Thursday, September 13, 2007

Recipe Use

Frankly, I'm not sure whether to be happy or annoyed, but I'm kind of both. I received a cryptic comment from one of my readers today congratulating me for having a recipe in her local newspaper. It was the first I'd heard of it, so I did a Google search on the recipe and found that it was not only in that newspaper but also in my local newspaper and several others around the country. A writer for the Gannett News Service used it in an article and considerately gave the blog's address. It's flattering, and I'm glad she gave the URL, if not my name, but I wish I had known in advance. I missed seeing it in my local paper by a week.

Now doing further research, I find that the AP also picked up the column in at least one newspaper, but completely cut the part about it being from my blog.

My question: Is using one recipe, without the surrounding chit-chat about it, considered fair use? I'm not really considering complaining; the original, uncut article was very flattering. But I'm just wondering if this is really ethical or not.

By the way, here's a link to the article as it appeared in my local paper.

This post was written by SusanV from FatFree Vegan Kitchen


cybele said...

Basically the ingredients list is fair game, but anything else, including the description of how to compile them into an edible thing is eligible for copyright protection.

It appears that they made some effort to change the text that accompanies the ingredients. But it seems awful similar (in that they simply changed some word choices, but didn't really write anything new).

In your footer you ask for credit, which is what the newspaper did.

While they may not have done anything technically wrong, it does leave a bad taste in my mouth. I would send them a note ... or the editor a note. Make special mention that the syndicated version omitted the credit.

Kalyn said...

I think it's just bad manners at the least to use something in this way without checking with the blogger. But at least your local paper gave your blog a link. Hope you got a lot of traffic from that. How sad that it got missed in the syndicated version.

Anonymous said...

Frankly, it is the kind of PR many bloggers would kill for, but you should have been asked. Creative Commons rules certainly allow for using your work once with credit.

Manners are hard to come by in all situations nowadays. In commercial situations I suspect they are extinct unless they are trying to sell you something.

PS, there is something wrong with blogger today and it is permitting only anonymous non-blogspot comments. This is Judith in Umbria from I hate anonymous comments.

Sarah Caron said...

Well, she credited your blog so she did the right thing. If you want to be informed of things like this being use, you might want to add that language to your fair use policy.

As for AP, I think if they took her story and used it without crediting your as the source for the recipe, that is an ethical violation and I WOULD complain. They aren't supposed to do that. They can take any content they want from member newspapers, but they cannot reuse content that has outside source (for instance, if they ran a chart that was obtained from another company), that outside source still needs to be credited. (For that reason, materials by freelance writers for newspapers are generally off-limits to AP.)

KT said...

It's not just the ingredient list that's fair game, but the instructions as well, insofar as they are just rote descriptions of a process.

Anything within the writing that could be deemed creative, such as a particularly poetic way of describing the recipe (instead of the standard 1. Preheat oven to 450. 2. Mix first three ingredients in a bowl, etc.) or writing surrounding the recipe that tells stories or otherwise contains creative works is copyrightable.

But the part of the recipe that just describes the process of making the dish is not protected per se. It has to be a "substantial literary expression," which means it has to be a little more creative than simply describing the method of preparing the food. It's a part of copyright law that excepts "ideas, methods or systems" of doing or making something from copyright protection and includes things such as instructions for filling out forms, or mathematical formulas.

That said, I think it's generally recognized that ethically, providing attribution is the proper thing to do whenever you are using someone else's work.

Nika said...

Perhaps then one should wax poetically in every part of one's recipes.

1 voluptuous yet virtuous organic chicken, dismembered in a most woeful manner (quartered and skinned would do)
2 sulfuric and crispy onions, run across a mandoline in a spirited fashion
1 impish clove of garlic, roasted into submission

After having said blessings to the four elements and praising one's ancestors back at least 35 generations, don one's latex free opera length gloves and liberally caress the roasted garlic across the ethical chicken pieces with some conviction. With this treatment applied, insert the mandolined sulfuric slivers of onions into the cavity of a whole ethical fowl or atop the pieces in case of dismemberment of said fowl.
Thrust this melange into a adobe teakwood-fired oven, close up the opening with purple clay sourced from the Euphrates and allow the fowl to stew in it's own juices until an ultrasonic thermometer indicates an interior temperature of 145F.

Elise said...

Nika, that's great! And right on target. Recipes, as methods, are ideas and ideas are not copyrightable. Only substantial literary expression when used to describe them is. So when Gertrude Stein spends 10 pages describing how to make a stew (did she do that or was it Alice B Toklas?) then that's copyrightable. Turn your instructions into poetry or creative prose and you have something.

Susan, I would take this as a compliment, and terrific that they posted the URL.

SusanV said...

Thanks everyone, especially Nika for that poetic rendition of roasted chicken. You may not convince me to eat meat, but you've certainly convinced me to be more original!

I hadn't stopped to think that the exact wording of my copyright notice allowed people to print my recipes with only a link to my blog. When I wrote it, I was thinking only of other sites copying my recipes and never dreamed any of them would wind up in print. I've revised my copyright to make it clearer that people should ask permission first.

Kalyn, unfortunately I haven't noticed any traffic at all from the article, even though it's appeared in at least 4 papers that I know of, with the link intact. Also unfortunately, I'm pretty sure it never appeared in my local paper, just on its website where few people would find it.

I'm going to take it as a compliment, as Elise says, and forget about it. I do wonder why the writer, who says that my blog is one of her favorites, didn't take a minute to let me know about the article. I would have been thrilled and probably would have directed my readers to it.