It seems that copyright is a bit of a grey area for bloggers, especially when it comes to blogging recipes. It can be tricky to find hard and fast rules about what you can and can’t blog, but this post will outline some simple and easy ways that you can stay on the right side of the law.
When it comes to writing recipes, it is very hard to copyright a list of ingredients. However, the way the recipe is written and the methods used are most definitely copyrighted and you cannot reproduce a recipe in its entirety without permission. There is the temptation to reblog a recipe because you’ve seen it elsewhere. After all, if it’s already on a website then it’s fine? Absolutely not! Once you have written your own recipe on your blog, or in any form of print media, then in the UK copyright is assumed.
There is also the misconception that you are ‘helping’ an author promote their book by showing everyone how fabulous their recipes are. Whilst this is well meaning, it is not usually the case. Imagine if every blogger chose to blog just one recipe from that book – there would be no point anyone actually buying the book if it’s all online for free! You could also be standing in the way of exclusivity agreements that authors and publishers have established with other sites or publications.
The best thing to do if you want to blog someone else’s recipe is ask for permission. Many bloggers would be happy to let you use their recipes as long as you are prepared to credit them and link back. If you are significantly adapting a recipe, and by this I mean changing several ingredients or the methods used, then it is considered good practice to credit the source you have adapted it from, but you do not need to ask permission. If you want to use an online recipe as it is, then simply add a link to the recipe without actually blogging it yourself – you can still use your own photos and talk about the recipe without writing the whole thing out.
When it comes to using photos that aren’t your own, again you must be very careful. Most sites will have licensing terms that you must check out before you post the photo and credit must always be given where necessary. There are very few sites that let you use images royalty and attribution free. A good starting place are morgueFile and Compfight.
Sadly for bloggers, there are more and more incidents occurring of content theft. In some cases, bloggers are even finding their recipes appearing in ebooks being sold on sites such as Amazon. This can be very distressing when you’ve put so much time and effort into your blog. However, there are several steps you can take to try and handle the situation quickly and effectively.
If you find your content has been reproduced online without your permission, firstly you should try and contact the site owner and request your content is taken down immediately. If you can’t find contact details on their site, try searching whois or nominet. If you have no luck with this then try contacting the company who hosts the website, informing them of the copyright infringement and giving as much detail as you can. They have the power to suspend the account of the offenders and often take complaints very seriously.
If none of this works then you can file a DMCA with Google, who can remove the site from their search engines. Google have their own policy and form for reporting copyright infringement. In extreme cases, you can instruct a lawyer and initiate formal legal proceedings, issuing a cease and desist letter.
In all cases it is important to stay calm and approach the parties involved in a professional manner, stating clearly and politely what it is you want from them. No matter how frustrating and upsetting it is, try to avoid losing your temper, becoming aggressive or calling them out on public forums. Remember, most cases can be resolved successfully at the first step.
This is just a simple guide and touches the surface of some copyright issues. It is not written as legal advice and if you have anything that you are concerned about when it comes to copyright, it is always best to seek proper legal advice.