A virtual firestorm of ensued, with tweets and blog posts and Facebook fury. It all got a little out of hand, with random people calling the magazine's advertisers and bombarding their email addresses. Many innocent electrons were sacrificed to make the point that copyright is assumed unless right are specifically handed over. The Internet is not Public Domain, although it is the domain of the public. And sometimes the public becomes an angry mob.
Cooks Source apologized. Whether this will suffice to keep them out of further trouble, it's hard to say. Not only did this publication use one writer's article, it seems they used a lot of articles as-is from a lot of sources including NPR, Martha Stewart, Food Network, and others. Whether there was permission to use them, I don't know, but it seems unlikely for a lot of reasons. Whether it might have been considered "fair use" is another argument.
But that's not the point I'm meandering to. The point I'm interested in at the moment is whether bloggers (and food bloggers in particular) really care about the rights to their own work. How many bloggers are just doing this for grins and giggles and how many are hoping - however fruitlessly - that they will be the Next Big Thing and get offered a book contract, a movie deal, or a TV show?
Bloggers who have any background in writing probably know that their creations are copyrighted from the moment of creation. So there's some security in that. Recipes, however, are not protected, in terms of the list of ingredients and the basic instructions. There are only so many ways you can say, "cream the butter and sugar..." so that sort of thing isn't protected. The prose around the recipe and any unique language used in writing the recipes are protected. So some of it is safe, and some is unprotected by its very nature.
That's mostly unclear as mud so far, right?
But still, most food bloggers who have writing background and aspire to the Next Big Thing probably hope that if fame ever sneaks up upon them, they will be able to use the backlog of recipes they have amassed on their blogs. If they formulated the recipes and wrote the prose around it, they should be able to use their own recipes however they see fit, particularly if someone comes along and offers them a big burlap bag full of money and a shiny new cookbook contract, right?
Makes sense. You wrote it, you own it unless you give it away.
Sure. But that's a big "unless" lurking on the page.
Are some bloggers giving it away? I'm not talking about technical errors or pages that don't display copyrights or lack of copyright registration. The fact that copyright exists from the moment of creation takes care of most of that when it comes time to sell the publication rights.
The problem is that bloggers might be actively giving away their content. Giving permission. Handing it over. For nothing. No recompense. Nada.
How? Are these bloggers being duped? No not really. It's all in the fine print. If said blogger has entered any contests and has clicked the "I agree to the terms and conditions" button without reading, this might be what was hidden behind the button: