The Busy Blogger’s Guide to Copyright



We love our blogs.

We spend hours tinkering with the design, taking photographs, and crafting posts that will say just what we want them to.

And it’s a lovely feeling, seeing your blog become more successful, and your audience growing, month by month.

But there’s not much more annoying than realising that some cheeky so-and-so has taken all that hard work and love and posted it on their own website – with no credit to you.

So here’s what you need to know about copyright.

First things first: don’t be a copyright thief.

Before getting outraged about someone ripping off YOUR content, it’s important to make sure that your own blog isn’t an offender.

Everything that is created is protected by copyright – words, pictures, music. You don’t have to do anything special for something to be protected by copyright. The very act of creating something means you are protected by copyright.

So when you use Google to find an ingredient image, or visit a popular food website to get some background on a recipe – and then simply reproduce that content on your website, you are in breach of copyright.

If you want to use someone else’s content on your blog, there are some important things to think about:

  • Do I have permission? If you contact a site, and someone gives you consent to use their content, that’s fine.
  • If the content is published online using a creative commons license, then you should be fine to use it, providing you credit the copyright owner
  • Am I using just a small snippet of the content for the purposes of illustration or review? This is allowed, under something called ‘fair use’

Food Blogging and Copyright

There’s a saying in media law that you can’t copyright an idea.

Similarly (by and large) you can’t copyright a recipe. You might think your recipe for griddled scallops and pea puree represents a massive innovation in the foodie world, but the law doesn’t agree with you – and anyone is free to mix scallops and peas in the same way, if they choose, and then blog about it.

BUT – the words you use to describe your recipe are protected by copyright. So while someone can copy an ingredients list, and write about your recipe, they must write their own words alongside, and use their own pictures.

It’s good practice in food blogging to try and adapt recipes in some way if you’ve been inspired by another blog or website. Try adding a few new ingredients or modifying the cooking method – that way you can be sure you haven’t breached anyone’s copyright.

When you’re the victim

Sadly for bloggers, there are a growing number of blogs that simply copy and paste recipes, instructions, photos and text from other sites. Make no mistake, this is a breach of the law, and it’s fundamentally dishonest. It’s also incredibly upsetting for the victim who has put so much time and effort into their blog. As a community, we firmly believe that it’s important bloggers support and value one another, and respect copyright.

If you find your content has been reproduced, here are some tips:

First, 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. Request that the post is removed, or remind the site owner of your licensing costs should they wish to pay you for the right of publishing your content.

If you have no luck, try contacting the company that hosts the website, which might be Google (for Blogger blogs) or an independent hosting company (for self-hosted WordPress blogs). The host has the power to suspend the offending blog, and will usually take complaints seriously. Make their life easier by including links to your original content, and the copyrighted content, and demonstrating that yours is the original content.

If none of this works then you can file a DMCA with Google, who can remove the site from their search engines. Google has a clear policy and form for reporting copyright infringement.

In extreme cases, where you feel your reputation or ability to earn a living has been damaged by the copyright theft, you can instruct a lawyer and initiate formal legal proceedings, issuing a cease and desist letter.

Regardless of what route you take, we suggest keeping calm and polite as far as possible. Most cases of copyright theft can be resolved without the need for public spats.

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.

Sally is the publisher of Foodies100, the UK's largest directory of brilliant UK food and drink blogs and bloggers. Every day of the week, we promote the UK's best and most exciting blogs about food and drink.

Discussion1 Comment

  1. This is useful advice as to what to do if you are a victim. I suspect the hardest part will be finding the contact details. I’d just like to add something that I find a personal bug bear. When using or adapting someone else’s recipe please add a courtesy acknowledgement and link – it may not be a legal requirement, but it is good practice.

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