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Cooking Up a Storm Over Blog Copyright

I’ve just stumbled across and interesting discussion on a cooking blog that seems to have overstepped the mark when it comes to using another cooking blog’s content.

Head over the Culinary Arts Simple Shepards Pie recipe and then to Simple Recipes Easy Shepherd’s Pie recipe.

The Culinary Arts version gives a credit link to the Simple Recipes page as it’s source but the writer of the original post (Elise) takes exception with the way in which the post has been reproduced. Elise doesn’t seen to mind that the recipe has been reproduced but takes exception to the introductory passage being virtually identical and the use of her original photos all being used.

I’m interested in the conflict that is happening in the comments of Culinary Arts because it’s an example of a conflict that I’m seeing happen more and more as bloggers clash over different standards of what is and isn’t acceptable with using the content of others.

From what I know of copyright around recipes – recipes themselves are not copyrightable but unique descriptions or highly personalized instructions are projectable – as are photos.

My own approach to using other people’s content (whether recipes or any kind) is that to simply cut and paste (even if you change a couple of words) a full post including images into your blog then you’re probably overstepping what might be considered to be fair use – particularly when your blog contains advertising and is obviously a commercial venture (to some degree). The exception to this in my mind is when you have permission to do so from the author or copyright holder.

I don’t have issue with using quote from other sites as long as they are not full articles. I generally would stick to a paragraph or two (unless the article I was quoting was a very long one), make it obvious which bits are mind and which bits are the quotes (using blockquotes, quotation marks etc).

My other practice is that if I’m asked by another site to remove content (whether I think I should or not) I always try to come to some agreement with that person. This might ultimately mean the removal of content (I’ve only once been asked to remove content – a quote that an author didn’t want reproduced) or a revision of the use of that content. Perhaps this is not a legal thing but to me it comes out of my own ethical standards (not something I’d push on anyone).

I’m interested in the thoughts of others on this. Obviously the example I’ve used has gotten people’s blood boiling a little looking at the comment thread – I don’t think we need to add to the conflict but lets see it as an example and lets talk about the issues at hand.

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. Whoa! I’d say that she copied WAY too much of that post. Way more than I’d be comfortable with. I think the O.P. has a point.

    Excessive copying shows a laziness on the part of the blogger. There’s no need you need to take the person’t pictures, also, as well as all the text.

  2. graywolf says:

    You are correct you can’t copyright a recipe, but you can copyright the accompanying text (description, instructions, etc). Before someone questions hey Gray last time I checked you weren’t a lawyer, I took an extended cooking class with a celebrity chef from food TV. He spent about 40 minutes going over it and why he can’t use recipe’s from the show in his books. He also said it’s “customary” in the industry to change at least three ingredients.

    Using the intro paragraph is wrong and swiping the photo is just bad form.

  3. Cary says:

    I’d add, too, that it’s particularly bad form when being caught “lifting” to turn around and attack the writer of the original post… I had someone do something very similar to me recently, and when I called them on it they wrote a post declaring that I was jealous of them… yikes, what are we – teenagers? (no offense, Allen ;)

    Plus, it’s oh so very easy for the person doing the “lifting” to act like they wouldn’t care if it was being done to them, but it’s an entirely different matter to have it done to you over and over and over again.

  4. Don M says:

    The person that ripped of Elise’s recipe says:

    “I do this because I enjoy food and feel that its worthwhile sharing that enjoyment”

    So, I guess if I am a fan of a rock band I could just grab their CD into MP3′s and post the MP3s (or even just the hit single) on my website. I would take her quote above and change “food” to “music” so it reads:

    “I do this because I enjoy music and feel that its worthwhile sharing that enjoyment”

    She is also saying Elise is a sellout trying to make AdSense revenue off her recipes, so it is okay for her to redistribute it for free?

    Am I off base here?

    -dm

  5. This is unacceptable, period.

    Years ago I was the hobbies editor at About.com. The full text and images from hobbies’ sites were frequently swiped in the same manner, and the offending parties were pursued until the materials were removed.

    The Culinary Arts site has no right to continue using the material. It’s wrong and should be removed.

    By the way, Darren, you asked in a recent blog post (I’m paraphrasing) if bloggers would use posts from their sites as part of a book without asking the commenters for permission.

    I’m an author who does not use comments verbatim. I rewrite it, ensuring that the main idea stays intact. My books include a dedication thanking entire industries for their assistance.

  6. K says:

    There is no reason (except outright theft) for lifting material word for word.
    This is the internet.
    Give a teaser (a line or two) and a link.

  7. Bill Peschel says:

    That’s a recipe for chutzpah.

    Recipes aren’t usually covered under copyright, although I suspect that if I reprinted “The Joy of Cooking” under another name, lawyers from HarperCollins would be eager to test that bit of legal teory.

    But stealing the descriptive copy and the photos is a big foul. Particularly when you’re running a competing site.

    I was irked when a Beatles site reprinted, in full, my review of a biography, not only on one, but two sites (both lathered with ads). There wasn’t much I could do about it — Yahoo’s rules for complaining about offending blogs they sponsor is complicated and time-consuming — and the loss to me was small in comparison. Since he steals from every media source, it’s like a pickpocket taking a few pennies from every pocket.

    But it does add up.

  8. Adam says:

    As a food blogger, I can say tell you that Culinary Arts did reprodcue way too much of the original post. Also, the disclaimer or source line came WAY too late in the post for my taste. If you’re gonna reproduce it, be UP FRONT about it. Like above-the-fold type of up front. Also the half-hearted apology also came too late.

    Here’s my rule on using someone else’s recipe: If I find a recipe I like, I cook it myself, take my own pictures, and post my own thoughts about it. And I usually credit the author in the first paragraph. I will also post any modification or experimentations that I did.

  9. anty says:

    I hate this too, but I’m glad if they take the time to place a backlink ;)
    I don’t like it, but when they give me credit I tolerate it.

  10. why not use Creative Commons licenses? I mean: All rights reserved doesn’t help a blogger at all, CC does.

  11. Candy Addict says:

    What a crock! He chastises Elise by saying “I don’t run this site for money” but he has AdSense and affiliate Amazon ads with an affiliated id of “pokeredup” and he has lots of links to poker sites in the sidebar including one to a site called “pokeredup” which has even more ads. This guy knows what he’s doing, got caught, and got called on it. The sad part is, he is probably getting more traffic/attention now by “being bad” than he did playing nice.

    Brian

  12. Candy Addict says:

    Just poked around and the blog (and many others) is owned by some blog outfit called bigblogmedia: http://www.bigblogmedia.com/

    Brian

  13. Well, I must be in the minority, because I think this whole thing is a crock (pardon the pun).. Every single one of you has taken a quote, maybe a paragraph, maybe more .. then copy/paste it into your blog .. maybe re-writes it … comment on it .. agree or disagree with it .. or just plain rearrange other people’s work in many ‘blockquotes’ or sections to make it look like their own.

    This issue isn’t about content stealing to me .. it’s about playing the “How Big Should My Name Be At The Top Of Other People’s Blogs” game. Why can’t you just accept that someone likes your stuff and gives you credit? If you are way to afraid for people looking at your stuff – stop writing the stuff.

    E.O.M. (yes, I know you hate me now *sniff*, but that’ just i.m.h.o.)

  14. Danielle says:

    I’m so glad to see this post. I run a site that has inspired more than a few copycats in recent months. I’m not happy to see any of them of course but one particularly drives me nuts. About 99% of their written content is copied and pasted from other websites. There is usually a link or Source: at the bottom of each post but in this case, the source is actually the party who has had their content plagiarized. To me, “Source” refers to where you learned about the information, not where you stole the exact same words describing the information.

    This of course drives me absolutely crazy because the majority of the sites the blogger steals from are so large they probably can’t be bothered to go after such a small site. At my site, we work really hard to come up with original content.

    They have yet to plagiarize my site but I think it’s because they know i probably check their site and would go after them if they stole my content. Or they might just read my site, follow my source links and copy the posts.

    It’s so aggravating.

  15. Anne-Marie says:

    I recently had a “run in” with a food blogger, like Elise, who is very concerned copyright infringment and chastised me for posting a recipe (from a friend of a friend’s mom) that I hadn’t made, using a photo of a similar recipe from another site (which I linked to and gave full credit with a mention that she had an interesting version of the recipe, too).

    After her nasty comment, we took it off line. She apologized and we came to a mutual understanding. I even took her original comment down since she regretted writing it. No big whoop.

    But now I’m wondering what I’m allowed and not allowed to do even if I give full credit for a recipe or photo, and give lots of links and credit. I think I will still do what I do, then email the blogger/photographer and ask permission to use the photo with a link and credit.

    Or maybe it’s time to go back to what I used to do – only post what I’ve cooked up and photographed.

    It’s funny, because I do alot of book reviews and publishers always want me to use artwork, descriptions, recipes, etc. from their books because they see the promotional value. While blogging is different – you don’t hold it in your hand like a book, after all – are bloggers ignoring the promotional value of someone using their work as long as there is credit, links and possible traffic coming to their site?

    Sounds like something we’ll have to discuss at BlogHer.

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