Have you heard about this new aggregator-type blog, called Foodshots? Here’s the explanation from the site:

Foodshots is an online collaborative arts project that showcases the very best in food blogging. Everyone is welcome to contribute, but every nomination for entry will be reviewed. Foodshots is like a continually evolving cookery book that belongs on both the coffee tables and in the kitchens of food enthusiasts and chefs everywhere.

Our mission is to be a place where food bloggers meet each other and discover themselves through writing and images. It is a place where the experiences, personalities and moods of each contributor create a source of inspiration and celebrate the heart and soul of food blogging.

Foodshots is different from online food photography groups and galleries; it is a collection of the most evocative, exciting, quirky and interesting posts from the world of food blogging.

I think this is a great idea. And the creator, Kate, is doing it right; she emailed me the other day, asking permission to feature my post about Butterflied Roast Chicken. I gave her the thumbs-up and the post is now live. As you can see, she’s using my photograph and just the first few lines of my post, with full attribution and a link back here.

Just the other day, some writer friends and I were chatting on a message board about copyright and recipe usage (it came up because I included Gourmet’s recipe for Sweet Potato Gnocchi in my post about it). This is an issue that comes up time and time again with food blogs: When is it ok to include someone else’s recipe, and when isn’t it? There’s a lively discussion of the subject on the Food Blog Alliance’s site (be sure to read the comments, too, since there’s some very helpful info there). The author of the entry, food writer David Lebovitz, recommends a) asking for permission before reprinting, and b) rewriting the instructions in your own words. Personally, I think some of the participants in that conversation go a little too far in their copyright arguments. If a recipe is plainly written (“Cool potatoes slightly, then peel and force through ricer into sheet pan, spreading in an even layer”), and I’m including my comments on the experience of following those instructions, and I’m giving full attribution, I don’t see what the problem is. This post, from Tarte Reform, is much less emotionally stated and, I think, much more helpful. It quotes actual legal casework, and offers this conclusion:

While many works can be protected, procedures, like “preheat oven to 350” or “mix until light and fluffy” cannot be copyrighted, no matter how it is explained. Even copying directions word for word into your blog is legal so long as you do not include the bits that could be considered “personal” or “unique” (my best example would be anything that starts with “in my experience” or “did you know”).

Now, if Kate from Foodshots had asked to reprint my entire blog post on her site, I would’ve said no. If I’m not being paid for the work, I want readers to read my writing on Words to Eat By, where they can click around and get to know me. By using only a small portion of my post, Kate very wisely offers her own readers a little taste from a lot of different writers, without stepping on anyone’s copyright.

What’s your take on all this? If you’re a food blogger, how do you deal with other people’s recipes?

This Post Has 8 Comments

  1. Amy

    I either try to find somewhere on the internet to link to the recipe (someplace sanctioned by the author, like their own website, Epicurious, etc.), or I get permission from the author. It just seems like the right thing to do. I've only been turned down once when requesting permission.

  2. debbie koenig

    Interesting, Amy. So what do you do when you want to discuss your experience with the recipe, as I did with the gnocchi? I linked back to it, but in order to add my commentary I did need to include the actual recipe. (and btw I clicked through to see your blog, but the link didn't work!)

  3. Alexandra

    Foodshots sounds like a great idea. What fun to have your post featured!

  4. Brittany (He Cooks She Cooks)

    I come up with a lot of my own recipes on my site, but I have a few rules for myself on copying those from another source. If it's from something like Gourmet, I link to the site where it can be found, but I copy/paste the recipe, noting any changes I made.
    However, I am stricter about using content from other bloggers. If I don't make any changes to a blogger's recipe, I won't reprint it. I'll simply link to it. (For instance, I made pita pockets for a Greek-style sandwich. I wrote my recipe for the meatballs and hummus, etc., but linked to the pita recipe I used from another blogger.)
    One time I made a batch of cookies almost exactly like a blogger's original recipe, but for adjusting the levels of cornmeal and flour. I wasn't going to rewrite all the directions, when she'd already done a great job, so I emailed for permission.
    My take is, most bloggers aren't getting paid for what they do, they just want readers and comments. And if they are getting paid, it's based on pageviews and clicks. I wouldn't want to take away any potential readers of their site.
    On the other hand, recipe writers from Gourmet or Food Network have salaries that are not affected by web traffic.

  5. Cakelaw

    I am of the view that all recipes came from somewhere – they were based on someone else's previous experience, to which the next person added their two cents worth. So I believe if you give full attribution and try and re-write in your own words (if possible), then this is sufficient recognition for thw work. I now own over one hundred cookbooks that I mainly bought after I started blogging, on the basis of a recipe reporduced in someone else's blog – some great free marketing.

  6. debbie koenig

    Brittany, I'm not sure I have as well-thought-out an approach to bloggers' recipes as you do, but I do treat them differently. If I tweak the recipe at all, and sometimes even if I don't, I almost always rewrite the instructions. A blogger's recipe seems much more likely to have the author's personality written into the instructions, kwim?

    Cakelaw, that's an excellent point about what's truly original (very little). And as for cookbooks, well, I've worked in book marketing for more than 20 years now and seeing a cookbook's recipes discussed on blogs is DEFINITELY a good thing, even if it's reprinted in its entirety.

  7. ReadyMom

    I always source the recipe's creator if it's not original content–and provide a link. But I like to include the recipe on my site and not just point readers elsewhere because when I do internet searches I hate having to click through to find what I want. I'm with Debbie–it's so much easier for readers to look through the recipe, with your additions/suggestions at your site. Interesting discussion.

  8. jeanneeatsworld

    I usually link to the recipe in my post, unless I've made quite a few changes that need to accompany the ingredients or instructions.

    I will sometimes only link to a cookbook that contains a recipe – for example, I use the tomato sauce recipe in the French Laundry Cookbook. I also follow it word for word (unlike most recipes). I figure if someone really wants to have that recipe they'll find the French Laundry Cookbook and borrow it from the library or buy a copy.

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