Yesterday was going really well. In the middle of the afternoon, Lance said, “Hey, we have a lot of traffic on our site!” I went to check out our analytics, and sure enough, we were getting a lot more than usual, most of them to our Cauliflower Chicken Nuggets recipe.
I’ll be making the recipe live on 1/29 at 8:00 pm central time – tune in below!
“Hey, that’s awesome! I bet someone with a lot of followers repinned one of my pins.”
But then I did more digging… the traffic wasn’t coming from Pinterest, but from Google. Which on the surface, seems awesome – “Fantastic! We’re getting a huge search boost, hopefully it’ll continue.”
It didn’t. After about an hour, I realized the traffic had dropped off, which meant there had be some sort of impetus for the surge.
I did even more digging, and found out The Doctors had featured cauliflower chicken nuggets on their show. “Awesome!” I thought, “Love it when we get this type of unexpected traffic.”
Then I clicked on an article from Recapo that recapped The Doctors’ segment. When I got to the bottom of the article and saw the recipe, I thought, “Wait a minute, this looks awfully familiar.” Not just the ingredients, but the instructions were taken word-for-word from my article… and the credit was being given to The Doctors.
At first I thought that the author on Recapo had simply taken the recipe directly from Girls Gone Sporty, since we do come up first on search results for the phrase “cauliflower chicken nuggets.” But then Lance found the recipe on The Doctors’ website.
Again, it was word-for-word what I’d written here for Girls Gone Sporty.
The Doctors’ recipe
My original recipe
At first I was mildly annoyed. Then I watched The Doctors’ segment featuring the recipe. The doctors were raving over the nuggets, and then the host said, “Get the recipe by going to our website.”
With those eight words, they were taking credit for my work. With those eight words, they were telling people to go check out “their recipe” by heading to their website, where they took my recipe, and used it without any acknowledgment or credit.
I got angry.
Look, I’m well aware that I’m the “little guy.” Every day I work incredibly hard to make Girls Gone Sporty successful. I spend hours researching, writing, filming, taking pictures, and planning. I spend hours working with the ambassadors and answering emails while also trying to balance freelance work. And I love it. I love what I do, but it is a struggle.
To work so hard, day in and day out, to make this site a success, only to have a “big guy” come along and take credit for my work? That’s a tough pill to swallow.
And before anyone comes along as says, “recipes can’t be copyrighted” or “you’re blowing this out of proportion,” or “be grateful for the traffic boost you got,” I’d like to take a moment to explain why this is different.
Recipes and plagiarism
An article in The Washington Post explained the ethics of recipe attribution really well, so I’m going to use their words:
“U.S. copyright law addresses recipes, but what holds sway can be called either ethics or etiquette. Cooking is not considered inventing; rather, it evolves. Copyright law specifies that “substantial literary expression in the form of an explanation or directions,” such as a cookbook, can be copyrighted but that a mere list of ingredients cannot receive that protection.
The ethics guidelines of the International Association of Culinary Professionals focus on giving proper attribution to recipes that are published or taught. The association advises using the words “adapted from,” “based on” or “inspired by,” depending on how much a recipe has been revised. (“Adapted from” is the phrasing favored by The Washington Post and many other newspaper food sections, which, along with culinary instructors, enjoy “fair use” of someone’s creation for the purpose of teaching, news reporting, scholarship or research.) The only time a recipe should be printed without attribution, the association contends, is when it has been changed so substantially that it no longer resembles its source.”
What sets apart what The Doctors did here was: 1) They didn’t just take my ingredients – for that I absolutely couldn’t claim any wrongdoing – they took my entire recipe, instructions and all, word-for-word from my site, and 2) Even though there were zero modifications or adaptations from my recipe or instructions, they still failed to provide any attribution at all.
Had they modified the recipe, or changed the ingredients, or done anything to adapt the recipe from its original state, I wouldn’t have a thing to complain about. But in this case, since Goliath so clearly ripped off David, I do.
It’s a big deal
For anyone who creates content, and tries their damnedest to do a good job, any plagiarism is a big deal. But to have a major television network yank one of your articles and use it as their own? Come on! They get millions of viewers a day, they have millions of Facebook followers and Twitter followers, and any other type of follower you can think of. They shouldn’t be allowed to steal from the “little guys,” take credit for the work, and just move on. That’s wrong.
I am grateful
I’m grateful I dug a little deeper and found the plagiarism. I’m grateful the boost in traffic alerted me to the fact that something was going on.
I’m not grateful for them using my recipe without credit. Sure, I got a boost in traffic, but how much more would I have gotten had they actually given me attribution? What if they had said, “Check out the recipe we got from Girls Gone Sporty by going to our website”? Or even, “Head to our website for the recipe,” with a link to my site when they got there? Or even, “Find similar recipes online,” without taking my recipe at all?
All of those would have been reasonable and right ways to share this content, but what they did yesterday was not reasonable and not right. I was stolen from, and I’d like restitution.
I’m doing what I can to reach out to the company and ask for credit. To be honest, I love that they used the recipe – that’s awesome! I just wish they would have acknowledged that the recipe (and the instructions!) were taken word-for-word from my website.
Unfortunately, they’re a big production and it’s hard to get in touch. They’ve disabled private messaging on Facebook and Twitter, their contact form is generic, and they’ve deleted my comments (and those of a few other awesome women who are supporting me here) from their website. I’ll be sending an email to their publicity department today to try to make this right, but in the meantime, I’m asking for help. If you wouldn’t mind sharing this on Facebook or hitting the click to tweet button above (towards the top of the post), I would greatly appreciate it!
(Note: The click to tweet has been removed because of the update post below)
I figure if they’ve done this to me, they’ve probably done it to other people. I’d like this type of unethical behavior from a major show to stop here.
Update, 12:00 pm 1/28
A huge thank you is in order! I received a phone call from the Vice President of Publicity from The Doctors. She said the plagiarism was “an oversight” and that it’s not how their production team usually operates. She went on to say that all the social media attention was “causing them difficulties.” To that I say, “Thank you!” Thank you for rallying behind me and helping me get this solved! The Doctors has now provided credit and linked to my recipe, and will tag Girls Gone Sporty when they share the recipe to their social media sites. This wouldn’t have happened without your help, and I’m incredibly grateful to all of you! And beyond that, I truly hope this was an oversight on their end and that they’ve learned their lesson.