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.
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.
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