Increasingly, recipe writers are finding their own content appearing somewhere else.
Part of the problem is how ridiculously simple it is to lift work verbatim. On the net, just copy and paste. Some online companies write code that does it. In print, just retype a recipe verbatim, and present it as yours.
Here’s what Gwen from Bunky Cooks said in the comments of a previous post here in Will Write for Food:
“I was amazed at the number of people who came up to me after I spoke on a panel on ethics at IFBC in New Orleans last year. They said they had no idea that there were ethics they should be adhering to when writing their blogs.
“Isn’t some of this just common sense? Aren’t we responsible for our words and actions just as you would be in a job or at school? Why do some people think the internet is a place where everything is free and anything is yours just for the taking?”
Good questions. At least she and I got the opportunity to educate. I also spoke on an ethics panel for IFBC last year, and talked for 50 minutes on the subject last weekend at Food Blog South in Birmingham, AL.
Here are some new developments from last week where both individuals and companies are involved:
1. Recipes ripped off as an e-book. Elise Bauer got Amazon to shut down a page where someone in Bangkok scraped the content of Simply Recipes into an e-book and sold it on Kindle. A reader of her site tipped her off. One week later, eight more Kindle e-books appeared on Amazon that ripped off Bauer’s recipes.
2. Recipes appear on a recipe database site — surprise! A food blogger emailed me to say she recently stumbled across several of her recipes on Tastebook. She didn’t add them. She has contacted the company but has not heard back from them yet.
Similarly, some big bloggers are fighting with Velvet Aroma and Feastie, which scrape blog recipes into their sites, without permission.
3. Recipes ripped off by a future cookbook author. That’s right, people don’t just steal online content. An editor at a publishing house emailed me to say that, after receiving a cookbook manuscript, she discovered two plagiarized recipes during a taste testing.
“Someone at the table said something like, ‘I swear this is just like a (celebrity chef’s/magazine’s) recipe I’ve made.’ We went online and found the original recipes in a matter of minutes. Everything’s nearly a straight copy-paste, including a typo!
“We had an intern spot-check some of the recipes the author had submitted, and we found a third had also come from the Internet. We talked with the author, who blamed an assistant. The author sent us replacements and assured us they were original recipes and not taken from other sources. The plagiarized recipe we discovered today was one of those replacement recipes.”
I introduced the cookbook editor to Amanda Hesser, who deals with this issue of lifted recipes during Food52 contests. She suggested a search of recipes at Eat Your Books. The site won’t show you the entire recipe, but shows a list of ingredients that appear in recipes in cookbooks, magazines and blogs, so you can take a first step in determining which are similar.
What can you do if you find someone’s stolen your recipes verbatim? First, take a deep breath. Not everyone who does this is evil. Some people are simply naive. I hope, if this has happened to you, the person is in the latter category.