I am sure many of you have been witness to some "debate" online recently - especially within Facebook recipe sharing pages - over copyright issues as they pertain to food writers, food photographers and bloggers.
Terms like, "stolen content," "sharing," "intellectual content" and "theft" have been thrown around on many social media sites lately. And, I would like to take a moment to share with you - from my personal experience in recent days - what the fuss is all about. I've waited on writing this for a few days as I did not want to write out of bitterness and anger. I hope that you understand that I am writing this from the heart and because there is a good deal of misinformation out there on the subject. I am not a lawyer and do not claim to provide legal advice. I encourage you to research the subject more should you desire to look into the legal aspect in more depth.
For those not familiar with what has been going on, there has been an enormous increase in people starting up Facebook pages for the sole purpose of sharing recipes and food photos. I know that I am bombarded daily in my own personal news feed on Facebook with shared recipes posted by many of my well-meaning friends and family. If this is happening to you within your news feed, you'll probably notice two types of shared posts:
- A beautiful food photo accompanied only by the name of the dish and a full recipe for you to follow should you choose to make the dish at home.
- A beautiful food photo accompanied by the source of the recipe and photo ... as well as a link to the source (original blog or website).
My experience with this issue ...
I have been heavily dealing with this issue for the past week. Last Monday, I was contacted by a fellow blogger who had seen a photo of mine on one of these "offending websites." The recipe (including my photo of the dish) was included in full, there was no mention of my blog name, no link was provided and no credit (attribution) was given to Joyously Domestic. Furthermore, commentors on the photo were raving about how wonderful the recipe sounded ... and the page owner was saying things like, "thank you so much" while taking complete credit as if the photo/recipe was her own. I've even had a few people remove/crop my copyright watermark from my photos so that people would not see the source. It hasn't just happened on Facebook to me either. I have found three actual websites that are using my content and claiming it as their own ... all while they are generating revenue from advertising. They are financially profiting from my work.
It has been disheartening, hurtful and quite a time-consuming situation.
I've dealt with the same issue on over thirty different pages and sites this past week. I've contacted the page owners privately and kindly. Out of all of them, one (yes, one) was nice about changing the post to accurately credit Joyously Domestic. Many of the others have taken to their pages and followers to bash the blogging community. I am saddened and frankly, up in arms about all of this.
That is why I felt the need to create this post.
First, let's quickly dive into the legal aspect of it all. Here is what the copyright law states:
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.
Source: United States Copyright Office
As shown, ingredients are not covered under copyright law. However, when a blogger accompanies those ingredients with instructions or directions in their own words, those words are the property of the author (blogger). Furthermore, when we photograph our food, the photo is our property. We are the owner of the "illustration" of the recipe as it pertains to the photo.
Now, with the basic legalities out of the way, I want to address what this means as it pertains to a food blogger.
Joyously Domestic (the blog) is my job. Many bloggers provide for their families through income generated on their blogs. Our income is based upon traffic to our blog - through sponsors and advertisers. For those of you who do not blog, have you ever wondered what it takes to be a blogger?
I will speak here only from personal experience as it is pertains to what goes into generating just one recipe post here on Joyously Domestic:
- I shop for and purchase ingredients after researching and developing a recipe.
- I prepare the recipe (sometimes more than once).
- I stage the food for photography purposes.
- I photograph the food (usually 50 - 70 shots).
- I download the photos.
- I edit the photos.
- I watermark the photos.
- I write the blog post and type out the recipe.
- I upload the photos to the blog post.
- I proof the post (and often ask family to proof it for me).
- I publish the post.
- I categorize the post to the appropriate tab(s) on my blog.
- I promote and share the post to various social media sites (on my own accounts, of course).
- I share the post/photo/recipe to legitimate recipe sharing sites (where attribution/credit is properly maintained).
- I respond to comments/questions pertaining to the post/recipe here on the blog and across other social network sites.
Personally, one posts usually takes numerous hours of work. I work full-time from home at blogging. It is a joy and a pleasure. But, it is work. It is my job and it is how I supplement my husband's income for our family.
But, now let me tell you what happens when a food blogger's work is spread across the internet with no proper attribution and with a full recipe attached to their photo(s).
Many of the Facebook pages that are incorrectly posting our work have generated thousands and thousands of followers. What this tells us is that our recipes and photos must be pretty darn amazing for that many people to continue to share our photos with their friends and family. That is awesome and rather encouraging as a member of the food blogging community. But, several of my photos were shared over 15,000 times each on Facebook through these "recipe sharing pages" ... and none of that exposure benefited me as the owner of the property.
Reports have been made to Facebook and they have been actively working to either remove the illegal content, shut down pages (when necessary) or both. Facebook has strict copyright policies as they pertain to how a page can be operated and how to share content. I appreciate that they are working hard on this issue.
So, what does this mean for you and I??? What's the correct way to share content?
I encourage you to take a look at that food photo you're sharing with everyone on Facebook. Does it have the full recipe copy and pasted (a major no-no)? Can you find the name of the person or blog whose work is represented (proper attribution)? Is there a source link to go check out the recipe or instructions?
A fellow blogger from i am baker recently wrote on this very topic. I encourage you to read through her post on the subject, as well. Here is how she explains what this all means:
"Its up to YOU to make sure that the image you have shared on your facebook page is within legal requirements for fair use. If you share an image that does not belong to you, you are liable. It doesn't matter if you shared it from a page that shared it a zillion times, when it ends up on your wall that responsibility now lies with you."
Source: i am baker
Sharing the improper way provides no credit for the creator and owner of the work. Furthermore, it provides no incentive for the reader to visit the source (blog/website) that created that beautiful-looking and amazing-sounding recipe.
What you should see when content is shared properly:
- NAME OF THE RECIPE
- SOURCE OF THE CONTENT WITH A LINK TO THE ORIGINAL CONTENT
What you should not see:
- SOMEONE PRESENTING THE CONTENT (EITHER INDIRECTLY OR DIRECTLY) AS THEIR OWN
- THE RECIPE INSTRUCTIONS WRITTEN IN FULL
- ABSENCE OF A LINK OR CREDIT TO THE SOURCE OF THE ORIGINAL CONTENT
Here's a question that I keep seeing on many of these offending sites - by people who just don't understand our plight:
"Why put your recipes and food photos on the internet if you don't want them shared?"
Many people believe that just because something is out there on the web that it is "free game" and up for the taking. I like the analogy of one fellow blogger on this issue. "If you saw a car in a parking lot (public place) that you really, really liked with the keys in the ignition, would it be okay to take it without permission?" Of course not. That would be stealing.
Please don't think that bloggers are saying that they don't appreciate their work being shared. Actually, the truth is quite the opposite. We love sharing. In fact, we are in the business of sharing. SHARING IS WHAT WE WANT TO HAPPEN WHEN WE PRESENT OUR WORK FOR THE WHOLE WORLD TO SEE. We, literally, live for sharing.
We just ask that it be done in the proper way. More imporantly, the law requires that it be done the proper way.
I'll wrap this post up now and let you get back to your lives.
In closing, I felt that I needed to address this issue especially since many of the page owners associated with these offending sites have taken to bashing the blogging community, lying to their followers and have waged an all-out war trying to turn people against bloggers. And, because I have joined in on some of the conversations on these sites regarding proper sharing and copyright law, I have been confronted with a good deal of hatred and bashing by misguided folks. I wanted to ensure that should my personal name or the name of this blog be viewed in a negative light by any of my readers, you would know the truth and the story behind the situation.
Thank you for taking the time to read through my long-winded post. I do appreciate your readership to Joyously Domestic and truly do appreciate when you share the content here - in the proper way, of course. And, I want to say thank you to the sites and people who have stepped up to do the right thing by correcting the way they share!