When I began developing recipes, it was a different time. The internet was relatively new. No blogs. No social media. No tablets or smartphones. Websites existed with recipes, but there weren’t many, and the good ol’ cookbook was still the resource for recipes.
Fast forward 15+ years. Every recipe you can imagine or need is online, along with the author, accessible to address any questions! Recipes are abundant, to meet every dietary need and desire. How great, right?
It should be a great thing. Not just for readers, but also for bloggers and cookbook authors like me who are passionate about creating recipes and sharing them with the world.
Immediate and abundant access to recipes can be a great thing, but isn’t always.
Yes, it’s easier to share with you, our community. Yes, there are opportunities to create for other companies and organizations. Yes, it’s inspiring to see thousands of iterations of hummus and aquafaba recipes. (Surely half our neighborhoods should be vegan by now!)
However this easy access often means recipe creators have content shared, reprinted, repurposed, and reused all without proper credit or permission.
I know authors that have had their printed cookbook content copied and repurposed into kindle ebooks by other individuals. I know bloggers that have their recipe photos used by other sites without credit. Every day I see posts from bloggers of situations where their recipes, photos, or other content has been used in some way that they haven’t approved – and don’t benefit from.
Perhaps we should rise above it. Let it go. Be the bigger person.
Here’s the thing. As content creators, bloggers, and authors know – we already practice this daily. From comments on blogs to trolls on social media, we develop skills for not letting little things get to us. To respond to people with kindness, often because we know they are coming from a place that of sadness or fear. I meditate daily and do yoga and other practices to maintain perspective in my life and work habits. Otherwise, it’s almost impossible for me to have an online presence. I let a lot of stuff “go”.
But when it comes to the business of recipes, it’s different. As content creators we need to advocate for ourselves and the creative work we are bringing.
In recent months I have had two very popular recipes from Plant-Powered Families reprinted without my consent – and without credit – to large food and wellness sites. Since they have such large platforms my recipe was shared thousands of times, receiving up to a million views. Without mention to my work, or credit to my blog or social media pages.
In these two specific instances, the recipes were modified with an ingredient substitution – but the recipe is otherwise essentially intact. An ingredient is changed, or an ingredient added. So now it’s a new recipe? No. It’s not. It’s a recipe with a substitution.
Original recipes involve hours of imagination, testing, reworking, improving, editing, formatting, hiring photography, blogging, and then investing time (and sometimes money) in social media promotion.
This business of recipe repurposing is troublesome. Here’s why:
For me, this work has always been rooted in my passion. My passion for my craft of delivering healthy recipes that do not lack flavor and texture – as well as showing people that these recipes are part of a larger way of living with more compassion.
The integrity of recipe development is very important to me. This integrity is diluted when recipes are modified and shared on other sites. Often the author is unaware, so their recipe is represented as something other than the original intent. While this acceptable when a recipe inspires another creation, it’s something entirely different when the recipe is identical from measurements to directions, with just one or two ingredients changed.
Another, not insignificant consideration is that this work, while rooted in passion, is business. I’ve blogged many years without earning any revenue from my site. Yes, I earn money on book sales, but to date it hasn’t been enough to support myself, let alone my family.
Over the years, I realized that my work could – and should – bring in revenue. This is full-time work, and I give more than just the time and expense of developing recipes.
When recipes are reprinted, little to no traffic goes to the original recipe and blog. Sometimes a site will credit an author/blogger, but often the credit is so remote or hard to find that the reader doesn’t see the original source. So the reprinting bloggers or sites generate the traffic and revenue.
Which brings me to my final point. Recognition of work. As a creative (and highly-sensitive) person, recognition of the work I contribute is important to me. While the highly sensitive voice in me might be saying “you’re being too sensitive”, my rational inner voice is saying “this is not acceptable”.
Perhaps this isn’t the case for other creators, but for me it is. It’s not simply ego. It feels good to know your recipe is loved and well-used. This motivates and inspires us to create more. Plus, it’s acknowledgement for hard work and commitment to your passion.
I know I’ve worked hard over the years. I also know my work has improved through my years of recipe developing. I’m proud of my work, and value my dedication when I could have (and almost did) stop working and blogging because of numerous challenges with blogging, publishing, and more.
I write this today for myself and also for all the other authors and bloggers in similar positions. It happens regularly, far more often than readers may know.
It is unjust, and not innocuous.
My appeal to you all is this: If you see content that you know or suspect belongs to another author or blogger, please contact them. Also please contact that site if the author isn’t duly acknowledged – or, if it’s very difficult to see and access that author acknowledgement. Also, if you follow and love a particular blogger’s work, please share that appreciation in cookbook reviews on amazon or elsewhere – in forums, FB groups, etc. Trust me, they appreciate it!
Having said that, I thank ALL OF YOU for being this support in my recipe world. Often, I learn of these recipe reprints from you. Thank you. I also feel your overall generosity and encouragement on facebook and by email, and it means a great deal. Know that I value it, and hold immense gratitude.
I hope this post helps other bloggers, and also sheds some light on issues that authors and recipe developers are working with. We need improvements with recipe usage online.
Let’s start a discussion on this, I welcome your feedback and ideas.
*Note: I am not identifying parties, as we are working to resolve it, and my purpose here is to incite change and awareness rather than negativity.