This really burns my biscuit...

4 years ago
Seven layer salad. Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

 Here in my little corner of the blogging world, I just like to flip my burgers and go home. I cook a little something or other, take a few pictures, craft a few words and hit “publish.” I share my stories with friends and family, and my online community of fellow writers. I don’t whine about Facebook charging to promote my posts. I don’t complain about traffic numbers. And whenever Google messes with SEO, frankly, that goes right over my head. But every now and again, something happens that really burns my biscuit and this is it: unauthorized use of my photographs. Honestly, I think I’d be more flattered if it was my words, but they are left alone. My humble little pictures, taken with a dinky Nikon Coolpix set on the cutest little tripod imaginable, seem to have a plain spoken appeal that makes them easy pickings for multinational companies (yes!), mom-and-pop diners and bakeries, Wiki writers, website aggregators, and unscrupulous fellow bloggers.

 If you think I’m being whiny and petulant, and hey, maybe I am, why not just skip over to another page of mine? (I suggest this lovely chocolate pecan bark.) But this is indeed theft of my work. Anytime someone uses my images or words without my permission, it is considered unauthorized. There are instances when I’ve asked for my work to be credited and linked back to the original post, and that’s ok with me. The instance that comes to mind is a college professor doing work on Southern foodways and used a picture from my blog, with links and credit. If someone is not making money off of my work, I do consider allowing them to use my photographs. However, when the pictures are used on a site that includes ads or promotes a business, and they want to use my pictures without compensation, that is just wrong. Pictures, not words, are the signposts that direct traffic to blogs and visually-driven tools like Pinterest are the bitcoin of blogging. If my picture is used to direct traffic to another site, then that is stealing. It's wrong, and in some cases, just plain lazy.


Buttermilk chess pie. Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

 Recently, I found one of my most-purloined images, Buttermilk Chess Pie on a Midwestern bakery’s webpage. When I saw it, I thought: "Now, let me get this straight: you bake and sell pies for a living and you have to steal an image from a blogger for your website?" When I brought the issue to the owner's attention, he blamed the website designer. Poor website designers, the kicking dogs of the internet age. Unethical designer aside, I would suggest that in an age when grade schoolers have phones that take blog-worthy pictures, small time bakers and restaurant owners would serve themselves well to take their own pictures of the products that they sell.


Poultry gravy made with butter, flour and chicken broth. Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books


And speaking of dishonest bloggers, those who steal from others are doing a great disservice to their readers. Not that a hand-rapping would do much good there, but I suggest that readers searching for recipes be aware that pictures do not always match up with recipes. Case in point ~ my poultry gravy recipe. I used to get a spike in blog traffic each November when cooks start looking for reliable gravy recipes. Now the image pops up on everything from a Vancouver cathedral priest’s blog to a self-help guru’s the power-lies-within-you post. The gravy boat picture has been used to accompany gluten-free, vegetarian and even vegan gravy recipes. (All those recipes, by the way, sound absolutely disgusting.) My fool-proof recipe includes butter, flour, vegetables and chicken broth. Caveat emptor.

For more of my rant, please click over to A Cook and Her Books.

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