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Publishing of copyrighted recipes

February 4, 2012

Good morning all,

For this post I want to send out a moral message for all food bloggers out there regarding the unauthorised blogging of copyrighted recipes. I’m not going into the fine detail of what the copyright law is in the world in this post, as for one I don’t consider myself qualified to do so, nor am I going to lecture anyone either, but what I do know a little of and appreciate are professional morals and ethics and want to take this opportunity to encourage fellow bloggers who may not be aware of the impact on posting copyrighted recipes, to consider the impact of giving them away for free.

Previously I have posted, albeit innocently and naively being a new blogger, a couple of recipes which I have tried out from a good cook book I own, Baking with passion by Dan Lepard and Richard Whittington and I was blissfully unaware of the potential lack of professional courtesy my humble new blog could do to the author and the potential impact on book sales. I received a comment to my blog from the Editor of Mr. Lepard’s book, David Whitehouse which was very polite and professional, and Mr. Whitehouse simply asked me to consider the consequences for the author, Editor and Publisher.

Here is Mr.Whitehouse’s reply to my post which I ask people to read and consider before posting any recipes and I think for those of you who can appreciate the professional integrity in this comment. You will agree it offers very good advice for food bloggers which is very reasonable and above all if followed, will no doubt earn the respect the blog deserves and potentially increase the number of comments/ followers to that blog. As far as the moral integrity of the blogger, it pays well deserved courteous respect to the authors that we all love for their wonderful recipes they share in their books, which after all remember is their livelihood.

Mr. Whitehouse’s comment:

“I know a lot of food bloggers think nothing of giving away a recipe written by someone else, but could I ask you to reconsider?

Chefs and food writers (and publishing companies) need to sell books, if they are going to keep doing what they do. And those books are copyright. I know there’s a grey area around paraphrasing recipes, and whether that avoids the copyright issue, but the fact remains that recipes given away do not help to sell books – who would buy a book, when the contents can be found for free online? But as a matter of professional courtesy to food writers, I would urge you to “talk around” a recipe, say what you liked about it and whether you enjoyed making it, and create a platform for your own original photos – but without giving other peoples’ recipes away. By all means give a link to the website where an author has chosen to publish (in Dan Lepard’s case, usually www.guardian.co.uk or www.danlepard.com), or name the book the recipe came from. But please don’t republish a recipe without considering what you’re doing – and don’t take a recipe from a book and then not even name the book.”

Another way to look at it is how would you as keen food bloggers feel if you found out your post or recipe you had lovingly and painstakingly created/researched/written was re-blogged, possibly as someone else’s without your consent or without recognition to you the origin of that recipe, under someone else’s name?

For those of you interested in the legal side of copyright, there’s some info about it in American law at http://www.copyright.gov/fls/fl122.html and in UK law at http://www.copyrightservice.co.uk/copyright/p01_uk_copyright_law

To summarise here, I think the point is, many great blogs can be written without the need to give away for free, copyrighted recipes that hack into the sales and livelihood of the authors that we all love, so please do spare a thought before publishing that recipe and instead, try “selling” that book in your post for the same reason you enjoy the book and recipe and brought the book in the first place Who knows, with a bit of luck and good fortune, maybe one day it might be your book that is sold in a blog.

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25 Comments
  1. Message received and understood.
    Thanks for the gentle nudge to rectify this infringement.

    • Hi gastrorob, I think that’s the point, it’s definitely a gentle nudge, not a “have -a- go” post as we all make mistakes, or need to learn.

      Happy blogging :)

  2. Very professional of you :)

  3. Great post. I see it all the time and it always makes me feel a bit annoyed on behalf of the original creator but like you say, many people don’t even realise they are breaking the law

  4. Good post and it’s something about which many bloggers need a “gentle reminder”.

  5. For a recipe to not infringe copyright, you have to have changed at least 2 ingredients. Many recipes are in the general domain (especially traditional Provencal ones that I tend to blog about), I would say, read a few recipes for inspiration and then have a go yourself and write down your own version.

    • I disagree with Angela. If you look at the copyright law it says that it is the list of ingredients that are not covered. It is the authors text and directions that are his creative property. Changing two ingredients is an old wives tale that people often quote to make themselves feel better. I write my own recipes for my blog and on the few occasions I have made someone elses recipe I just took a picture, listed what I changed to make it gluten-free and linked to the authors blog for the recipe.

      Thanks for this great post.

  6. On the other hand, I’ve been asked by authors to review books who were happy I was blogging about the book and providing a recipe. They felt that a sample of what was available in the book could be good for book sales. Two sides of this coin obviously.

    I don’t blog to promote books. I blog to record my experiences. If I can’t put a recipe with a post that is promoting a book then the author and publishing house are using me at no cost to market their product right?

    Not that I blog much from cookbooks anyhow but I see it from a different perspective.

    • I agree Barbara. The key is did someone ask you to blog their recipe? If not did you ask them if it would be OK. I had an experience where a blogger did not ask me but referred to it as a recipe from me, then proceeded to substitute some ingredients and make the product look gross. I left a comment on her blog stating the differences politly with a link back to my recipe. She did not publish that.

  7. Nancy permalink

    I have to say I don’t really agree with this post. Posting one recipe from a published cookbook, particularly one where instructions have been rewritten in the blogger’s own words, does not constitute copyright infringement as I understand it. Copyright on recipes covers only the author’s original, descriptive text and the compilation of recipes that is the cookbook itself – not lists of ingredients for individual recipes. At the very least, such a use would, in my opinion, easily fall under the ‘fair use’ provision of copyright law – and clearly most authors and publishers agree, since reprinting one recipe – verbatim – is standard practice in cookbook reviews.

    When I blog about someone else’s recipe, whether I found it online or in a cookbook, I always re-write instructions in my own words, always give credit, and always provide a link to the source. As far as I’m concerned, this is essentially free publicity for the author – and I have been thanked by readers who had never heard of some of the authors and purchased books or subscribed to blogs as a result of my post! Using people’s work without credit or attribution is a whole separate issue, but I think as long as bloggers act with the same courtesy and respect for other people’s original work that we would like shown to ours, that all of us who are interested in good cooking and good food writing benefit from sharing a reasonable amount of information in the online community.

    • Anon permalink

      I disagree with your comment on “fair use” as it doesn’t exist in European & UK copyright law (yet!). The issue here is whether you as a blogger are making commercial gains from reprinting a recipe on your site and this can either be direct or indirect. It’s one of the arguments widely discussed by copyright holders as so many online organizations that include web-based companies to individuals who “free ride” on others’ copyrighted works. You could see it as providing a service to the public for no direct remuneration, yet the benefit from increased traffic and the data gathered from users/visitors to these sites is clearly apparent. Where is the remuneration for the copyright holder? All you have to do is look a what’s happened to newspapers to realize there will come a point at which it’ll be easier for the public to go to the website for a recipe rather than by a physical book by an author….

      • Hi nancy, thank you for taking time to reply.You made some interesting points and I agree with things coming to a point where the public will end up going to a website for a recipe over purchasing a harback book or perhaps it will end up the public paying to download the recipe from that website.

        Anyway, my point I was aiming to make in this post is more about the impact posting recipes from books into a food blog has on the sales for the author and publishing houses. Whether it is legal or not, it still feels unfair to the author of the book, a bit like free downloading of music and the impact on the artist..
        One could debate that the free availability and experience from making those recipes generates sales but I am sure that more often than not, the vast majority will simply take it as a free recipe without taking the time to look into the source and potentially buying that particular recipe book.

  8. There is also the added complication that a blogger may re-write the recipe and give attribution, but rewrite it poorly and damage the original author’s reputation because of those tweaks. If I cook something described as “Dan Lepard’s sticky buns”, and they don’t work for me, I will be disappointed in Mr Lepard – I probably won’t check back with his site or the Guardian to see what changes the blogger who posted the recipe made.

  9. Thank you everyone for taking the time to share your opinions on this subject. I will in time reply to each of you, however with the arrival of our first new born baby this week, free time has become a thing of the past until we get settled.

    Best regards to all,

    Chefeye

  10. MarjieC permalink

    http://www.lambsearsandhoney.com/2011/09/seasonal-secrets-september/

    There is also this…in terms of copyright – from what I can see here it is when you republish the EXACT recipe that you have an issue. Blogging about your experience of it and how you have altered it and listing ingredients in your own format doesn’t appear (not that I am a legal expert) to be a problem. It would seem that Mr Whitehouse is a bit over-zealous in some cases. The link above is becoming a bit of an internet meme. Yikes in terms of PR for Mr Lepard.

    • I think you may be right about the exact republishing of recipes being copyright but your own variations are not. If that were me, just out of courtesy I would now mention the source of the recipe and book. I think it’s those that don’t that get the backs of authors and publishing houses up.

      I cant comment about Mr. Whitehouse in other cases, only my own and in my opinion he was absolutely professional and respectful in how he asked me to re work my blog post and he was right too as I was naive being a new blogger and simply didn’t think about the effect on the author. I directly e-mailed him an apology and he was very courteous in his response again and I think surprised to hear me changing my post.

      It seems a sensitive subject for food bloggers, authors and publishers alike and worthwhile to know the basic copyright laws so as to avoid any improper behaviour in the future.

      I will check out your blog as the title of it I like straight away!

  11. I was just seeking this info for some time. After 6 hours of continuous Googleing, finally I got it in your website. I wonder what’s the lack of Google strategy that do not rank this kind of informative websites in top of the list. Normally the top websites are full of garbage.

  12. Anonymous permalink

    Wow glad I wrote so much about this subject and never was told the comment is under moderatr approval, or was able to see the comment, or anything.. Then again I can tell this site is about as professional as my first site, which is to say not at all, so I’m not surprised your theme and plugin isn’t working properly… ah, well.. another blog to never revisit.

    • This comment is a classic example of how NOT to respond in a fellow blogger’s blog… :)

    • Thank you for the link Jonathan. Seems a controversial topic if ever I saw one!

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