Stealing Other Bloggers Content Is Never (Ever, Ever) Okay

Before I get into the issue of stealing other bloggers content, I have a great recipe for Loaded Baked Potato Dip I want to  share with you…

2 Strips of Bacon
2/3 c. plus 1 Tbsp Olive Oil
8 Cloves of Garlic, smashed…

…Wait…I can’t post this!  This is a recipe I found from The Food Network!  If I post this recipe, especially with their photos (without clearly stating it is a Food Network recipe/photo), I will probably have a lawyer knocking at my door by noon.

Yes, there are a million recipes on the Internet, most very similar to others, but if you knowingly steal a recipe (or writing) from another source (magazine, newspaper, cookbook, and yes…blog) without citing the original source, you are breaking the law.  It is plagiarism at it’s lowest form. If you use someones photo (s) without permission, you are in for a double whammy of copyright infringement. Can you imagine someone ripping off Charles Dickens, Will Shakespeare, or Julia Child’s content?  Let’s just pretend a blogger is today’s Shakespeare, and don’t do it.

This content stealing thingy happened to my friend Tonia, from The Gunny Sack, today. (I mentioned her in my five bloggers to follow post last spring.)  She published a recipe for Pepperoni rolls, which she created back in March, 2011.  She also happens to be an incredible photographer, so had lots of lovely tutorial and glam shots of her Pepperoni Rolls.   Have other people made snacks similar to Tonia’s?  Sure.  But in the case of the website that took Tonias content, they stole directly from her site, word for word, including her copyrighted photos.  Not only is it unethical, it is illegal.    As a matter of fact, Tonia is protected by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which was amended in 1998, to include Internet content.  The website that stole her content broke the law, plain and simple. (Tonia has copyright protection on her writing and photographs, but technically not her recipe.)

Interestingly enough, if the website that stole Tonia’s content had done things a differently, they could have re-published her content, and been within the law.  All they had to do was contact Tonia, ask if they could use her photos, then link back to her site, and state where the recipe came from.  That’s it!   It’s a matter of courtesy (and respect) for intellectual property, but many people forget or ignore copyright laws. 

I know, I know.  Some of you are thinking…

“What?  This is crazy!  Why make such a big deal about this??”

“Don’t you, Tonia, and other bloggers want your recipes and content to be seen and shared?” 

Yes, of course we want to share our recipes, photos, stories shared!  But I know in my case, 99.999999% of the recipes on my blog are self-developed, so I make sure I am protected from copyright infringement.  I have clearly stated that my writing, recipes, and photos are copyright protected, so if I find someone using my content without my permission, I have a legal leg to stand on.  In addition, I have clearly stated that my blog content is my own, and if a recipe or content is not my own, I site the source, as I did here.  There is nothing wrong with sharing a recipe.  Bloggers love when you share our recipes.  We just ask that you site our original posts when doing so.

Bloggers work much harder than most people give us credit for. I sometimes have to make and re-make a recipe several times to get it right.  Sometimes, I am in the kitchen for hours trying to perfect my dishes, especially when I am developing a recipe for another company.  Then, when I get the recipe right,  I photograph my work, edit my photos, and write my blog content for you. Writing takes time..I don’t just slap this stuff up here, regardless of what it looks like :) !  My ingredients cost money.  My time costs money.   To have someone steal content, which I spent money and time to create, is rude/disrespectful/creepy.

Look at it this way…I am an artist, and the kitchen is my canvas.  Would you steal an artist’s paintings?  No.  Don’t steal a chef/writer/photographer/bloggers art either.  I blog because I love to cook, and I love to share my cooking with you, but I do ask that people respect the work I’ve done.  By all means share those recipes with your next door neighbor, your mailman, even your Aunt Tillie…just be sure to let them know where you got the recipe from (A Little Bite of Life).  If you use my photographs (any of them on my site, not just my food photographs), ask me first, pretty please.  You know…kind of like when you were in kindergarten, and the teacher taught you not to take Johny’s scissors without asking.  I expect the same courtesy, and so does Tonia. 

I can read your mind, and I see your next question….

“What about Pinterest?  Jules, I see your stuff on Pinterest/Stumble Upon etc. all the time.” 

Yes, you do.  You see lots of bloggers stuff on Pinterest and Stumble Upon.  But if you recall, the photos posted on Pinterest should link back to the original bloggers site.  Pinterest is essentially citing a bloggers photo, with a direct back-track to the writers website.  Pinterest is awesome that way!  It gives those of us, who work on the Internet, a way of sharing our content with many other people, while still keeping our copyright intact.  By the way, if a bloggers original content does not link back to their site on Pinterest, it means that someone else has stolen their content, or they have been “scraped” by a web scraper.  (Web scraping is nastiness at it’s lowest form!)

All this copyright stuff can be difficult to understand.  Stanford Law libraries can explain all this better than I can, so check out their site for more information about Copyright Law, Fair Use etc. (See what I just did?  I cited the source and linked directly to their site.  Yeah me!)  If you are a blogger/website owner and you want to see if someone has stolen your content, here are a few resources: Copyscape, Tineye, and Google Webmaster tools.  Also check your track-backs. 

Let’s recap.   

Web Scrapers=Bad  
Content stealers=Bad
Pinterest linking back to original source= Good
Websites re-publishing other material without permission=Bad
Websites re-publishing other material with permission and links back to original= Good

The Internet is a vast resource of information, some of it quite similar to other things you will find on-line.  Many recipes and stories can be very similar.  If you take content from someone’s website, you must source them, and if you use their photos, you must ask permission, and have a link source under the photo.  It’s simple, courteous, and ethical.  Your first grade teacher would be proud. 

To find out more about Copyright law and your rights, visit The Electronic Frontier Foundation on their website.  Chilling Effects is another great resource.  Visit their website here.   (I am not a professional lawyer, so all of this is my opinion, plus a little bit of research/knowledge.  Consult a lawyer for professional copyright advice.)

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Julie is the Arizona-based lifestyle writer/editor of A Cork, Fork, & Passport. She is an accomplished chef, traveler, kid wrangler, dachshund chaser, and social media expert.
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