Last Sunday, something quite upsetting happened. I received an email from a reader letting me know that another website had plagiarized one of my posts on the baking blog. They not only used my uncredited photo and recipe, but copied the body of the post word for word [minus the part where I mention my sister-in-law].
I work very hard at, and am very proud of, what I do. Most of the recipes are of my own creation. When they are someone else's or even an adaptation, the source of inspiration credited and linked when applicable. I usually bake and decorate by myself, unless one of my wonderful friends is around and can be roped in with a promise of taste-testing. I take and edit every single photo myself. To have someone simply copy and paste my hard work and not even link it back to my site hurts me deeply.
So what did I do? I went to the site's "contact me" page [since the author does not list his actual email] and sent him this:
I received an interesting email from one of my readers today. I operate a baking blog called "love and butter" on which I share photos [all taken by myself] and recipes [usually my own, but credited when they are not]. Imagine my surprise when the link my reader sent me took me to your site, where I not only found one of my photos [uncredited], but also that you had copied my entire post word for word.
The post I am referring to is titled "Cheddar & Jalapeno Cornbread Muffins" and I would greatly appreciate it if you would remove it from your site immediately. I have no issue with people sharing my work so long as it is credited and linked. But I work very hard at what I do, and do not appreciate my work being plagiarized.
Thank you for your understanding and compliance.
After I sent it, I received another email from the reader who alerted me to the situation, telling me that she had looked through the rest of this site's posts and discovered that most of it was copy/pasted from other blogs. Including [which really steamed me] a post on jambalaya that he had somehow gotten featured by Gourmet Live, the same blog that featured me a few months back.
Thankfully, my content was removed from his site. Unfortunately, it was replaced with what looks like a copy/paste of another person's recipe. As the site is hosted on Wordpress, I went to look at my options for reporting this person, but it appears they want me to file some official legal complaint. I don't really feel comfortable doing that since my content was taken down within 24 hours of my asking him to, I'm not sure my case would still stand.
I don't really see many options for me on how to better protect my content. I've registered my baking blog with an online copyright service [at the suggestion of another reader], but that doesn't stop anyone from using copy/paste. The best thing I can think of is to start watermarking all my photos. At least that would help protect part of my work. I have thought about watermarking in the past, but have always talked myself out of it. I believe that one of the best features of my blog is the photos, and feel that watermarks would be distracting. I also am not excited about the amount of work involved in figuring out how to watermark, coming up with a good watermark, and then saving two versions of every photo so that I can keep an unmarked version.
It's a lot of extra work. A lot of time I don't have. Maybe this means I will take and post fewer photos. Maybe I will have to go back and re-edit everything I've ever posted. And what about this blog? I can't even wrap my mind around what it would take to retro-actively edit and repost all my content. EVERYWHERE.
It's almost enough to make me want to quit. Why should I spend my precious time on this when in less than a second, someone can hit a few buttons and claim my work as their own? It makes me sick. There's no real way to protect myself, no way to know when my content is being stolen.
But if I stop? He wins. So I can't quit.
The internet is a tricky place. But it can also be a good place. A magical place for people to discover things, and to share them. Hopefully they are sharing them with credit to the original source. Many people do... I've had at least a dozen blogs share a photo or recipe and link back to my blog, and as a result I've gained many new readers. I don't want to discourage people from sharing. I encourage sharing. That's the whole point of the internet, to connect with information. I just have to hope that the majority of people will continue to be honest and decent.