despite this, commercial brewers guard their recipes jealously.

If someone takes a fellow homebrewer's recipe, modifies it, then brings a batch
to the next meeting, no one is upset that the recipe was copied. "Hey, this
tastes almost like the one I brewed last month." "It should, I copied it."
Likewise, there is no demand that the modification be returned to the original

Some homebrewers go commercial. No one criticizes them for not making their
recipes public. In fact, it is a great pastime attempting to recreate Sam Adams
Winter Wheat or Pete's Wicked Ale. Many homebrewers dream of opening up their
own brewpub, going commercial, and "making a living doing what I love."

The only IP related controversy in homebrewing that I am aware of is Anchor's
trademarking of "Steam Beer".

David Johnson

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