Friday, June 10, 2005

Ownership Rights

The last post about Chowhound and their ownership policies made me wonder a little bit about rights of ownership to our blogs. Does anyone know what claims we have to what we do own? And what rights do we have as people who post our original thoughts into cyberspace. Do any of you know of anyone (a blogger) who persued anyone for taking their writing without permission? (That's just nosy curiosity.)

I looked at the Creative Commons site and think its all well and groovy, but not really good for protection of what I consider mine (Mine! Mine I say! Mine!). I have had my posts reprinted elsewhere, which I consider very flattering, and they have always been attributed, but I do wonder...

From the post "Why do you blog" I see a few of you are hoping your blogs may end up as book deals (or in some of your cases, they already are, or will be), so is this a concern to you? And if it is, what do you do to ensure your writing remains yours?

Thanks everyone!



Fatemeh Khatibloo-McClure said...

Hey Rachael -
I don't worry too much about my "words" -- I figure if I didn't have some little bit of ego tied up in all this, I would have taken Gastronomie off line a long time ago to protect everything I write.

The only things I do worry about, from time to time, are my recipes. I get a little freaked out when I run across a recipe that is INSANELY close to mine, and was published maybe a few days or weeks after mine.

I always disclose if I've tweaked a base recipe of someone else's for my own, and I would hope other people are ethical enough to do the same. I do wonder, though.

Kate said...

In my own case, I find I don't really care about the recipes on my site all that much. Recipes, in my opinion, are best when shared with all.

As I am also an advocate of open-source philosophy. If someone can make a better dish from a recipe on my site, more power to them. If they refer back to my initial recipe, then great...if not? Well, there's not much I can do.

My non-recipe posts I'm not too worried about either, for a variety of reasons.
- My 'voice' is fairly distinct (I hope), which would make it difficult for anyone else to use any of my posts on a regular basis.
- Blog Copyright infringement isn't really that big of an issue. Why? Because no one knows if the posts are actually worth anything, money-wise. If it's not worth anything, not many people are going to be inclined to take your work as pass it off as their own on a regular basis.
- Information sharing. Some of what I write is based solely on techniques and tips, items which aren't copyrightable either. If someone wishes to take pieces of posts (or even entire ones) in order to communicate specific information, Then again, I have no problem with that.

Having said all of that, the only event in which I can imagine getting into an ownership battle is if someone profited massively off of my work. But the odds of that happening are next to nil.

To answer your question, I don't think ownership is an issue for me, as it hasn't been one before. If it ever is, tools are in place to rectify the situation, via dates of posts, databases, and simple tenor of voice.

Owen said...

OK - lots of nice intertwined issues here.

First - absolutely your blog is copyrighted by and for you EVEN WITHOUT YOU EXPLICITLY SAYING SO!

However, it is prudent to say so - for example go to and scroll down to the very last line of the blog.

Creative Commons is a nice idea but not for me - essentially you are giving away the rights under very specific sets of circumstances that vary according to the particular creative commons license you choose.

I choose NOT to do this because underneath everything else that I do I am actually a professional writer and editor.

Now recipes are different. You cannot copyright a process or the basic description of that process. Therefore most recipes CAN be copied. But you CAN copyright the description and write up of that recipe as distinct and seperate from the process. Although I didn't know this when I did it (I did it because I am lazy) this means that most of the recipes I write up are more copyrightable than traditional recipes because I write them as a narrative without lists and detailed process. BUt even they may not really be copyrightable.

The good news is that it is highly unlikely that you will be hurt financially in any way by any of this. If they make money of something that is yours and you find out they will get hurt a lot more than anything they will receive financially.

As to full reprinting - that is ethically and legally probably a no-no without permission. A quote and a link is on the other hand ALWAYS legal (no matter what some big name publishers used to adn still do think)

AND - while we are on the subject - many of you who read this should not sell yourselves so short. You are better writers and more knowledgeable about food than most of the people who post on Chowhound and eGullet. You are better writers and more knowledegeable about food than many newspaper food writers. You are better writers and more knowledgeable about food than some major magazine food writers. And (IMHO) the best of you (that doesn't include me) are BETTER than the BEST magazine writers. Your work is worthwhile, high-quality and valuable.

If I had the capital and if I were to do Digital Dish 2 right now, I could double the number of contributors, quadruple the quality, put in color photography and put out a book that would truthfully be the best food book of the year of any kind. As it is Digital Dish the first, essentially from the early days of food blogging, is still an extremely fine food book and compares well with many others. So, those of you who have read it, please go and say nice things about it at! And those of you that haven't read it - what are you waiting for? go to and get you copy right now!

paul said...

I too, don't care much about my words, despite what Owen says, if someone's stealing my writing, they deserve all the typos they get.

I believe in open source and the whole free flow of knowledge thing, but I do have two issues at the moment - the constant battle with idiots who think they can hotlink to my pictures for their commercial sites, and a site that is publishing my feed on their home page, photos and all, as content.

Hotlinking is another issue, and is a subject for another post, but my only blog-related legal battle was when a restaurant threatened to sue me when I switched a pict of an omlette they were stealing to something rather disgusting. The southern lawyer that called me was obviously clueless, since he threatened to have me 'banned from the internet".

Sam said...

hilarious. good one paul!

i saw the most disgusting picture ever the other day on a raw food blog. It turned my stomach - and I can't get the image out of my head.

so if you ever need a bad picture again let me know and I will point you in the direction.

the good thing about blogger is they don't allow 3rd party or hot links so if someone steals my picture, they aren't stealing my bandwidth too. well - it's google's bandwidth really.