Creative License


There’s an important story here that is in some ways hilarious, but also disturbing as it is such a common practice. In this case, an article was lifted from a writer’s website and republished by a magazine. When she protested, they told her she was lucky they didn’t put someone else’s name on the article and that she should thank them for editing it for her, claiming anything posted on the internet was public domain. Their careless statements created quite a bit of outrage, which is a good thing. While writers often take creative license with their own work, others should not, and in fact cannot, take creative license with someone else’s work. Anything posted on the internet is not free to lift at will. I encounter this issue frequently with my creative content, both text and photographs, being lifted word for word, photo for photo, from this site. For awhile, I put a right-click block on my site which prevented copy-paste of my text and photos. I received quite a bit of complaints over it because the right-click block also caused problems in innocent right-clicking, so I took the block off. (I also get complaints because I only offer a partial RSS feed. Some people have asked me if the reason I do that is because it makes you have to come to my site to read the entire post. The reason I have a partial feed is because a full feed allows more free stealing as there are sites that use feeds to copycat content by auto-posting full feeds onto their websites.)

Please know that I love, appreciate, and am so, so grateful if you link to my posts, but please, please don’t lift my content and paste it directly onto other sites. I know that there is a lot of confusion about internet content (the above article highlighting it in a rather bizarrely funny way), but internet content is not free. It’s not free for writers to write it (they give their time and creative energy, for which they deserve the credit and the pageviews), and it IS copyrightable. All creative content on my site is copyrighted. While it’s okay, for example, to post a recipe to share elsewhere, if you copy all the creative commentary surrounding the recipe (and even the photos) in addition to the recipe, that is lifting my creative content. (It’s not the sharing of the recipe itself but the copying of the creative content surrounding the recipe.) When content is lifted and reposted without permission, it hurts me. Thank you for being here and understanding!


  1. IowaCowgirl says:

    Wow. I cannot believe that people do this!

    When I was in Library School we had to take a pledge that we would never infringe on anyone’s copyright. It is stealing.

  2. Leah says:

    Would never think of lifting anything. Glad you explained the recipe rules because it seems as if it as being offered up as ok to take. Thanks for the info.

  3. texwisgirl says:

    Wow! ‘Loved’ the curt and cocky response the cooking mag editor gave the author! Geesh! I’d CERTAINLY want to pay her for all their hard work at ‘editing’ MY work! :no:

    Glad you reminded everyone that the work that goes into your blog is indeed yours.

  4. Kim of SakuraSundries says:

    I can hardly believe that a “professional” would consider it ok to take someone’s work without prior permission! I am, however, very glad that people are upset about it.

    Before my life got defunct, which is hopefully temporary, I was blogging. Once of the things I did was feature a blog, shop, site, product etc once a week that I enjoyed. When I featured a blog that had nice photos I generally asked permission to post them… and when I did they were very clearly credited (most watermarked as well) and linked straight back to the blog. I wanted to show how fabulous their work was, but never wanted to take credit for their talent. I really just think its sad that people don’t understand plagiarism exists on the internet just as it would in paper and ink form.

    My policy is, if you want to use it… ask! Most people will say yes, so long as they are getting proper credit!

  5. Kelleh says:

    Might I ask the name of the offending website?
    Because in cases like this, I like to know because I make it a good point to not -go- to their site anymore.

  6. patricialynn says:

    I don’t copy/paste recipes from this site – rather, I just email the link to the page. That way people can see where it came from and can browse your site if they feel the desire.

    I had a request for a recipe from your site from an older person without internet in her home…so I printed up the recipe. But that still has the website clearly marked.

    It’s mind-boggling sometimes how disrespectful people can be. They value the work done enough to copy it, but not enough to give the author his/her due. Craziness.

  7. Anita says:

    Thanks so much for highlighting this incident. I’ve been active on LiveJournal for many years, and was amazed to see such blatant disregard by the “professional” editor when confronted with her plagarism.

  8. Grammy Jam says:

    I heard about this yesterday. It sounds like the magazine in question makes a regular habit of using the internet like their personal file drawer for articles and recipes which is a real shame. Not requesting permisson of the writers that spend their time and talent producing the articles should be an unthinkable practice for any publication, in print or online. And giving the writers the credit they deserve should be a top priority.

  9. Rose says:

    The offending magazine evidently lifted materials from several sources, Disney among them. I believe the repercussions will be huge.

  10. silkyf117 says:

    To be sure Suzanne, the majority of people know this but somehow forget this, especially when something really appeals to them and they really get excited about it. As a personal practice of mine, as was stated by someone else earlier in the blog response, If I really like something and I send it anywhere, your name and all goes with it because that belongs to you. I have shared from time to time but where ever it may be sent, it has the original writings as well as your signature on it, denoting you as the originator and author of the subject matter. Hope this is acceptable.

  11. Susan C. says:

    Hi Suzanne, I might be an offender, unintentionally. The other day I quoted a couple of your sentences in a mailing list, including a link to the full post, because I thought they were awesome sentences, and it was an awesome post (the one about your passion and how you believe every day) and it was particularly applicable to that mailing list. Was that ok? I only did a couple of sentences because I wasn’t sure where the line was between quoting someone and lifting creative content.

    • Suzanne McMinn says:

      Susan, quoting a few sentences falls under acceptable practices for copyrighted materials, with credit and linking back, so that’s okay! There’s a specific amount that is allowable, but I don’t know the number of words offhand. As long as it was relatively brief, you should be okay. Where it goes wrong is when people lift entire posts, which is unfortunately common.

    • Suzanne McMinn says:

      I can give you one example that was one of the biggest episodes of lifting I’ve discovered. Someone copied my ENTIRE Homemade Hamburger Helper post and reposted it on a blog on Dave’s Garden. Every single word of it. (It’s a very long post.) I wrote to the Dave’s Garden people and asked them to have it taken down. In most cases, you really can’t copyright a recipe as you can find the same recipes all over the place, but they also copied all the creative content surrounding the recipes. (And in this case I created every one of those homemade Hamburger Helper recipes MYSELF, so it was especially distressing. Though, again, copyrighting a recipe itself is hard to do, but that was a whole slew of recipes, so I didn’t like it much. Even so, my case to the Dave’s Garden people when I asked them to take it down was that the person had also copied all the creative content around the recipes.)

      On Farm Bell Recipes, we require people to include the link to credit back any recipe source and we try very hard to monitor and moderate so only the recipe is shared, not creative content surrounding any recipe. Any time we suspect creative content has been included with a recipe that’s posted, we delete it, and we also monitor and moderate photos that are posted and check associated links. If we suspect a photo is lifted, we delete it. I’m very sensitive to that issue, so I’m really careful with moderating Farm Bell Recipes for that. (If you ever find something you think is suspect there, feel free to contact me in case we miss something!) Creative content surrounding a recipe is ANYTHING beyond the recipe ingredients and succinct instructions for preparation, baking time, etc. No re-posting of creative writings/experiences/stories about the recipe, no photographs from the source writer–that is all the original source writer’s creative content. The link is included to allow people to go to that original source and see the creative content there at the source.

      • Suzanne McMinn says:

        Here is a better explanation:
        “Copyright law does not protect recipes that are mere listings of ingredients. Nor does it protect other mere listings of ingredients such as those found in formulas, compounds, or prescriptions. Copyright protection may, however, extend to substantial literary expression—a description, explanation, or illustration, for example—that accompanies a recipe or formula or to a combination of recipes, as in a cookbook.” (U.S. Copyright Office, Circular #1: Copyright Basics)

        Lots of info in this Facebook topic here:
        (hope that link works)

        Ingredients and very basic prep (order of how things go together, and so on) and baking instructions are fine, but copying of the creative content around a recipe is a violation of copyright.

  12. Barbee' says:

    Suzanne, it is so sad that people are stealing from you. You work so hard and are so good at what you do. I am sorry you are being treated that way. I was reared in a very protected environment, then our mother had the job of trying to prepare my brother and me for the big wide world. I remember her saying there are all kinds of people out there. How true, and how sad, and what a lot of disillusionment was in store for me. I thought everyone was like my parents. Many times I have had the thought: I didn’t know there were people like that. I see the article you linked to and subsequent repercussions as an example of the vulnerability and the power of Internet use.

  13. Nancy says:

    On occasion, I have copied and pasted something especially funny or heartfelt you have written on my Facebook account…the sentence, not the whole article… but I ALWAYS credit you by posting your name and a link to the article it came from. Is that ok to do?

  14. Nancy says:

    oh, oops! You just answered my question! 😀

  15. Jen in ID says:

    Suzanne, you are the first person I thought of when I became aware of this issue. Your writing and photography talents are amazing – no doubt someone would try to steal from you. Personally, I would rather see you protected (and would not be offended) by re-instating your “no right-click” thing, than to see someone take advantage of you.

    As for the Judy Griggs/Cooks Source issue…WOW. Been following it in depth and she is some piece of work for sure. I do have a link to a spreadsheet that has been developed that now cites 160+ possible infringements (possible stolen articles as well as images); will not post it here but feel free to email me if you’d like.

  16. Gem says:

    I second the ‘no-right click’ reinstall!

  17. BuckeyeGirl says:

    I’ve been following it too Jen, there are so many articles stolen from other sources it’s amazing from some of the information being gathered. What I found particularly interesting is that among the places ripped off were Disney, Martha Stewart, and The Food Network… This woman won’t even have air left to breathe when those heavy hitters get done suing her. Can you believe she’s supposedly a professional editor? Of course that doesn’t make it alright to rip off other smaller sources either. EVER! It’s just sweet that those sorts will get their claws into this person.

    From what I’ve read some of her ‘editing’ was supposedly because of some of the spelling involved. The original author is also a historian, who happens to like to cook and enjoys the history of food and ingredients. She wrote some of the ingredients and narrative in a partial medieval style. This lady ‘fixed’ that for her. Gee!

  18. lizzie says:

    It has never occured to me to even copy and paste! what someone else has written! What a shame that people who do this sort of thing cannot think for themselves! Kind of like a kid doing a book report and coping it off the internet word for word. My middle child did this and got into BIG TROUBLE FOR IT!!! Does it ever occur to people to use their own BRAIN! I say re-instate your right click!!!!!! :sheepjump:

  19. Amber says:

    I think you should put the right click block back on. Who cares if you accidentally right click and get the little message window that says no right clicking, you just close it! I’ve accidentally right clicked in the past and it was like Oops,OK, no big deal just close the message window. I think that’s better than when bloggers put a watermark type thing on their pictures, it just ruins the picture.

  20. Blessings says:

    This is the reason I no longer post pictures of my Grandkids on my site, and if I do post pictures I have marked it somehow, as anyone can borrow and post those pictures, I don’t think a picture of anything non-human is bad and I have done this, but my family, my children, my Grands, no way are they to become someones Billboard…and this has happened…

  21. Joycee says:

    I used to be so careful when I first started blogging 2 years ago to never post pictures of my kids, and grandkids. Then Christmas came and I got weak…that opened the floodgates to telling funny stories about their childhood and then pictures of the grandkids when they visit. There’s no telling what’s out there on Google! I often share a great blog with a link. Food blogs have the rss feed and it links from their site to Facebook, Twitter or email. Two years ago, that would have been “Greek” to me!

  22. Tori Lennox says:

    If this person has been stealing from Disney she’ll be out of business and broke by the time this is done. They take a seriously dim view on people stealing their work.

  23. bonita says:

    I empathize wholly, Suzanne, with your disgust over people “lifting” your creative content. It would be hard to believe except that is rampant. (I’ve had an entire (bound book) lifted and republished overseas!) I’d like to think these “lifts” were simply oversights or ignorance, but I’m afraid it runs deeper than that. Perhaps it is a symptom of a general declining in morals and the reluctance to acknowledge that anyone, besides one’s self, can produce anything of worth. What is really incredible is that anyone would have the nerve to mess with the MOUSE! That corporation is very aggressive about its intellectual properties. Hopefully that case will get enough recognition to dissuade folks from stealing content.

  24. Karen Anne says:

    I read Skippy’s Vegetable Garden occasionally, and some idiot was copying every single one of her posts, with photos, and also 1-2 other websites into his blog.

    He obviously ran it through some English to something translator and then in the other direction (with weird results), perhaps in hopes that it would not be found by matching software. A bunch of us complained to his ISP but got nowhere. I exchanged some email with him and he was an idiot (non-native English speaker as well.)

    He even copied her posts that said something like IF THIS IS NOT AT IT HAS BEEN STOLEN.


  25. Karen Anne says:

    Wow, I just read the plagiarist’s response in full. I am trying to think of an appropriate name to call her. I’d use the b word, but I think that’s insulting to women. What a thief and moron.

  26. northcountrygirl says:

    The editor’s reply to her request was beyond belief. Totally uninformed and unprofessional. I think you should take whatever precautions you need to protect your writing.

  27. Wendy says:

    Hmm…I have Glory Bee as my Background, but I will change it if needed. I just love the cute face to brighten my day..and to remind me to check your site daily.

  28. hershiesgirl says:

    It’s amazing to me that she is an “Editor”! REALLY? I am not a sue-happy person by any means, but if it were my stuff she swiped, I would sue the pants off of her just for her smug attitude! That is the only way some people learn their lesson.

    It is so easy to share….look at this blog ….read this why would anyone steal something and call it their own if not for profit? That lady belongs in jail and to be out of a job in the publishing industry.

  29. Debbie L says:

    As a photographer, I completely sympathize. I’ve found that 95% of those that lift photos, do it in a very innocent way and not to “steal”. But as always, there are those out there who are less than honest people and they try to take advantage of other’s talent and call it their own. Those are the one’s that make my blood boil. I agree with the right click reinstall – if someone want to use your photos or recipes WITH permission, they should ask. Good luck!

  30. Linda Segerson says:

    I understand your feelings on this, I would not want someone to do this to me. If I give out information on my site about something I read or saw on your site or anyone else site I always reference the site so the reader can go to it and read more. I love your site and I do have it listed on my site as one of my favorites.

  31. JOJO says:

    I guess this is just another sign of the times we live in today, there are those who think everything is thiers for the taking, they have no scruples.They take your name, they take your identity,in my opinon that is what they are doing when they copy your writing. Even if you take the proper precautions, they find away to get around them STEALING IS STEALING! Be it a material thing or words these kinds of people have no mind of thier own so they take from people that are sucessful, in this case your writing, they are thiefs as surely as they would sneak into your home and steal. A thief is a thief is a thief!
    Thank you.

  32. Yvonne says:

    (Uh, totally off subject here, but the time on the comments needs set back an hour!)

    I have also used some of your photos as my desktop background – is that ok?

  33. Charlotte says:

    I went a read a few of the articles surrounding this – Griggs says it happens all the time. Well, as I say to my kids,”Just because it happens, that doesn’t make it right!”

  34. Angela p says:

    So sorry this happened Suzanne. You have every right to be upset, as are we. My son takes amazing photos, and sadly he can not share them over the internet or post them on some sites because of the same issue. It really makes you stop and think.
    Sorry that you have encountered this.

  35. Ulrike says:

    There really isn’t a specific limit on the number of words that equal copyright infringement. After all, I could copy an entire haiku and be well under 100 words (the oft cited “official” limit), but 100 words of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix at less than 0.04% of the original work. There are also exceptions that make it OK to quote an entire work, but “I think it will be popular” isn’t one of them. The Wikipedia entry on copyright is quite thorough and easy to understand.

    If I’m sharing something because I think it’s neat and other people will enjoy reading it or find it useful, I try to quote just enough to hook the reader and get them to click the link back to the original to read the entire thing.

  36. Karen Anne says:

    This reminds me of people passing around copies of songs on the web “for free.” I have a relative in the music business, and you would not believe how this damages them financially, to the point of people being out of work.

  37. Tina Manley says:

    Thank you, Suzanne! I am a professional photographer and run into this problem all the time. I have had to watermark and right-click protect my photos to keep them from being used without my permission. I’m glad there was such an uproar about that editor’s ridiculous remarks. Maybe more people will realize that internet content is not free and that creative people deserve to be credited and rewarded for their work!

  38. Ramona says:

    Right up there with spam as far as I’m concerned. It annoys me.

  39. Deb says:

    I saw this article the other day and wondered if the idea that “if it’s on the net, it’s copyright free” was common, so I asked my kids what they are being taught in high school classes. I’m happy to report that they knew right away that you can’t take things off the web and use it as your own. However, that really makes me wonder when high school kids know better than a professional editor!

  40. Rebecca says:

    What is really amazing is that its easier to right click and copy the URL of one of your wonderful articles, thereby introducing others to your wonderful site, without having to steal, and be a low down dirty thieving unscrupulous heathen. I run two private sites – one for my family, and one for a church group. They are used to me providing links and citing sources. I work with an intellectual property lawyer!

  41. Chris says:

    I work at a library and its amazing how much people want to copy on copier and we can’t allow it as we run the copier ourselves – music and recipes along with craft patterns are the biggest offenders as well as workbooks that are copyrighted. We had to post about copying copyrighted material and actually got complaints that it was just being used for their own use.
    You need to protect your own materials and give credit to people!! Working with genealogy is what really opened my eyes to copyrights – there are people that do the research- travel and spend a lot of money on documents, take photos, put together the books and other folks put their research online on their sites without permission and let others think it is their research and get credit for it!!
    Go ahead and put the right click in – most of us won’t mind and will totally understand!! :snoopy:

  42. Janus says:

    I think the funny part of this little fiasco is that Monica Gaudio appears to be completely shocked and overwhelmed by the support that has garnered.

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