It sounds like a great idea doesn’t it? I’ve entered a few online cookery competitions last year and won some fabulous prizes. But I am getting increasingly frustrated at the number of entrants who seem to think it’s OK to copy a recipe and a photo from a blogger or online site and post it as if it is their own.
It is theft. No different to stealing from a supermarket. The originator will have spent time and effort developing the recipe, taking photographs and writing it up. That recipe and those pictures belong to them!
Copyright laws for recipes are a little complicated. Ingredient lists can’t be copyright. Why? Well, obviously the ingredients for an omelette are much the same whether you are Delia, Jamie or Gordon (I’m not going to include Heston here, he may well hold a copyright on the ingredients for snail porridge!). But the method is copyright. You can’t copy the words that are used in the method, nor can you plagiarise by re-writing a few words here and there. Obviously if you completely CHANGE the recipe it becomes your own. If you just adapt it a bit then it is polite to reference the originator.
Photographs are almost ALWAYS the copyright of the originator. You simply can’t copy and paste where you like. Technically you should ask permission before you ever copy a photo or link to it. In reality, posting a link back to the originator is usually OK. But obviously you can’t use someone else’s photos for your competition entry, unless of course it’s your own mother/sister/uncle and they have given you permission.
Apart from issues with plagiarisation, online cookery competitions are often blighted by a badly thought out structure. Having taken part in and won or been runner up in quite a few competitions this year, here are some of the features of the better run ones.
- They ask you to include a photo with something in the photo that shows the entry is yours. That can be YOU or a handwritten note.
- Shortlisted recipes are cooked and tested
- Judging is done by a panel of competent individuals
- There is no voting element
- Winners are asked for proof of identification.
For online cookery competitions with larger prizes like a cooker, well, having a face to face cook off is a really sensible solution. Only a genuine entrant will be able to make his or her recipe in front of a panel of judges.
Why no voting? It’s something which in my experience encourages cheating of the worst kind. You can buy votes – and while that might not be worth it for a bag of flour, once the prize value is in hundreds of pounds, it’s common for votes to be purchased. Even if they are not bought, they can be ‘exchanged’ – you vote for me and I’ll vote for you. And for most competitions that is not against the terms of the competitions. Or, the winner is the person with the most friends that can be persuaded to vote.
Regardless of that, I don’t think it achieves the objective of a skill based competition. I do vote for my friends. If someone asks me for a vote and I know them either from an online community or in real life, I will vote for them in preference to anyone else…regardless of how great their entry is (or not). And I am sure I am not alone.
So the end result of a voting competition is unlikely be what the organisers intend. Votes go to those who cheat outright by buying votes, those who exchange votes and those who are prepared to lobby their friends. Not to those who have the best entry, or even the entry which is most popular with the Company of the organiser. Vote purchase and exchange is global, so those voting are not likely to be in the UK or to have any interest in a UK Brand. If you must run a voting competition, then at least split it into two phases – an enter your recipe phase and a voting phase. Otherwise people who don’t spot the competition till the end of the entry phase will be so far behind they will be discouraged from entering.
Why proof of identification? Well, simply to show you are genuinely who you say you are! I noticed one entry for a baking competition where the entrant had the same first name as the blogger she had stolen the entry from. So simply googling wouldn’t have picked her up, other than the fact she had copied her recipe from a Canadian blogger;) I would also recommend using Google Image Compare to check the photographs are genuine. And, googling ‘distinctive’ phrases from the recipe.
Organisers ask why recipe competitions are so low entry…well, badly structured competitions that require effort are not worth entering unless you are going to cheat yourself. Nor are they are a great advertisement for the organisation running them!