To Whom It May Concern: You're Stealing My Work

4 years ago

Well, it's been a busy week at A Cook and Her Books headquarters, setting the blogging and business worlds straight on acceptable uses of my pictures. It all began with my weekend rant on the unauthorized use of my photographs that were copied from A Cook and Her Books and posted without acknowledgment on business websites and other blogs.

These things usually straighten themselves out, but the emails to and fro show a real lack of understanding of what's acceptable when "borrowing" pictures and presenting them as your own. In my original story, I didn't mention that a food company used my picture to accompany its recipe for chess pie. I contacted them via Facebook, and this their emailed reply:

To whom it may concern:

We received a Facebook message stating that we had taken an unauthorized image of the Chess Pie from your blog and placed on our website. We assure you that the Chess Pie image was not taken from your blog or any blog, but if this is causing problems let us know and we will gladly remove it. We are a Christian company based on integrity and believe in doing things the right way. Again I assure you, that there was nothing unethically done in using this picture. If you have any additional questions or concerns please let us know. Thank you.

My reply stated that, indeed, the picture was mine and included links to their post and my original post with a second polite request that they take their own picture to accompany their recipe. Within an hour, this was the reply:

Thank you for your prompt response, and we assure you that your photo will be taken down this week from our website. Thanks and well wishes. God Bless!

Readers' responses to my story, both on Facebook and the blog, about the aggravation of protecting my work has been encouraging. With that in mind, I thought I'd pass along a few resources, both for bloggers and businesses who may be tempted to copy photographs from blogs.

First of all, know your rights as a food blogger: A group of top-notch writers and food bloggers, including Elise Bauer of Simply Recipes and David Lebovitz (The Sweet Life in Paris), researched and put together some excellent information on copyright at “Food Blog Alliance.” I’ve read through many of the pieces and go back again and again. The site provides the ever-escalating steps involved in pursuing sites that steal pictures and content.

Second, I picked up the steps to seeing where my pictures end up by using a reverse image search tutorial from the ever-so-helpful blog Kevin and Amanda. They are a treasure trove of information on food, photography and blogging.

And lastly, for the food businesses, restaurants, bakeries and caterers who rely on web designers to put together their sites, by all means subscribe to the blog “Your Kitchen Camera.” It’s put together by food stylists and photographers, professionals whose goal is to educate non-professionals in the tips and tricks to putting together web-worthy food photography by themselves. After all, folks, if you’re surrounded by the food product, isn’t it easier to just take a picture of your actual product than it is to steal from a blogger?

Meanwhile, I'm learning to watermark my pictures, to prevent further appropriation of my work. Any tips or advice along these lines would be great appreciated.

Editor's Note: Additionally, you can find a lot of answers on copyright in this panel transcript featuring editors, lawyers, and bloggers such as Elise mentioned above.

Text and images are copyright, 2014, Lucy Mercer.

Visit me at A Cook and Her Books.

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