Keeping it Ethical. Keeping it Tasty.

At the moment I’m sitting on the couch, watching a movie while baking off a batch of what I consider to be the easiest and most delicious homemade chocolate chip cookies. It happens to be a Martha Stewart recipe, widely distributed online, published in her Cookies cookbook, and in a 2005 magazine. It’s a no-fail-cures-a-raging-sweet-tooth-in-20-minutes kind of recipe. Not that it can’t easily be found online, but can I write about it on this blog? I mean, can I publish the recipe too?

The ethics of food blogging have been on my mind since I started this blog, but without a definite idea of what that meant, I’ve felt a little apprehensive about publishing recipes. Of course the number one goal of mine is to develop my photography and food styling skills, while testing out new recipes and perhaps even developing a couple of recipes along the way. Is it possible to develop a successful food photography blog without sharing recipes? I love cooking and baking, and would love to share recipes. I’m a professional cook, and while this is a personal project, I’d like to treat it with the same level of professionalism and integrity that I do my day job. I’m not here to distribute other people’s work, I’m here to share my own. For some advice I turned to some food bloggers I have a special respect for.

Deb Perelman over at Smitten Kitchen has shared her practical ethics, “[O]ut of respect for the place where I started my hunt for the dish, and out of a stubborn belief that it’s in bad form to pretend you were the first one to ever rub butter into flour, I like to give shout-outs to places that got me started on the path to what I wanted to achieve in the kitchen.” As far as taking a recipe and re-using it, Deb suggests, “You are welcome to run the ingredient list as-is, but you should put the directions in your own language and add your own tips. By doing this, you are creating a new piece of work, not just creating an infringed copy of what is already out there.”

Officially the U.S. Copyright Office has a somewhat vague description of what parts of recipes can and can’t be copyrighted. “A mere listing of ingredients is not protected under copyright law. However, where a recipe or formula is accompanied by substantial literary expression in the form of an explanation or directions, or when there is a collection of recipes as in a cookbook, there may be a basis for copyright protection.” They say that there MAY BE a basis for copyright, but let’s just show a little professional courtesy and read this as: the ingredient list is up for grabs, but commentary and instructions are off limits.

Justin Schwartz of Justcook NYC sees food blogging ethics from the perspective of a cookbook author and publisher. “Think about it this way — what if you publish a cookbook someday and then dozens of bloggers start posting your recipes for free on their sites? Or they “adapt” your recipe by changing one ingredient? You might start thinking it would be nice if people would buy your book, right? If a recipe I blog about is readily available on the web, I’ll post a link. And I might reprint a recipe on my blog occasionally, but not very often.” As someone who dreams of seeing my work in print one day, I understand exactly where he’s coming from. For that matter, I’d be pretty upset if someone were to take my work and use it for their own gain.

So basically, after a great deal of thought this is how I intend to ethically write on this blog:

Recipes published here will either be:
1. Entirely my own creation.
2. “Adapted” from a specifically noted source, only after extensive recipe testing and manipulation.
3. Linked directly to the originally published online recipe.
4. Not published at all and reader will be directed to the appropriate cookbook.

Photographs and stories of course, will remain exclusively my own works.  {Whew} It’s nice to get that off my chest. Let the blogging continue!


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