Wednesday, April 7, 2010

A Question About Blogging Ethics

So I was writing up the recipe for these thin, crispy oatmeal cookies and I had a thought.See, I got the recipe from Cooks Illustrated. I was thinking, you know, I'm not sure how right it is for me to take this thing that other people made with the express purpose of charging for it and just give it away for free. I mean, America's Test Kitchen is the bomb, I want to support them and frankly I don't think I introduce enough new people to them to justify me printing their recipes. Heh.

I know some authors/publishers don't care, several of the cookbooks I've reviewed have given me permission from the get go. But with a company like ATK, where their recipes are their whole deal and they already have them all on a pay website, I'm less sure about whats ethical and whats not. Plus it's not like I have so many readers that I'm taking food out of their mouth, so to speak, but it's something I'm curious about. I'm actually going to contact them and ask for their permission, but I was wondering what the rest of the food blog world thinks:

Is it cool to post unchanged recipes from cookbooks/magazines and such?

If a magazine or cookbook is very old or out of print it doesn't bug me, or if I make some changes and can put "adapted from/inspired by" or some such thing then I'm fine. But when it's the straight up recipe from a current publication, well I'm less sure about that. What do you guys think?

42 comments:

Meghan said...

This is a great question. Supposedly, a recipe cannot be copyrighted, so technically I don't know what they can do about it. I am certain that Cook's Illustrated would NOT be happy about their recipes being posted verbatim on blogs, because of the time and effort put into each one and the fact that they charge for recipes on their website. However, my opinion is that by sharing their recipes, I'm making more people aware of them and perhaps bring them business. For example, some of my favorite food blogs often post Cook's Illustrated recipes. Even though I have my own subscription, they were recipes I hadn't seen. I then encouraged my aunt to buy a subscription as a gift for Christmas, the recipient then subscribed to the website after loving the subscription, and now my dad has purchased my sister and I two huge CI cookbooks - the complete 10 years of ATK recipes. So, things tend to snowball and I think they ended up getting more promotion and business because I was allowed to try some of their recipes "for free."

Long winded way of saying I will continue to post their recipes without feeling guilty :)

And those oatmeal cookies look very good!

Michele said...

This is a great question. I have no idea what the answer is though. I asked Babette a while ago and I am pretty sure she said it's okay because a list of ingredients can't be copywrited but maybe the wording can? I'm not sure. Let us know what you find out!

Hungry Dog said...

This is a tough one. I have mixed feelings--particularly with a few cookbooks that I cook from often--like Marcella Hazan. It's one thing to post one recipe but quite a different thing to post multiple recipes from the same book, even if you're encouraging readers to buy it. LUckily sometimes I'm just too lazy to type out a recipe. I'm interested to see what the other bloggers say.

Tangled Noodle said...

My understanding is that the ingredients list can not be copyrighted; however, the wording of instructions is protected, so that reprinting it verbatim without permission is in essence unethical.

When I've made a recipe w/o making any changes, I simply list the ingredients, minus specific amounts, and write a paragraph in lieu of 'instructions'. Instead, I will link to the site where I found it so that the original creator gets the credit and benefit of people's visits.

In the case of recipes from cookbooks, magazines, etc. where there is no link, I've followed the lead of Lisa at Lisa Is Cooking, who gives information about the book and describes the ingredients and methods without exact measurements or cooking times. I know that she has offered to share recipes via e-mail if a reader really wants it, but she's very respectful of the recipe creator's copyrights.

Check out this article from Food Blog Alliance for more details: http://bit.ly/15rjiN

Hope it helps!

Fallon said...

I always wondered the same thing! When I first started my blog that was my concern, the ethics on posting recipes and making sure the correct credit was given when needed. I kind of just go with it now. I always have links to the cookbook I used and try to get people to maybe buy it because it actually is a good cookbook. If I ever get that email saying I did something wrong then you learn from that.

Vicki said...

Hey Bob -
I'd be careful with Cook's Illustrated. See this link (I can't find the original post, but you'll get the picture).

Angie's Recipes said...

These oatmeal cookies look super!

Bob said...

Thanks for the responses kids, like dawn and Meghan I've always assumed that attribution took care of the legal aspects.

But I do want to specify that I'm not so much concerned about the legality of it, more with whether or not it's right in a philosophical sense. Things can be legal and still wrong, infidelity for example. Not that I think posting a recipe and cheating on your spouse are anywhere near the same level, but I think it illustrates my point. Heh.

Bob said...

Vicki: Well, I can't say that makes me like CI more. I've sent them an email asking them about this, I'll be sure to post about their response.

Leave-Room-for-Dessert said...

I agree with Meghan. I have posted CI recipes, and always always give credit where credit is due (no matter the source). I, too, am a paid CI subscriber/addict and proudly get the word out there about how great they are. I think they're fab, I TiVO their shows, buy their books & mags, and pay to use their site. I guess I see it as praise & promotion for them, however I do see your side of the argument, however, I am very curious to see the response you get from them.

Joanne said...

I've thought a lot about this actually. And my conclusion has been that most magazines and cookbook authors don't really care that much because in a way it brings consumers to them. There have been many times that I've seen a recipe from a cookbook on a blog and thought, wow I really want to own that cookbook. It's kind of like free publicity (unless the recipe is bad).

It's very cute of you to ask permission though! These cookies look awesome.

Pam said...

I always give credit where credit is due... I would hope people would do the same for me.

The cookies look tasty!

Mary said...

They can be pretty funny about this. They will give you permission if asked but will specify you make no changes to a recipe that has their name. Most developers don't care if you give them credit for the recipe.

Cristine said...

I believe in giving credit to wherever I found the recipe. If it is a cookbook that I am making a lot of recipes from (like my CIA homeschool challenge), I won't post the recipes. But as long as credit is given, I don't see a problem with it. :)

Goldie said...

I could argue it either way, really. I know that I hate it when I find out someone scammed one of my recipes and gave me no credit. For this reason, I typically give credit on my blog post about where the recipe originated.

On the other hand, just because you posted a recipe, that does not mean that someone who buys cookbooks is going to say to his-/herself, "oh, now I don't have to buy the book." For me, I become interested in cookbooks when I see some of the recipes. This is especially true for books which do not have all the photos of the food within.

I say you're fine as long as you are crediting the original source. You may also be selling their cookbooks, unknowingly!

Sook said...

I am not sure how that works but I always reword recipes if I followed a recipe exactly. But that is pretty rare. I always change recipes. If I borrow a recipe from a blog, I always link it back and sometimes, I don't even write the recipe on my blog and just leave a link.

A Year on the Grill said...

Interesting responses...

For me... I would never consider posting a recipe "as is" from a magazine or book. But, with very few exceptions, I never do a recipe "as is". So it becomes a question of how many changes do I make to claim the recipe "inspired by".

If I make a major change (say anything 1/2 cup or bigger or alter several ingredient), or add ingredients that change the flavor (I am adding lots of pineapple lately), I do not list a credit for the recipe.

A magazine, book or paid site deserves ownership, and I stay clear of those.

Mostly, the recipes I do get inspiration from comes from fellow bloggers. I assume as long as I advertise their site, they are grateful for the plug. So far, i have had no complaints from bloggers or copyright owners.

5 Star Foodie said...

It's a good question. I usually post my own recipes but I've been thinking doing certain recipes from a cookbook and was hesitant to post them because of the copyright. The few times I've made a dish from a cookbook, I just posted a picture with a description. The cookies look terrific!

Bridgett said...

If you tweak it enough to where it changes it, then I guess you can claim you were inspired by a recipe but heavily fixed it in your favorite. I always give credit where it is due whether a recipe is legally copyrighted or not...it just seems right.

Chris said...

This was a discussion going on in the Ethics and Legal group over at the Food Bloggers Forum last week. The general consensus was

1) An ingredient list cannot be copyrighted.
2) The instructions IS protected, so you must rewrite in your own words with your own experiences.
3) Even when you do rewrite, you should still give credit and a link where possible.
4) If using a fellow bloggers recipe exactly, then you should just like to their post and not reprint on your blog.

Amanda said...

Definitely a lot of good points made here. I like to make recipes out of cookbooks mostly, but also use websites, blogs, and magazines as recipe sources. I always credit and link, and if I change it slightly I say "adapted from". David Lebovitz wrote an article about this topic some time ago too.

basically, if I change 3 or more items in the ingredient list or change the method, that recipe is no longer the same recipe. I will almost always still say adapted by though.

I will usually take the original recipe, then go through and edit it to reflect how i made it. If I followed the recipe exactly, i will always make sure to record my notes as well.

There are those spammy type blogs out there that just take and post. They aren't even making the recipe, they are just trying to gleep keyowrds and make money, those are the folks that CI etc should be going after. ;)

I also agree with what many have said here about my post promoting their book, site or mag. When i post a recipe from a cookbook, I always genuinely promote the book to my readers, especially if it's a favorite, I'll encourage them to get a copy for themselves.

I'd be interested to hear what CI says!

Oh and loved that link that wsa posted by Vicki. It's rather old, so the secondary link that the blog post refers to doesn't work, but loved her banter about it all. Plus it's two years old, so I wonder how much merit all of that holds. I've posted CI recipes before and somehow I doubt I'll put them out of business, rather on the contrary, I think I'm helping to promote them. It's free advertising :)

Jeannie said...

Pity you can't post the recipe, yet:D WOuld love to try these cookies out they look so good.

Cinnamon-Girl said...

I don't like doing it unless I've made a lot changes in the recipe. I have heard that Cook's Country is tough about it. I'd be interested to see what kind of response you get. The cookies look yummy!

Culinary Alchemist said...

Hmmmmm I tend to agree with "a Year on the Grill" in the fact that, even though I may be using a recipe out of a cookbook or magazine, I never actually follow it verbatim. I have my own taste preferences and techniques that I use, so I very rarely follow the directions laid out.

I would agree that as long as you are not publishing a whole cookbook recipe by recipe and you rewrite the directions in your own words as well as giving credit to the original source and possibly a link, then it's OK to publish the recipe.

In the grand scheme of things, food is suppose to be about sharing, not just trying to make a buck. But that is just my personal opinion. :)

Danielle said...

Yep....I agree with many...and have heard the same thing....ingredients list is not copy-writable but instructions are. And give links and credit when applicable. What more can you do? right?

RKD said...

Well. . .I've never claimed that anything I've posted is truly my recipe. I usually say that I found it somewhere. Honestly I've gotten most of mine from books/mags that I picked up. I understand your ethical question and conscience to boot but I guess I've never thought about it that way. If anyone would ever ask me I would tell them where my recipes came from. I am an amateur cook anyway!

Jenn said...

I like to give credit where credit is due. But most of the time I like to change things up to make it my own version, but still credit where the inspiration came from.

The Duo Dishes said...

Definitely giving credit to the source as that goes without saying. We also make changes to recipes often, but the original always receives a link back.

Sasha said...

It's fine if you credit the source. It fact, it might even be a good thing. If a reader likes a recipe you posted from a certain cookbook/magazine, it might entice them to buy the whole thing, in which case the source will benefit.

velva said...

I think it is perfectly fine to post a recipe from a cookbook or other source as long as you give credit and state where the recipe came from and in no way claim the recipe to be yours.

btw, I have a Cook's Illustrated recipe posted on my blog right now.

Lea Ann said...

I always give credit where credit is due, post my changes to recipes in red itals next to their ingredients and just hope I'm doing the right thing.

tamilyn said...

I always give credit, but to be fair-I have seen the exact same recipe in maybe two or three books with basically the same written instructions, with maybe one saying 'cream the sugar and butter' and one says 'beat the sugar and butter until creamed'. But I always give credit even if I only use half of the recipe from one book and half from another.

Pie Scientista said...

I post recipes on my blog that are completely my own creation. If I ever have enough readers for anyone to make my food, it would not bother me for someone to post it on THEIR blog as long as they attribute and link back to me. Based on this, I think its cool for me to do the same with others.

theUngourmet said...

I think it's fine as long as you make it clear that it's not yours and state exactly where it came from.

Dani said...

Very interesting line of discussion here. I've gotta agree with the general sentiment of everyone else- as long as you give credit where credit is due, I don't see the harm. Aren't recipes meant to be followed? There's this whole vibrant world of food bloggers out there, reading and sharing their experiences with these recipes. If I find something that really appeals to me, I feel like I'm more likely to go out and purchase that publication-certainly not the other way around.

C. L. Hanson said...

I once posted a recipe (for stuffed grape leaves) from a cookbook. It wasn't verbatim, and I posted my own pics and commentary, plus a recommendation for the book and a link to where you can buy it (see here).

I think a single recipe falls under the category of appropriate-excerpt-size for a book review...

Dave said...

I figure that as long as you give credit to the recipe maker, you're covered legally. I usually try to post the source and a link to the original recipe if I can. But I don't know if I've ever heard of a blogger being sued over this.

Kate at Serendipity said...

Bob, I love it that you care about this. It seems to me that you've got some good advice about the legalities of this, but you asked about the morality--and as you pointed out, they're not always the same.

I think that most of us publish recipes so that others will use them. I love it when someone uses one of my recipes (as long as they link back to me and give me credit).

I love it even more if they change it--nothing is ever finished as far as I'm concerned. It's always possible to improve on it. After all, we all live in different places, with different ingredients available to us.

I agree that I'm more likely to buy a cookbook or subscribe to a website if I've seen a few of the recipes used by real people.

You go, Bob.

Terrianne, Call me Ree said...

Hi There!

This is a great post. It seems the do's and don'ts of blogging is such a grey area for a lot of people. As I'm new to blogging, I was posting recipes that I copied and pasted, thinking it was okay because the recipe was readily availabe on their website. I recently posted a recipe for an "Easy Jam Tart" of which I got from David Lebovitz. I left a comment on his website thanking him for a great recipe. A few minutes later I recieved a kind email with a lesson on how to post properly. Unbeknownst to me, copying and pasting was not okay. I learned that posting the ingredients exactly was fine, but I had to change the wording of the rest; preparations and directions. I've since been going over all my posts, changing the wording. For example, if the oringal directions say 'Grease cake pan' I would change that to say 'Coat cake pan with a thin layer of butter', or something to that effect. I've been learning so much reading wonderful blogs, like yours. Thanks again.

Terrianne, Call me Ree said...

Oh yeah, and above the recipe you have to say 'adapted from...'

I say 'recipe courtesy and adapted from' with a link to the page or recipe.

Anonymous said...

curious.....what did Cook's Illustrated say???

Bob said...

anonymous: They never responded, which didn't surprise me after I did a little research about their opinions on it. Turns out they tried to sue a bunch of bloggers a few years back and got their asses handed to them. Then Mr Kimball wrote a rant about how he hates food bloggers. So honestly I don't really care if they don't want me to print their recipes anymore. Heh.

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