Blogging Blues – Plagiarism and Copyright

Blogging, Writing and Publishing with Integrity:

This week I found another of my pictures had been stolen.  Now, I don’t regard myself as a great photographer.  But sometimes the pictures I post on my blog are personal to me.  The last time I noticed a plagiarised photo it was one of a friend of mine that I’d taken at a cookery school.  It had been posted on an over 50’s website and the lady in question wasn’t 50 – in fact she was  the delicate age of 49,  so being on an over 50s site was just a little insensitive (especially as she’s rather pretty and looked about 40 in the shot).  I’m guessing the journalist who wrote the piece was even younger and that’s why there were no pictures. I objected and the photo was removed.

sarah at Waitrose Cookery School 2

This time the photo was a particularly nice one of a bar in Bermondsey.  Now, I only looked at the publication in question because I had been asked if I was interested in writing for them.  I was really annoyed when I went to check out the site to find my photo sitting there.  Again the photo was quickly removed by the ‘online magazine’ when I asked.

Jose on Bermondsey Street

The silly thing is, I don’t generally mind ‘lending’ my photos where appropriate, for a credit.  If the site isn’t commercial (both of these were) I don’t generally ask for money either.  I’d just like to be asked and credited.  But I get really hurt when MY content is stolen.  I’m now using a plug- in to watermark my photos, but when I first started, I didn’t actually think anyone would steal in that way.  In any case, we all know how to crop photos and removing a watermark really isn’t that difficult.

My point is that we shouldn’t have to police our own content and we should make sure we do as we’d expect others to do to us.  Otherwise, how can we expect respect from other publishers on the net?

I’m not a lawyer but my understanding is that all photos are covered by copyright unless expressly marked otherwise.  I’ve had my site scraped in its entirety, and had the scraper site removed as a result, but somehow, that seemed a lot less personal that conscious targetted plagiarism or photo theft

Similarly all written content, including that from Wiki, is copyright.  Indeed Wiki has its own guidelines about how to use their content which makes it quite clear you can’t just cut and paste from their site. But, I know there are plenty of people who seem to think that it is fine to copy anything online, even though I am sure anyone with kids wouldn’t allow their children to answer homework questions that way.  Or am I am just out of touch?

Of course we all know that recipes are a ‘grey’ area in that you cannot, for obvious reasons, copyright a list of ingredients.  After all, if someone is making a 7 inch Victoria sponge you can’t insist they use different quantities to you because you have a version on your blog already. BUT, no one should be copying the ‘method’  that has been painstakingly written out because that’s what is legally considered ‘the expression of the recipe’ and is covered by copyright.

Post your own recipe into copyscape and take a look if you don’t believe it can be spotted.  You’ll see where your recipe is syndicated – and if anyone has ‘borrowed’ that will show up too.  Obvious plagiarism shows up as big blocks of pink text which have been copied from elsewhere.   You can find when your images have been copied too, using google image search.

Outside of legal issues, there’s simple old fashioned good manners.  If you take a recipe from someone else and adapt it then it is polite to say that’s what you’ve done rather than just pretend it’s all your own good idea.  If you quote someone’s article, just link back so your readers can find out more.  If you want to borrow a particularly good photo why not ask and if they say yes give the photographer credit?

I’m quite sure those bloggers and online content publishers claiming to be professional reviewers, recipe developers, photographers or travel writers will know in their hearts that magazine and book editors will not continue to work with people who constantly plagiarise.  After all we’d want the same courtesy extended to us if we reported an instance of plagiarism or image copying on their publication.  And, more significantly, whether or not you position yourself as a professional writer or photographer, by plagiarising you bring the entire online and blogging community into disrepute.

So, if you are part of the cut and paste brigade or if you regularly borrow photos from the web please THINK before you do it again, go back and put in a credit where your recipe is clearly a derivation of one that someone else has already published, follow Wiki guidelines for crediting if you are quoting from their site and ask permission to use photos from other sites if you want to do so.


Footnote: There’s been some concern about Pinterest in comments. Their terms are quite simple, if you post images they should be yours – and by doing so you give anyone using pinterest the right to re-pin WITHIN pinterest only! Here’s the longhand version


Want to discourage people from ‘borrowing’ from your site?  Here’s a neat badge you can use that might just help a bit

copy (1)


cut and paste this code into your blog:

<div align=”center”><a href=”” target=”_blank”</a><img alt=”London Unattached Copyright Badge” src=”×150.jpg” width=”150″ height=”150″ /></a></div>


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  1. says

    I’ve got a similar problem atm. A fellow book blogger has used a photo of mine without permission. I’ve messaged them to request they remove it and gave them a link to a fellow bloggers post about using images. I’ve yet to hear back from them.

    I’ve also had people rip off my whole site and caught someone trying to sell my photos on EBay. People seem to think that because it’s on the internet it’s fair game.

    • says

      I think some people genuinely believe that ‘on the internet’ equals free to copy. But no one would encourage their kids to do it…so what makes it right for an adult!

  2. Suzanne says

    Great post and yes, I totally agree. I recently discovered that someone had copied an entire post if mine and passed the words off as her own. When she linked it up to my weekly linky, I drew the line! I think some people just have no idea that this is not acceptable.

  3. says

    Well said. I always try and make sure I give credit where appropriate for recipe inspiration etc and I really hope that I haven’t missed anyone out at any point. I think my academic background helps though as I’ve had plagiarism warnings drummed into me for so long. I tend to take the stance of if in doubt add a reference when writing about ideas etc that aren’t necessarily all your own. It’s a real shame that people don’t take the time to give credit to the original authors/photographers and even worse that some seem to think it is OK to steal content without asking.

    • says

      I suspect an academic background really does help. I know I wasn’t sure about Wiki till I checked…and I also think some bloggers hide behind the idea that making a few amends to ingredients = not plagiarism. But, to be honest, why? Giving credit to the originator simply adds to the validity of your own version (especially if you are a naff baker like me!)

  4. says

    A very good point Fiona and well made too.
    This happened to me recently an online shop purporting to work with bloggers, they had already used my photo and recipe, they had linked it back but that wasn’t the point. They had used stuff from my blog to make their site look better/more inviting etc PRIOR to asking. The thing that annoyed me most was that they took the watermark copy written to me OFF my photo. It was removed when I pointed out the copyright rules stated on my blog. These tactics are cheap and nasty, and I for one won’t tolerate such as you say ‘bad manners’.

    • says

      I’d have been furious. As it is, I have got both the stolen photos from my site removed. But, I think we exacerbate the issue while a few bloggers take recipes and content from online sources and cut and paste into their own blogs with minor amends. As a community we need to be squeaky clean if we are to be heard.

  5. says

    I get frustrated too Fiona and have had content copied in the past. WIth regards to your point about homework, if my 3 girls have completed their homework and I read through it, if I can tell they copied parts of it or it is not their own words then they have to rewrite it. I have told them that it is illegal to copy the work of others and pass it off as their own, not to mention unethical and lazy. Hopefully bloggers and others will take note and produce their own content instead of taking advantage of the hard work others have put in.

    • says

      It’s such a different world to when I was kid and there WAS no internet. I do wonder where we will end up, but I hope it’s not with a complete lack of respect for copyright.

  6. says

    I joked a few weeks ago on twitter that the fact that it was called copyright did not make it right to copy it.
    It is not on to take credit for other people’s work regardless of if you are making money out if it or not.

  7. says

    A few years ago, before I started blogging, I found a food blog that was passing off famous food writers recipes as their own – every single recipe was a Delia, Nigella, Jamie et al. It was bizarre. Needless to say I posted but got no reply and then pointed it out to the blog host and it turned out it was one of those websites that just trolls for content. Strange because there didn’t seem to be any advertising involved. Anyway that blog is no more but it makes you wonder just how many are out there.

    On another note, I just wonder if it is indicative of our culture – I watched the live recording of a tv cookery show and one of the contestants produced a well-known television chef’s cookbook to cook her supposedly unique recipe . . . what? Hang on! When I mentioned it to my friends they thought I was making a fuss about nothing. ARGH!

    • says

      Surely the contestant was her own worst enemy? If the recipe was meant to be unique…

      I do think there’s a lack of awareness in the blogging community, exacerbated by the ‘grey’ nature of recipes. But since ‘the expression of the recipe’ is copyright, you shouldn’t cut and paste for legal reasons, even if you change one or two ingredients. And in any case, why not at least have the good manners to CREDIT the source.

      • says

        Well it was a bit stupid of the contestant, although needless to say she didn’t get very far in the competition!
        I do agree about lack of awareness (i do hope that I have never been guilty of this – a background in marketing and academia should have helped me to ensure that). I have never cut and pasted anything in my life and if I am using someone else’s recipe I don’t post it, just post back to the source. If there isn’t a source, then it’s just a post with a picture and a story . . . unless I have substantially changed it but of course there is still the whole “adapted from” and links to the writer’s website and bookshop. But speaking to a couple of bloggers recently whose recipes I want to use, they are only too delighted if they get a mention and a credit, etc. Which surely is better for me and for them. It seems bizarre to pass something off as your own as you will only end up looking like a tea leaf!

        I thought all of this stuff was made clear on the Food Blog Code of Conduct

        • says

          yes you are right Rachel, I’d never seen the link you posted but I know Vanessa had a go at setting up a code of ethics for UK food bloggers. But, there are some well known bloggers who DO cut and paste and who don’t credit. Sadly, they gradually lose respect throughout the community as people realise what they are doing

  8. says

    Perhaps this is a good time to starting it up again through UK Food Bloggers. I would positively support it. I am also a creative writer . . . well I try to write, nothing published yet! I spend hours and hours working on my prose and the idea of someone nicking it would have me heartbroken. It is theft whichever way you like to dress it up. Just because you left the keys in the car and someone drove the car away . . . theft is theft!

  9. says

    Have you come across the plagiarism checker, at a site called dustballs? It’s useful to check where words are bring copied. I haven’t actually checked recently if anything of mine has been nicked. But I did find it useful for checking CVs of people – you’d be amazed how many job applicants share the same CV.

    • says

      LOL…well no, I tend to use copyscape – I have a fairly good eye for content, so if I’ve read something and then see it blogged in a way that appears to be verbatim from wiki or another site, I run copyscape for my own interest. And I check my own site with that. It’s not quite the same as dustballs, but it highlights everything that has been copied from one post to another!

  10. says

    Apparently, this issue has become more pressing lately and even Google images has redesigned its look to emphasize the copyright notices more. I have to admit that I used to use Google images freely, but never anyone’s personal photos. Just images and graphics that were used many times over by others as well. Of course, I know now that is still wrong and take pains to find images that are free to use, with or without accreditation. Pixabay is a pretty good site for that. Fortunately, nobody (that I know of) has ever stolen my images or content. I can imagine that would make anyone feel somewhat violated.

  11. says

    Agree that you have every right t o be upset. Wow. what a surprise. (and how stupid of the site to ask you to write for them when they had “borrowed” your photo without consent)
    I put a comment at the end of EVERY blog post that they need to ask permission and credit be given if any content — text or visual — is something someone wishes to feature.

    • says

      It was a third party asking me to write.

      I do think the blogging community is it’s own worst enemy at times though – there are bloggers who shamelessly cut and paste – from wiki and from other online recipe writers, bloggers and online magazines. Yes, they may make the dish themselves or visit the place themselves. But it’s still plagiarism if they copy the content!

  12. says

    So true. Yet you encourage reuse by means of Pinterest. 😉
    My blog articles are full of references. There’s software to locate plagiarized articles and perform image searches.

    Conversely, I have an extremely talented brother who eschews the Web and has locked away thousands of drawings for fear his precious works will be stolen. Perhaps you’ve heard of him? No. That’s because after many decades, no one knows he’s an illustrator.

    • says

      Pinterest used properly is a legitimate way to share don’t you think? I AM watermarking now. What was shocking for me was finding that people I knew and trusted (and were high ranking bloggers) were so into cut and paste.

  13. says

    The only time I would ever cut and paste something is if I was writing for a company and was saying ‘so and so says.. blah blah… about the product’ always crediting the person or company who wrote it and always put it in italic and quote marks.

    I once saw another blogger blatantly copy word for word one of my posts. I hadn’t even been blogging for that long either when it happened. I just simply wrote ‘hmmmm this post sounds familiar’ in the comments and a link to my blog. Suffice to say, next time I checked it had been removed.

  14. Sarah James says

    Now I really am 50, I still wouldn’t want to be featured on an over 50s website! Even if I am eligible to join SAGA now!
    I’ve noticed it on a few cookery competitions where recipes are written in the unmistakable style of particular chefs – Jamie Oliver was one that was pretty obvious. I don’t have a problem if someone says, I started with x person’s recipe, but then I changed this and this, and did this differentlt. At least they are crediting the source.
    I suspect I may have been guilty of photo copying for work presentations when trying to avoid slow death by powerpoint. I will be more careful now for sure.

  15. joanna says

    There is nothing legitimate about copying other people’s photographs onto Pinterest. The only content you should post legally on Pinterest is your own. How may people who post there have read their Terms and Conditions?

    Have a read from Pinterest’s Terms and Conditions … Everything you pin there is described as ‘your content’ so you must realise that if you pin a photo from my blog without even having the courtesy to ask me, that you are therefore according to Pinterest saying that this is ‘your content’ and giving away my work to Pinterest to use and store as it wishes.

    (edited by London Unattached, because it would be better to post the ts and cs as a link, which I will do on the main post.)

    • says

      Thats fine joanna, I agree and I think everyone else who has commented so far does and those I know use pinterest legitimately. I’m not quite sure what you are implying? did you think I was endorsing plagiarism????! – I post my OWN content onto pinterest and then other people repin it. I’m happy for people to pin images from my blog using MY pin button which will always link back to my site, but to be honest I don’t think anyone does. But I think the problems some people have had is that images are COPIED from pinterest and used without permission (e.g. stolen). I hope it hasn’t happened to you.

  16. says

    I recently spoke about this topic (and scraping) at the Roger Smith Cookbook Conference in New York. It seems like this is getting to be a bigger and bigger issue for bloggers and on-line content writers. One of our Facebook groups is also discussing this. I keep a C&D (Cease & Desist) email on hand for these kinds of things. Also, in the U.S. some content is protected under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, and that also allows you some redress as far as letting the stealers know that they’ve violated the law. Nothing is perfect, and I agree that good manners and ethics are best practices, so it’s a shame that we’ve come to this.

    • says

      It just seems sad to me. Those doing it are perfectly capable of producing their own, original content and do so some of the time. If you have a link to any recommendations, I’d be very interested to read more.

      • says

        I agree with you that it seems sad, especially when so many of us work hard to produce original content and photos. Chef Dennis of A Culinary Journey has posted on this topic before and has been trying to bring together bloggers to make each other more aware of what is considered plagarism. If you go to The Roger Smith Cookbook Conference website, there’s video links to many of the panels, including one on cookbook plagarism and ours on protecting yourself from content theft. This topic was brought up a number of times at the conference, but I haven’t seen it come up at any others so far. Has anyone else? Education, hopefully, is to what is and isn’t acceptable will be the way to keep this from continuing.

  17. says

    I’ve noticed a number of bloggers lately have begun using some form of a watermark…reading this article, it definitely makes sense. But how time consuming is that process…do you have to “stamp” each photo individually? I’d be interested to learn more.

    • says

      Hi Jess, I’m using a wordpress plug in called ‘watermark reloaded’. I did try doing it manually, but you are right it’s quite time consuming. Appparently some cameras can now be set to automatically watermark the prints too.

    • says

      Hi Jess I use some software called “Impression” for the Mac, it lets you add watermarks to entire batches of images and gives you complete control where the watermark appears and what it looks like. I think the software cost around £12-20, I’ve been using it on and off for two years.

  18. says

    Well done for speaking up on this Fiona. I think many new bloggers start out confused how copyright applies to blogging but catch on very quickly what’s acceptable and what’s actually content theft as opposed to “helping someone famous sell more copies of their book”.

    I ought to investigate copyscape myself, to see if any of my stuff turns up elsewhere!

  19. says

    I know this has happened to me with my chilli choc brownies. All of a sudden getting lots of hits to the blog for that recipe. Fair enough they have linked back but why didn’t they just ask in the first place? No idea how I find out who or where it’s posted. Does the scanner thing you mention really work? Am so non tecchy

    • says

      copyscape works. Just go to and post in your own URL. But, are you sure it’s not just that you are number one on google for chilli chocolate brownies? (which you are). It won’t show if someone has linked to your site though. The way to see where the traffic is coming from on google analytics if someone HAS linked.

    • says

      Its not just people stealing photos, its also the level of plagiarism that seems to exist within the blogging community, with even the very top food bloggers routinely copying recipes, changing one or two ingredients, copying from wiki and not crediting. I can’t really understand it, because you don’t lose anything by writing a recipe out in your own words with your own adaptation rather than cut and paste, saying ‘my recipe was inspired by xxx’ and linking back to the original – and I would have thought it was just good manners.

  20. says


    i have just launched a new social cooking app whioch allows users to share dishes that they create. I totally agree with your post and people should not put up pictures of dishes that others created without their permission. We have literally just launched and are improving as we go along with feedback from some of the users. We put in fields designed for this purpose: who inspired the dish, a link to where the dish came from and we limit the description to 300 characters. In addition we have an abuse button so we can remove a dish if it has broken the rules. If you get a chance would be great if you have a look and give me some feedback.

    • says

      I just hope that the more of us who write about it the more those who do it will realise and stop. The sad thing is, even some bloggers with their own fabulous ideas seem to drift into it! such a waste, don’t they realise it demeans their whole blog content

  21. says

    Just commented in the FBA UK forum too but since reading this I tried the copyscape and found a blog who has lifted a lot of my content. She has mentioned to someone else that she is using the website as a recipe index for herself however there is no link back and other people have “liked” MY recipes and commented as if they are her own recipes! I have asked her to either link back and make it clear her website is just a collection of recipes she has bookmarked for herself or to remove them. We’ll see! I’d never dream of posting other peoples work, even the “reblog” button scares me lol. Such a shame

  22. Sneige says

    Outrageous, Fiona! And thank you for your post! I am trying to be correct to people I borrow inspiration from as always linking to the recipes or designs I have used. I feel like if I don’t do it I am claiming credit for creativity that I don’t have but I’ve noticed lots of people are “forgetting” to do that and was wondering if something in the Internet convention and netiquette had changed without me noticing?!
    About Pinterest, why would people think that creating boards and repining photos would give them any rights over the photos? It’s like creating boards from newspapers and magazines – that in any means would not make them owner of the photos collected – thinking the opposite is so wrong and I am hard to believe that a site like Pinterest would ever consider stealing people’s photos just because they are published on their site – as it seems was the case couple of years ago.

    • says

      I think that netiquette has just slipped a bit lately. Plus, there has been genuine and perhaps not quite such genuine confusion about what is copyright and what is reasonable.

      There’s a huge trend to report now though, more so in the States than here, so I think anyone ‘borrowing’ content should be very careful!

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