Readers, I've taken a deviation from my normal Monday recipe to address an issue that has been an ongoing problem for myself and my fellow bloggers. I will have a new recipe up later this week! Thank you!
Below, is the exact phrasing from the U.S. Copyright Office regarding recipe creation:
Copyright law does not protect recipes that are mere listings of ingredients. Nor does it protect other mere listings of ingredients such as those found in formulas, compounds, or prescriptions. Copyright protection may, however, extend to substantial literary expression—a description, explanation, or illustration, for example—that accompanies a recipe or formula or to a combination of recipes, as in a cookbook.
The subject of recipe credit/acknowledgment is one that I have become very passionate about in my few short years of blogging.
As a smaller blog with fewer followers, I feel it's easy for other food bloggers to think that they can easily get away with stealing or slightly modifying my recipes and passing them off as their own.
The recipes most pirated include 5-Ingredient Quinoa Pizza Crust, Raw Peppermint Bark Brownies, Thick Raw Lemon Bars, Healthy Fun-Size Snickers, (the late) Pumpkin Fudge, and Personal Pan Cauliflower Pizza Crust.
Ah, my healthy 5-ingredient pumpkin fudge recipe....my greatest success/failure. Success because prior to my posting it on October 1, 2012, NO ONE (unless they were 20 pages deep on Google) had created a healthy pumpkin fudge. I was SO excited about the idea because it was so original, and once I posted it, the recipe was a huge hit for me. (You can see it here on Foodgawker, 19 rows down, on the right, with over 3600 views).
Failure happened when I didn't retest my creation enough. I became more entranced with the idea of my achievement rather than the actually execution of the recipe, and as a result, I knew in my heart the recipe wasn't the best it could be. Ultimately, I pulled it off the blog for that reason.
The kicker of the whole thing was seeing recreation after recreation of 'healthy pumpkin fudge', 'raw pumpkin fudge', etcetera, beginning approximately two weeks after my original post, from more popular blogs. Do you think any of them referred back to me as inspiration? Not a one. Is it possible they came up with the idea on their own two weeks after my post? I suppose, but I doubt it.
It was a devastating blow, because at the time, I was so small, and felt very cheated out of my idea.
While neither the Quinoa Pizza Crust nor the Cauliflower Crust are my original ideas, I added very original components to my versions, AND I CITED THE SOURCE from which I adapted both creations which, I believe, is how it should be.
With the exception of maybe 10% of recipes, we ALL get our ideas from somewhere, and it just comes down to how much we modify a recipe.
My Healthy Fun-Size Snickers Bars were a completely original idea, ingredients-wise, that I developed mainly from my Double Layer Cookie Dough Bars. Even the look of them was original, based on my laziness of not wanting to cover the entire thing in chocolate and make a huge mess.
I've actually had readers write to me (God bless you guys) about other bloggers stealing my recipes, and I've come across them on my own, only to have to address the blogger personally (which is not fun). Most of the chicks have been receptive, saying that they just 'forgot'.
I actually found my Cauliflower Crust recipe on another site (a recipe I worked very hard to make dairy-free), but the girl had literally changed the cauliflower to broccoli and simply doubled every single ingredient.
After writing to her and confronting her, she admitted to basically nothing and has not acknowledged me in her post to this day.
The tricks that some bloggers come up with are amazing. I've actually seen some people remove the dates on their posts in an effort (I believe) to cover up such indiscretions. Trust me, I read a lot of blogs, as I'm sure most of us in this business do, and I'm acutely aware of the upstanding people, as well as the shadier ones that won't ultimately last either because of their unscrupulous actions or because they have no original ideas of their own.
It gets me extremely worked up, because I'm here at my humble house, spending our hard-earned money, as well as my time on these recipes (the Cauliflower Crust in particular was a bitch) and another larger blog comes along, copies what I do and receives not only accolades, but also views, followers, and, ultimately, money.
I know there are a few rare bloggers who aren't out to monetize their blogs, but honestly, most of us are (including myself), so this really is a bigger issue than what it may initially seem.
I think it's extremely important that we cite the main source from which we are adapting a recipe (I even cite inspirations, if I feel the recipe is unique enough).
Again, there are VERY FEW original ideas.
These Chickpea Chocolate Chip Cookies are outstandingly original (and I see them ripped off quite often), Cauliflower Crust began as a totally original idea, Black Bean Brownies began sometime in the early-mid 2000s, with some of the earliest recipes from Weight Watchers sites, Skinnytaste and Ania Catalano, and (to the best of my knowledge) Jason Mraz pioneered the avocado chocolate bliss that we all know and love to this day.
Believe me, I get wanting the world to think I come up with every recipe on my own, that I'm that smart, that much of a culinary genius!...but in reality, the best thing I can do, is try to make a recipe the BEST it can be! That way, when someone tries it, they like it so much better than any other version they've tried, that they do end up considering me the food wizard I so desire to be.
When To Cite (in my opinion):
David Lebovitz wrote a great article on this subject, in which he lists the following rules for recipe attribution:
The rules that most cookbook authors and food writers follow are these:
1. If you're modifying someone else's recipe, it should be called “adapted from“.
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 someone else's recipe for inspiration, but changed it substantially.
3. If you change three ingredients, you can in most instances call the recipe yours.
Number 3 is a tricky area, but if the recipe is so unique, you may want to give credit for the inspiration.
There are hundreds upon hundreds of recipes for dishes like hummus and desserts such as chocolate chip cookies, but if I'm making Cayenne and Lemon Chocolate Chip Cookies and Peggy Sue over at Hot Southern Kitchen just made Cayenne and Orange Chocolate Chip Cookies, chances are I should refer over to her as my inspiration source. I think we can all use our common sense here!
I hope this hits a chord with some of you, and that we can all work together to give credit where credit is due!
As I stated above, just make the recipe the best it can be, and others will take note. You don't have to try to hide the fact that you received inspiration from another recipe or that you adapted it. In the words of David Lebovitz, 'when in doubt, always give attribution!'.
Thanks for reading.
janet @ the taste space
Wow, 3 ingredient changes make a recipe your own? I guess I use the words adapted and inspired more loosely. In any case, creative theft is very hard to prove but I would like to think your creativity will persist if genuine. Please keep it up. 🙂
I know what you mean, but I think he's referring to universally made recipes, such as hummus, that don't change much. I definitely think with some recipes it can be difficult to determine 'theft', but many are fairly obvious, especially when the ingredients are simply doubled or altered slightly. Thanks for the comment Janet!
BTW, you are a culinary genius!
Thanks Peggy! Sorry to hear of your trouble! That's so odd about the publishing company, I wouldn't know what to do either! Very shady...
Thanks for writing this post. If I find a recipe I want to share I don't even write it out on my blog, but rather say "go find the recipe here" with a link to the original blogger.
I have had a smoothie picture and recipe stolen from me and reprinted in several self published books on Amazon. When I contacted Amazon, they couldn't do anything about it, and when I googled the person and their "publishing" company I found nothing. Nothing! When do you google something and find nothing!?!?!? Totally suspicious.
Consuelo | Honey & Figs
Sorry to hear this has happened to you Lauren! I'm also struggling with people making my cauliflower nuggets (my most popular recipe by far) giving me absolutely no credit... and usually they don't even bother changing the measurements. It's so frustrating!
Loved the post, girl! Keep the awesome job! xxxx
Gabby @ the veggie nook
Totally agree with you my dear, it's so discouraging to have your work ripped off or reposted somewhere without our consent! Good for you for writing this post- you work so hard on your blog and your ideas are so original! I know that will bring you success in the end.
Mary @ Fit and Fed
It's a tough world out there blogging, sorry you have to deal with the frustrations! And then there's the stealing of photos....
Great post Lauren it's so important to get truth out there. I'm going to share this!
sorry to hear that you've encountered this so often - it's disappointing to hear that people would rather claim your ideas to be their own rather then give credit where it is due. the blogger community should be a supportive one, after all!
as always, keep up the great work with your recipes, i'm a regular reader and I really enjoy your blog 🙂
Thanks so much Andie! 🙂
I actually just read a blog post with a recipe which is the exact same as a recent post on a popular site. I have actually seen it recreated a few times, and rarely credit is given to original blogger! The post today even included the same tips to make it vegan! It must be so frustrating for you! I find it annoying as a reader and unfollow the dishonest blogs!
That stinks for the original blogger! It makes me happy to see that readers like yourself are aware of such things though. 🙂
Great article and very helpful. Now a question, I put a recipe on my blog from an online site in another country. I credited that site and gave a link back. I took no credit for the recipe. It was amazing and I wanted to share it. some time later i got a nasty email, not from the site, but from the woman who was paid to develop the recipe. I assumed that since she was paid to develop it then it belonged to the online site. Honestly, I never even noticed her name . I did as she asked and added her name to my post and never heard from her again even though I offered her the chance to do a guest post on my blog about developing recipes .
Did I do any thing wrong?
No, not from my perspective! It sounds like she was overreacting and that you handled it as best as you possibly could. xo
speaking of pumpkin fudge recipe....I cannot seem to locate it either here or on the 'blog' site either. your 5 ingredient pumpkin fudge? Is it still on your site? thx
I've pulled it off because I just wasn't happy with it, sorry!
Keep at it in spite of all those who rip you off! I am a big believer in integrity, GOD sees everything. Those people may think they have gotten away with something, but God sees their heart. We reap what we sow. Your blog is fantastic! I am trying to transition away from sugar, but still like to make treats. This is an amazing blog!!!!!
I totally agree, thanks so much Julie!
It must be maddening. I see very many "popular" blogs ripping off lesser known blog recipes or even old school cookbooks (esp the "pot-luck" ones like church cookbooks or Junior League ...) . I always want to comment, but never do. I also notice poeple who take/adapt recipes from say, AllRecipes.com never link back to actual recipe. WHY?!?!?! I like to view the adaptions and ratings. At any rate, I had to speak up because I appreciate your hard work and recipes. I belive integrity will eventually bring success. Thank you!
Thanks Stephanie! It's good to know readers actually recognize such tricks. 🙂
Thanks for this post.
One of my biggest pet peeves is when you find your recipe written out on someone else's Instagram account and then they act like they are doing you a favor by sharing your recipe. It gets me all fired up.
Ugh, I hate that too! And it seems there's nothing to do about it, in that case. Thanks for your comment Sarah!
I understand this is a huge problem in professional circles too. There are some celebrity chefs who are absolutely notorious for ripping off other people's hard work and passing it off as their own. I will admit to not even reading a blog post if it's an idea that is making the rounds over and over. Another thing that irks me: topic blogging. Someone sees a post with an idea they like, and it goes around the bloggers like wildfire. They just can't leave it alone. I am betting none of them will touch this one! I feel your pain; it sucks when people don't attribute their sources. They should, and some day, I hope they will.
Haha, thanks Mari! 🙂
Rebecca @ Strength and Sunshine
I think it is a very fine line. So many recipes now (common ones), the ones people feel will get a lot of traffic and posted on every food blog you can find. I think it gets pretty boring (in the first place). I'm sick of seeing the same recipes over and over again. If someone has done it and you have no additional unique spin to give it, then just stop and take some time to be more creative on your OWN.
I agree! Everyone is in a different place with their eating and blogging and we all have different audiences, so there may be value in posting a (good) recipe over and over, but the blogger should definitely make it their own AND cite their inspiration for it.