When Is Content Original?

We are all enthusiastic and passionate about home food preservation. We want to share that passion with others as much as possible. I've had the pleasure of seeing thousands of posts from numerous contributors showcasing their creativity as they turn out jillions of jars of jam, gallons of liqueurs, mountains of meat. It thrills me to see the spark of passion and read the breathless tone of enthusiasm in their voices. 

Occasionally, though, I've noticed, or discovered after the fact, that the content bears more than a passing resemblance to other published works. Sometimes, it's entire posts copied directly from others' blogs; often, it's a verbatim recipe wrapped with a modicum of original language. 

Recipes -- which is to say lists and quantities of ingredients -- cannot be copyrighted, but "substantial literary expression in the form of an explanation or directions" and images are subject to copyright protection. When using some or all of another's recipe, including an image, there are some broadly accepted etiquettes about the use, attribution and adaptation of recipes. 

First and foremost, cite your sources. If you are using a recipe from another source, it's polite to get permission first, and top of form to give credit and link back. If you are adapting it or deriving a new recipe with inspiration from it, permission is not necessary, but the citation and link back are certainly good form. David Lebovitz covered this topic beautifully on Food Blog Alliance. 

Bloggers, while independent publishers, should still uphold the same ethical standards as other journalists. A group of food bloggers established a Food Blogger Code of Ethics a couple years back, with a solid moral foundation from the Online Journalism Review's code. Transparency, accountability and respect of copyright are fundamental tenets. 

Punk Domestics is designed to be a platform where DIY food enthusiasts can share their passion and their original content generated from that passion. Please remember to cite your sources if you are reusing or adapting content from elsewhere, whether a print source or online -- after all, they created their content in the same spirit of sharing their passion as you. 

var addthis_config = {"data_track_clickback":true};

Some bloggers quotes recipe

Some bloggers quotes recipe to their sites, at least they mentioned where it came from or who is the owner of that recipe. Some blogger just copy the work of others which is not accepted by many bloggers too. Once a an original content is copied that is plagiarism. -more youtube views

A sticky subject...

Not long ago, I read an archived post by a very popular food blogger whose blog I read and very much enjoy. In it, she included a recipe that she described as "adapted from" a specific cookbook. I happened to have the cookbook on hand, so I pulled it out to see how she had tweaked it, and to possibly avoid having to print anything out. Well, it turns out that she'd only adapted it if she understood the word "adapted" to mean "copied." She had paraphrased some of the language, but really it was exactly the same recipe. I have to say that this left a bad taste in my mouth. I still enjoy her blog, but I'm less confident in the originality of her recipes.

A big Problem With ALL Blog Categories

I have seen this more and more on the internet. I do alot of graphic design and one of the things I teach people who want to learn is "expect anything you put on the web to be stolen". Its not right, its not something you should ever do, but other people can and will steal things. The same way cyber bullying is a big problem because people online aren't quite "real" people don't see using copy&paste as an infringement for some reason.

I know I often get lazy when posting pics of my canning on facebook, I want to start a blog to follow my canning and garden and this is a good reminder to start being more thorough like it were any other article.

Copying vs. Inspiration

This is a tough thing. I think if they are copying verbatim, it's obviously a bad thing. Taking inspiration from recipes and making it your own isn't the same though. Even slight changes still makes it different. A good example is my lemon souffle. I actually take my inspiration for it off of a lemon meringue pie recipe from the Joy of Cooking. But it's obviously not the same recipe at all - pie vs. souffle - different ingredients, ratios, and techniques. I read different cookbooks to get the basics down for making a souffle and then adapted the pie recipe to work with how to make a basic souffle. Does that mean I can't claim the recipe as my own and that I now need to get permission from the publishers of the Joy of Cooking because I took inspiration from their pie recipe? If so that would mean that 99% of the recipes out there can't be claimed by anyone.

A totally different recipe

In your case, you've developed a completely different recipe. A commonly cited rule of thumb is that if you change just three things, the recipe is sufficiently adapted to be original. You've gone well beyond that and created something that is utterly different in form than the inspirational source.

In terms of using multiple sources, again, if you're cobbling a number of things together and it's not recognizable as a single cited source, then you've adapted it into original territory.

Where it's problematic is when people use a recipe verbatim or very lightly adapted and do not provide credit. If you are using a single source and at most barely adapting the recipe, then you should absolutely at a minimum cite, and possibly ask permission. Again, David's post on the matter is quite comprehensive.

Recipes and copyright

Thanks for bringing this topic up! Here in New Zealand, I got involved in a recipe copyright drama just last week - except it was a TV studio that was taking the recipes from blogs and websites here and all round the world. It was a very interesting experience. I wrote up the whole saga here, and got a lot of interesting and helpful comments as well:

Thanks for your site. I'm a big Punk Domestics fan!

Credit where credit is due

So you think bloggers should uphold the standards of journalism? Good for you. I get a lot of push back when I suggest that. My feeling, like yours, is that you can never go wrong with being professional.

I have also covered the topic of attribution and sources a few times:

And for ideas for what to do when someone steals your recipe, see Elise Bauer's post

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd> <img> <b> <i>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

More information about formatting options

Are you human? Sorry, we have to ask.
By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.