I don’t know how many food blogs exist, but it’s a lot. Anyone can have one. And you can say whatever you want and post whatever you want. You are the creator and the master of your blog and you can do what you want with it. I look at a lot of food blogs and I read a lot of recipes. When someone posts a recipe with no mention of where this recipe or idea came from you are led to believe that this blogger wrote this recipe him or herself. But that’s not always the case.
I made a cake a few years ago. A simple berry buttermilk cake. I got the recipe from Smitten Kitchen who linked to the recipe in Gourmet. Now, I get a little irritated when some people call a recipe “adapted” when nothing at all was changed in the recipe, but whatever. At least they give someone some credit! Recently I came across that exact berry cake recipe, ingredient for ingredient and step by step, on another blog without any credit given except to say that she saw something like it in a magazine once upon a time. And maybe that’s true, but the similarities in the recipe led me to believe that it wasn’t total truth.
I rarely make something original, very few recipes I share are ones I wrote myself. I get my recipes from cookbooks, online mags and blogs and I’m sure I don’t do it right all the time, but I try to give credit to the source. I make changes, sometimes enough to call it “mine” but usually just minor ingredient changes, switching something out for something different, adding something extra or adjusting amounts. So sometimes I say I adapted a recipe, but other times I just link to the original recipe or cite the cookbook or magazine.
So, what are the rules? When you post a recipe, how do you do it courteously without taking something from someone else? What is “original”? What is “adapted”? What is “inspired by”? I found these useful guidelines in a post on the Food Blog Alliance written by David Lebovitz who writes his own food blog, davidlebovitz.com I can only hope I’m not violating any rules by reposting this! Read the entire post for some great information and this other post about what to do if you find that YOUR content has been lifted.
Most importantly, when you change or adapt a recipe: Don’t just change a few words for the sake of changing a recipe. You should rewrite the recipe as you’ve made it, in your own words, rather than just tweaking someone else’s recipe.
But when is a recipe completely yours?
That’s a question open to interpretation. Obviously there are thousands of recipes for vinaigrette and cheesecake, so there is going to be a lot of crossover in recipes, and probably a few that have the exact same proportions. In general, recipes that are considered “basics” (such as most pie dough, shortbread, vinaigrette, and the like), are fair game. There simply aren’t that many variations on the basics, and similarities are bound to arise.
The rules that most cookbook authors and food writers follow are these:
1. If you’re modifying someone else’s recipe, it should be called “adapted from“.
2. If you change a recipe substantially, you may be able to call it your own. But if it’s somewhat similar to a publisher recipe, you should say it’s “inspired by“, which means that you used else’s recipe for inspiration, but changed it substantially.
3. If you change three ingredients, you can in most instances call the recipe yours.
If you’re adapting a recipe from a website, link to that site’s original recipe page URL. If you’re adapting a recipe from a cookbook, link to that cookbook on Amazon, the publishers website, and/or the author’s website. You can adapt a previously published recipe and republish it, as long as you give attribution. But it should not be a word-for-word republication without permission. When it doubt, ask, then get it in writing.
Now we know the rules about recipe sharing on food blogs! I am good about linking to the source, but not always good about rewriting the recipe in my own words. I always do it if I’ve actually changed the way in which I made something, but if not I don’t change much of anything. I need to start doing it all the time. There are probably other things I do that aren’t considered good blog etiquette. And not because I don’t care about doing things properly and politely, but because I don’t know any better. I think that’s the case for a lot of people. But we need to make the effort to make sure we’re being courteous bloggers. We will all be happier with each other in the end.
Here’s another article about blogging in general and sharing content.