Food Blogs and their Copyright, Theft, and Attribution

There are a lot of blogs on the Internet and people are sharing information they have gathered from outside sources with or without permission all the time. It's usually the new bloggers who violate copyright or break ethics because they just don't know any better. I'm pretty sure I probably did something I should not have done with my first blog. Hey, this is me learning here! This is my second attempt and I want to improve :)

Blogs may be regarded as private spaces where people are can share whatever they want freely but there are still rules and guidelines every writer online should be aware of. In particular, food blogs are known for sharing recipes that are meant to be used by others and possibly shared by others after them. Some of the recipes that people love are not their own and if they want to share it, it should be done is a proper and respectable way. As a new food blogger myself, I want to know all about this. Although I do plan to present original work on my blog often, there will be times where I would love to share a great food discovery with my readers. If I do share another author's recipe or work, I would like to do it properly because it's the right thing to do ethically and I don't want to get myself into any legal trouble. Ahem.

I have read the Food Blog Code of Ethics which pointed out how bloggers should practice more like journalists and I get that. It's better to be safe than sorry and if I had to write ethics or guidelines myself, I would probably state something similar. If we all treated content and reported everything like professional journalist, then it's likely none of us would ever get into trouble. The problem is we're not journalist. There are blogs out there that are written by professional writers and journalists and I can see how copyright should be taken seriously for them. However, I believe most of us here are doing it as a hobby and for personal reasons. That of course doesn't mean we should be allowed to post about anything, take full credit for other people's contributions, infringe on copyright, and commit theft. In the contrary, I find that most people do attribute the source and are honest about what they write. At least from what I have looked at. There are times where written consent would be required but for the most part, giving the original source credit with a link back seems to be sufficient.

In the article, How to Deal with Copyright Theft, the author pointed out the following after reviewing the US Copyright Law with regards to recipes:
"Basic recipe instructions are not covered by copyright because they are considered methods.  However, the law does protect your photographs of food, and your headnotes or accompanying stories."
So when it comes to a simple listing of ingredients, that is fine but detailed instructions can be copyrighted so it would not be okay to copy it. Similarly, I read the following on another post researching copyright in recipe:
"Of course once someone has committed the recipe for a dish to writing, then that written form is protected by copyright.  But it is still the writing that is protected, and not the dish itself. So again, you don't infringe copyright by making the dish from the recipe, nor by publishing your own description of how to make the recipe."
A food blogger who wrote the article How to Deal with Copyright Theft, stated this for herself:
"As long as a photo of mine is published with a link to the source recipe on my site, and doesn't actually include the recipe itself, I consider the photos a great way to market the content on my site, and I usually don't care if they are republished elsewhere."
So the question is how do we give other people credit when we use part of their creation? The article I read about Recipe Attribution stated the following, which is also what most cookbook authors and food writers follow and is also part of point #2 made in the Code of Ethics:
  1. If you're modifying someone else's recipe, it should be called "adapted from," then cite the source.
  2. If you change a recipe substantially, you may be able to call it your own. But if it's somewhat similar to a publisher recipe, you should say it's "inspired by," which means that you used else's recipe for inspiration, but changed it substantially.
  3. If you change three ingredients, you can in most instances call the recipe yours. But if the recipe is so unique, you may want to give credit for the inspiration.
LINKwithloveFinally, to conclude this post I would like to point out something called LINKwithlove, which I came across from reading the post link with love on local kitchen. The author talked about how she discovered a lot of her work being shared all over the Internet and how many times it was done without permission. Instead of being angry over it, she politely contacts the site's author and it's usually resolved quite pleasantly. Here is a little bit about what LINKwithlove is about, taken directly from their site:
LINKwithlove is the idea that by banding together in a "neighbourhood watch" type way - we, the internet, could teach and learn respect when dealing with intellectual property online. It is our dream that art, music, photography, words, design, ideas, etc - be shared in a way that is respectful, educated and kind.


  1. I love food and fruits. Thanks for this interesting blog to read. Indian Cuisine.


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