Copyright, blogging, mumble, mumble…

Timethief, a very experienced and honest blogger, writes a wonderful blog with the main purpose of helping people to become better at blogging. She puts very useful links in the sidebar of her blog as well as in her articles. She is a wonderful resource who I  cannot recommend too highly. I frequently follow her links and have learnt masses that way, though sometimes I get overwhelmed by it all.

Today I followed a link to something called Copyscape which scans the web in seconds to see if a page from a blog has been copied elsewhere on the internet.

Copyscape made suggestions as to which pages to check, it’s a very clever programme.

I ran the programme on a very early post of mine,  for the bread pictured above, one in which I had posted a formula for making a loaf of bread.

This bread  has the peculiar distinction of being baked from time to time by Andrew at the loaf as part of his amazing range of rye breads. I am sure he has adapted it to suit his own requirements and his customers’ tastes but he kindly refers to it as my bread.  It isn’t really my bread, just my rendition of an old technique used by German bakers.

Sure enough the formula and my text has been copied and pasted here. What is annoying about this is that the writer then says, in their post, oh but I don’t understand part of the instructions, can someone explain it?  I am puzzled why the author didn’t simply contact me? Is there any explanation? Is there any way to contact the author on their site to open a dialogue with them?  No.

Now, I know that it is possible to go through a process of responding to copyright infringement and I guess I could do that, but life is short and I think on this occasion I am not going to bother. Part of me wants to run that Copyscape check on each and every page of my blog, part of me thinks this way madness lies.

I know that one can copy and paste almost anything you see on the internet. I copy and paste recipes from my friends’ blogs  to print off and carry down to the kitchen, but I don’t repost their recipes in full, preferring to link to their blogs instead. But I am not pure as driven snow, I have adapted recipes from books that I love. If the recipe is shown by permission on the internet I try and link to where it is shown for preference.

This of course requires the blogger to do a little more work, and it requires the reader to use their mouse and click to another site. I can’t believe quite how lazy some people are in that regard, moaning about having to go to another site. It reminds me of people who want to park right outside shops and never walk anywhere!

I always credit authors and hope that people will be encouraged to buy the book, but I have my doubts as to whether I am doing the right thing.  I am aware that there are different copyright rules in different countries, which is one of the things that makes this whole business so complicated.

I hope that by offering a contact form [edit: please leave a comment on a recent post ] and an open invitation to anyone to use it to contact me, that if an author has any concerns about something I have written that they would contact me and I would then promptly remove anything that they considered unacceptable.  I have felt my way into this blogging world and probably like many people I tend to copy what I see others do. This of course, doesn’t make it right and it is easy to fall into the trap of saying, ‘ X writes out recipes from books so that must be all right then’.

Make up your own mind, have you really altered the recipe enough that it is now ‘yours’,  and ask yourself if the author has stated their views anywhere on how they feel about their recipes being shared?

You will find that authors have different feelings on the subject, some seeing it as good publicity, some seeing it as a straightforward breach of copyright.  I can furnish examples of this, if anyone is interested.

The good thing is that at least the person who scraped my content put a link to my original post.  But it would have been nice to be asked first and if that person really had a genuine query why on earth didn’t they ask me?

This post isn’t intended to provoke my dearly loved blogging friends into explaining their own policies on the subject. I’m just sounding off about how I feel. The plain fact is that if you write something original and put it on your blog, take great photos, pour your heart out here, the chances are that someone, somewhere will copy it and post it.  This isn’t going to go away. If your blog is getting older and more popular then the chances of this happening will increase, so think about how you feel about it and decide for yourself how and if you are going to deal with it.

I hope that, like the nice chap from the online Encyclopedia the other day,who emailed me to enquire about using one of my flower pictures,  people will feel free to ask about using content and images.  I like the idea of my stuff being of use, but I do really want to be asked first.

Related Posts :  My Baking Addiction’s post on how her whole blog was stolen – thanks to Ann for telling me about this.

39 thoughts on “Copyright, blogging, mumble, mumble…

  1. Annalisa Barbieri

    Some years ago, I went to Milan to do an interview with the designer Romeo Gigli. My interview was published in the Indy on Sunday (where I was on staff at the time). Not long after, and quite by chance, I spotted an interview published in a very well known magazine that had more or less lifted my interview. I took advice and didn’t do anything about it in the end, not because I wasn’t HUGELY angry but because what was the point? It was done. I’m giving this as an example because even pre-blogging and internet it happened.

    1. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

      Hi Annalisa, I know plagiarism and copying are as old as the proverbial hills. I am sorry to hear about your interview, it must have been infuriating!

      Unlike print journalism or indeed a printed book, though, where literally every copy would have to be recalled and destroyed, the internet is a much more fluid medium and it is relatively easy to remove content or attribute it in a way the author would like to have it read.

      Thank you for commenting!

  2. Celia @ Fig Jam and Lime Cordial

    I know you’re not looking for us to all justify, but let me just put a little bit in here. I asked both Dan the Man and David Lebovitz when I started blogging about reprinting their recipes. Basically the legislation says you can’t copyright a list of ingredients, but the text is copyright – so if you list ingredients and then rewrite how it’s made, in your own words and with any modifications you’ve made, then you’re not in breach of anyone’s copyright. I always try and acknowledge the source, and link to the book if the recipe has been published in one. Here’s a very good piece DL wrote about it a couple of years ago:

    As far as scrapers go, it’s a completely different thing – we’re talking about having your whole content nicked, photos and all. That’s a no-no, in my book, but I accept that there’s little I can do about it (although I have started tagging my photos).

    I shall resist the urge to Copyscape my blog – I suspect it will be akin to looking up diseases on google, and I’ll develop blog hypochondria.. ;-)

    1. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

      Thank you Celia, – I was hoping you would flag this up, as we have had this discussion privately on another occasion and you have pointed me to David Liebovitz’s post before. Dan Lepard posted this on his forum, which only pertains to his forum of course, but it has always stuck in my mind as being a good model to follow generally.

      We also must not forget that there are different laws re copyright from country to country,

      When I was naive about blogging I once queried a well known blogger on this and she then contacted the author of a very famous bread book and got his permission to write up his recipes. It was turned into a bit of a post by her which made me a little anxious at the time as I wasn’t expecting that. But I am wiser now and know better than to ask people questions like that if they have a blog or are journalists.

  3. miskmask

    That’s a brilliant little piece of software, Zeb. Your experience makes me wonder about “Tom’s” safety from copy & pasters.

    1. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

      I love Tom and I hope he is safe, he might just laugh at them and then they would go away….. ? :)

      I don’t know how it works on the Poetic Asides site; anything you write in a comment becomes technically part of the content of that site I suspect. But maybe they have a policy about that? It’s all very blurry these days. One thing one can do to reduce copy and pasting which I have considered and I did when I posted the only poem on this blog, written by the family poet, (which you can see in the section called Other Words) is to save the work as a pdf file and then post the pdf file. Then at least the would-be copier has to either type it out by hand or reprint the pdf as a whole including any copyright notice at the bottom). I also visit a site called Atmospheric Optics where it is not possible to link click on the photos and save them, so somehow he has protected the images on that site from click copying. However as long as one can take a screen grab, which is also relatively simple, one can copy anything on the internet.

      1. miskmask

        Just searched Poetic Asides, and it says that the person posting retains copyright. Robert does warn however that some editors consider a piece ‘published’ if it’s on a public blog or online forum.

        1. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

          Publish and be damned takes on a whole new meaning these days – thanks for looking that up, if I ever write a masterpiece (ha!) I’ll keep it close by ;)

  4. Mariana

    I have one sore freakin’ eye here Joanna, but your post was so interesting I ploughed through and read every word. You have one “quality” blog if I may be so bold; so it doesn’t surprise me in the least that your stuff is nicked. Not everyone in blogland has a conscience unfortunately. I do understand about you not minding but wanting to be asked. Where’s the manners?

    I only discovered the “stats” recently on my dashboard (I’m a bit slow that way), and I was shocked to see how many people actually visit me. I’m into many thousands with my strawberry and apple jam and my lilly pilly jelly. I couldn’t understand it, so I linked to this one site called Tipnut that kept appearing on the resources. I followed it and found they had listed these two recipes on their site. It was a nice surprise I guess, but, no one asked me. Just the other day, I followed another resource called “Bing” and found more of my jam stuff on there. Yep. No one asked. Take care. Mariana

    1. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

      I am touched that you read through the whole thing with that poor eye Mariana. And only one symbolic photo to lighten the load from me. I don’t know about quality but I do try to be honest, and like you say, have manners. It isn’t usually real bloggers who borrow stuff, it’s these strange pretend sites, I don’t know quite what they are. They sort of look like blogs, but they aren’t, I think they are fakes.

      Strangely, for someone like me who writes mostly about bread, the post that always appears in search stats is one on making blackberry jam or something like that. It conjures up visions of people sitting glaring at baskets of fruit thinking ‘Oh goodness, I suppose I ought to do something with this, maybe I ought to make jam, I’ll just go and google it’. I had no idea that jam making was so popular either ;) If Tipnut have copied your stuff and they have a contact email or something it might be worth emailing them and saying something. But there is definitely a split between people copying lists of ingredients and people copying your explanation, instructions, method and so forth and pictures too. The former isn’t copyright as Celia says, the latter is. I think it is worth putting some small statement on your blog, somewhere to indicate how you feel about copyright. So if one day, you do decide to pursue someone, then you can point to it and say, “Well, this is what it says on my blog.” I used to have a Creative Commons thing, but now I have a simple Just ask first policy in my sidebar and a contact form in my menu.

      I just had a look at Tipnut, that doesn’t look too bad, they have taken a short excerpt and given a link to your blog, so that if someone wants the recipe they have to visit you. I see one of Celia’s there too. They haven’t used your photos so that’s also pretty good. But it would be nice as you say, if they contacted you to let you know what they were doing. I totally agree! Fascinating what the web master says here : interesting that she is so concerned about copyright… I don’t see how she can copyright excerpts from other people’s work? I think the phrase ‘hypocritical’ comes to mind.

    2. Jeremy

      @ Mariana: Sorry to be dense here, and I hope this doesn’t affect your eye, but by “another resource called ‘Bing'” do you by any chance mean the search engine of that name? If so, I’d be glad to find my stuff there.

      1. Mariana

        Yes, I just had a proper look Jeremy – it is the search engine Bing. Right. Sounds like I should be pleased then. I see there are zillions of images on that site; crickey; I had trouble finding my own pics. And don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining; it was merely an observation. Thanks Jeremy.

        Oooh Joanna – your running hot on this topic! I’m afraid I’m nowhere near up to scratch on these copyright issues, so thank you for pointing out some of the do’s and don’t’s.
        Gosh you made me laugh with your comments about people googling jam and their reasons for it. Isn’t it amazing! Seriously I can’t get over how much traffic goes to these two recipes. Tomato relish is right up there too. I can only think it makes people reminisce of olden times and the olden ways. Pure speculation on my part; for all I know there may be thousands of people making jam as I write. I certainly don’t see evidence of that happening with friends and people around me; for that I can vouch.
        Thanks for checking out the Tipnut site. I only dropped in briefly. Sounds like I should be grateful I suppose and I see that it’s nothing like the copyright breaches as in your case. Good idea with the “Just Ask First” in your sidebar. Thank you for all your useful info – I must confess here and now that I own a copy of “Blogging For Dummies” and there’s things in there I don’t even understand. Hey. I’m over fifty. Can I use that as an excuse?

        1. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

          Tomato relish? yes please… If you want to read up about copyright Timethief’s blog has loads of resources and links on the subject, here is a link to her statement on copyright. I am just scratching the surface here. I think the thing is not to be surprised by it, the first time I came across it I felt very strange, as if a burglar had been in my house I guess. But that feeling has passed. It is useful to remember and not post anything that you wouldn’t want strangers to read, or real life burglars for that matter. If you want to blog just for your family, then have a private blog with passwords and turn off the search engine indexing. The more tech stuff makes my head spin too – I’m a paid up member of the 50+ club too :D

  5. heidi

    Hmm. I find this so disturbing, because the information is offered quite freely- we really only want credit because it what we share is personal even if it is only a recipe. I tend to adapt most recipes, try to give credit where it is due and only use my own pictures- but I’m sure I’ve transgressed. In a reposting of a recipe I found on Art is in the kitchen, I put up a link and then also gave my take on his recipe. But I wondered if I shouldn’t have even done that. (Except that his recipes are very quick and a little fuzzy and I figured even if people went to the link, the recipe was a little daunting because he is such a chef that he leaves out obvious steps- which I added in my version.)
    I find my stuff on those strange sites that are not by any identifiable person- commercial blogs of some sort that seem to be part of the whole spamming industry.
    It’s risky- going on the internet.

    1. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

      I doubt very much you have transgressed – It sounds to me as if you have ‘done as you would be done by’ here. If Art in the kitchen is unhappy with what you have written I am sure he would tell you. You are always very honorable and give loads of credit. I think your blog is a perfect model of that :D This reminds me a bit of when I commented on the images search a while ago… maybe I shouldn’t have posted this – I was just having one of those moments…. xx

      1. heidi

        I know the moments!
        I think you added a needed voice and insight into this problem. And it is always good to look into your own practices and see if they are right and most honorable.
        I’m glad you brought this up. :)

  6. Abby

    Thanks for this post, Joanna. It’s such a thought-provoking topic. I never know quite what the right answer is. When I started blogging, I never posted any recipes, being so nervous about plagiarizing someone else’s work. And then I actually read a post by a respected blogger saying that it was *bad* not to rewrite the recipe…that what people are looking for is your own take on the recipe, not just a reference to a cookbook…that that’s what makes your blog unique and worth reading. It’s all so confusing (especially as an English teacher who struggles daily with teaching students about plagiarism ~ what it is and how to avoid it and why it’s so offensive). Bah!

    Thanks for keeping a beautiful and inspiring blog here and for all of the great resources that you point us to! =)

  7. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

    To be honest, I don’t think there is a right answer and we all have to find our own way on this and be comfortable with it. If I read a blog post with a recipe I am familiar with I guess I want to read about what the blogger thought about it, if they found another way to do something, or if they changed something and got a different result that delighted them. I also love reading people’s blog posts when they talk about what went wrong and why, but that’s because I learn more from those posts than the picture perfect ones. I read people’s blogs because I like and respect the people behind the blogs at the end of the day and feel a connection there.

    I don’t know how teachers manage with the plagiarism issue these days, it must be very hard. And sometimes the line is very fine between ‘in your own words’ and an original text. I remember thinking that the author of whatever lit crit I was reading wrote it so much better than I ever could that I almost gave up writing my English homework in despair, but then I embraced quotation marks and bibliographies and I was happy and my teachers too :D

  8. Ann Hall

    Joanna, I am not a blogger, just an avid reader of same, and came across a post on this subject by My Baking Addiction, which may interest you. It is under “Changes to RSS feed” on 1st April. She appears to have had her whole blog stolen! I am rather shocked to find that this sort of thing goes on – perhaps I am naive!

    1. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

      Hi Ann, there is a blogger waiting to get out in everyone, I wasn’t one till a year ago, being happy to comment and post on forums and so on. I don’t know about whole blogs being stolen but nothing surprises me.

      Edit: I’ve just been and read My Baking Addiction’s post and I have added links to it and referenced it at the end of my post above. Thank you – it’s good to share experiences and strategies for dealing with these problems :)

  9. cityhippyfarmgirl

    Such a good post Joanna… They can be decidedly murky waters sometimes. Like Celia said, I’ve also started tagging my photos. As a few times something has been used and a lovely link as been made. No problem. But then someone else can be reading the new site and there is nothing to stop them from using my photo, as they probably didn’t even see my site to begin with. At least now they have to physically cut the cityhippyfarmgirl out of the photo if they are going to use it.
    Words?… jump and down, steam comes out of head and then a long sigh. I’ve put it down to that’s the internet. What can I do. Recipes?… that’s why I feel decidedly happier just making stuff up. (See I knew there was a good excuse to do more hack baking!)

    1. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

      If I took such beautiful photos I would finally figure out tagging and watermarking… but it is rare that my photos are that good. It might be a sub conscious thing on my part or just that I’m not that good at taking photos. Copyright on photos is very clear, unlike the thing about recipes, ingredients/instructions/text – not quite so clear. If you put an ingredient in the text, or write your recipe without a list of ingredients separately, that’s where I feel it’s all a bit muzzy.

      I love your recipes and your posts Brydie, – I think there comes a point for most people who spend a fair amount of time in food world when they have building blocks for recipes in their head and refer less and less to books anyway. It’s all good!

  10. Celia @ Fig Jam and Lime Cordial

    Mariana, don’t worry – links are a blog’s best friend, they’re not stealing anything, but in most cases they’re certainly not going to ask your permission, any more than a magazine would ask your permission to publish a website review on their pages.

  11. Suelle

    It’s a difficult subject. I don’t write out recipes if I can find them online, but in many cases that could mean I’m linking to a site which has already infringed someone’s copywrite. Is it better to rewrite a recipe in our own words and acknowledge the original source, if we can, even if we can’t provide an online link to the original? If 80% of bloggers have no compunction about copying and pasting online recipes into their posts, does that mean it’s an issue which we shouldn’t worry about so much? Should we be flattered rather than irritated, if someone uses one of our ‘original’ recipes, especially if they provide a link to our blog? I don’t know the answers, and probably spend more time worrying about it than necessary!

    1. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

      Suelle, I think it’s all really difficult and you make some very good points here. When I started blogging I looked for ‘role models’ and asked a lot of questions about this very issue. I tend to think that if a recipe has been written out in full on the internet and shown with permission (or so it says) then it is OK to link to it. Dan Lepard takes the view that you can list ingredients and from what I have read on copyright law that is indeed correct. However any text, instructions, descriptions and certainly photographs, drawings, diagrams etc are ‘original work’ and therefore subject to copyright. If someone baked something of mine, wrote out the ingredients, took their own photos and wrote what they did in their own words, and provided a clickable link back to the original. I would definitely be flattered and pleased. If they just cut and paste my text and then write questions saying ‘Oh I don’t understand what she means.’ which is what happened above it simply strikes me as a bit – well – stupid. I did email a content farm last year and ask them to remove my material from their site and they did. Try the Copyscape programme and see where it leads you, but be prepared to be annoyed if you do find something you don’t like. Have a good weekend! :)

  12. Nip it in the bud

    this has been a really fascinating read. I find it unbelievable (but do believe it of course) that someone would write something as if it was their own without linking back or asking to use a photo first. I’m curious now to ‘try’ Copyscape but think perhaps it may be better left alone if I wouldn’t like what I found!

    1. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

      It’s not meant to worry anyone Nic, it’s really about examining my own practice, and ‘thinking out loud’ – the other very simple way to see if your pictures are being used elsewhere is to use Google, the Images search throws the odd thing up too. I once found a little diagram of mine on slashing loaves and a bit of text on an Australian site, I wrote to them and they credited me. All sorted. I find very little from my blog but I imagine the better your images and your text, the more tempting it is. I am reluctant to link to the content farm that I know rips people off as it just gives them even more publicity, but I can email you a link if you would like to see an example of one in action. Again, as long as they have a contact email or something you can usually ask for your content to be removed and so far they have obliged. Some people don’t mind and see it as good publicity. If you have a particularly beautiful photo, you could try tagging it with a name or a logo or something like that, or use a watermark programme. :)

  13. Nip it in the bud

    thanks Joanna, not worried just flabbergasted at the cheek of it all.
    I reduce the size of all my pictures so at least if anyone tried to reproduce them the quality would be naff. Good to know there are options for people whose creations are being stolen (I follow a knitting blog where most of her unique knitted toys were being recreated and sold in China with no hint of crediting her)

  14. Choclette

    Oh lawks, it’s all such a mine field. I’m amazed people have the gall to just steal content from others, but I don’t think it’s anything new. Working in Education, I am aware there is quite a bit of unauthorised copying that goes on. As for recipes, surely they are all inspired by someone else’s recipe, they are adapted changed, evolved and become something different. I always try to acknowledge the source of my inspiration or the source of the recipe I’ve used, but as I always put it into my own words and am hopeless at following a recipe exactly I feel that I am being fair. Now wondering if I should try your software or if it’s another thing to worry about ;-S

    1. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

      Choc – you are quite right there is nothing new about theft in any shape or form.
      You have a distinctive voice and style and your blog posts couldn’t be mistaken for anyone else’s. :)

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