A recipe for conflict: Court orders Murdoch Books pay Bill Granger for “cut and paste” cookbooks

The once successful relationship between chef Bill Granger and publisher Murdoch Books which catapulted Granger to fame has ended in acrimony, with the Federal Court ordering Murdoch Books pay Granger royalties for two books it published without the chef’s permission.

Granger claimed after he parted ways with Murdoch Books it published two “Bill’s” compilation cookbooks without his permission which infringed his copyright over the recipes, infringed his moral rights and constituted misleading and deceptive conduct.

In the parties’ initial appearance in the Federal Court before Justice Anna Katzmann, Granger’s barrister described the Best of Bill and Bill Cooks for Kids books as a “cut and paste from previous cookbooks”.

Murdoch Books argued it was allowed to use the recipes under a licensing agreement, and that Granger had been paid royalties from the books all along.

Last week the court made orders in relation to a settlement between Granger and Murdoch Books for an undisclosed sum for the exploitation by the publisher of the cookbooks. The settlement was made up of 18.5% of the sum received by the publisher for the paper books up until September 3, 2012 and 25% of the electronic books to that date, less $60,363.24 which Murdoch Books had already paid to Granger.

Murdoch Books will pay 18.5% of any ongoing royalties it receives for the paper form of the books and 25% for the electronic copies.

Mark Krenzer, special counsel in the intellectual property and technology group at law firm Clayton Utz, told SmartCompany that producing unauthorised compilations of books is clearly an infringement of copyright, which is probably why Murdoch Books agreed to settle the dispute.

“The only issue the court had to agree on was whether the court had to make an order for the payment of the settlement amounts,” Krenzer says.

“Reading between the lines, I think the publishing agreement that existed originally probably required any disputes to be arbitrated and while Murdoch Books was trying to enforce that the Granger side probably wanted the matter to be heard by a court rather than arbitration.”

Krenzer says Granger probably pushed for the court hearing to save costs, as there is no need to pay for a private arbitrator and facilities because “there is some perception that a court has more weight at the end of the day rather than a privately chosen arbitrator”.

“Potentially it could have been a tactic to put a bit more pressure on Murdoch Books to have the matter heard in a public forum. Certainly it did result in more publicity than automatically consenting to a private arbitration.”


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