A few days ago I received a Google Alert that linked back to cookk.com. A man in Tula, Russia, who calls himself Uncle Fedor stole one of my recipes. This makes me sad.
Google Alerts is a really neat service. The GoogleBots crawl all over the Interwebs, and when they find content that matches the search criteria you’ve given them, the Bots send you an e-mail. I have the GoogleBots looking for anything related to me or this site, and I get a couple of e-mail alerts each week. Usually the alerts point back to comments I’ve left on other blogs, or to blogrolls that feature food. according to me. Sometimes, I get a link to a scraper blog, which really pisses me off. Cookk, the website Google alerted me to the other day, isn’t a scraper blog because there’s a real person behind it. A real person with, evidently, no original ideas.
At Cookk, which looks far too much like Open Source Food (OSF) to be a coincidence, you can find my recipe for Summer Corn Soup, which – suspiciously enough – I posted on OSF last summer (and have since deleted). The recipe text and photo are identical to what was at OSF, where the recipe was under full copyright, not Creative Commons licensing. Uncle Fedor did – as he’s pointed out in our
e-mail exchange – put a copyright symbol underneath the recipe of mine that he stole, as well as a direct link to this site. According to him, that’s sufficient attribution. But Cookk seems to be promoting itself as a website that, like OSF, GroupRecipes, Bakespace, and other food-related social networking sites, relies on member-generated content. Members post their recipes, not the site’s administrator. But I never joined. I didn’t post. No one asked my permission to reproduce my work. So while I admit that not giving me credit for my intellectual property and not linking back to this site would have been worse, what he’s done is hardly praiseworthy.
When I saw my recipe up there at Cookk, I did a Whois search and found Fedor’s e-mail address. I sent him a note, asking that he remove my material as it is copyrighted and he does not have my permission to use it. I didn’t mention the suspicious resemblance his site bears to Open Source Food; I didn’t feel up to it. But, really, look:
I’m no expert in Fair Use or copyright law. I’ve used Creative Commons licenses in the past, but always with the stipulation that the work be attributed to me, unmodified, and not used for commercial gain. Lately, everything I’ve published has been under full copyright, since I am planning on being a little bit famous someday.
Whatever appeal I might make to the law, the argument isn’t very strong, mostly because Fedor is in Russia and I am in Oregon and because I’m not retaining legal counsel. All I’ve got and all I’ve attempted to use in my e-mails with Fedor is that what he’s doing over there in Tula is a violation of some pretty standard-issue moral principles. We all learned this in grammar school: stealing = wrong. It was dishonest and arguably criminal of Fedor to use all of those recipes and OSF’s design when assembling his website, and it is particularly despicable to refuse to remove my stuff once I’ve asked – and asked pretty nicely – to have it taken off the website. “I do not delete recipes from my site,” he wrote in response to my request, “That’s all.”
This happens a lot, all over the Interwebs. Both Blogger and WordPress will shut down a scraper blog hosted on their service. There are other channels for filing Digital Millennium Copyright Act complaints as well. It seems to me, though, that in our digital global village, © isn’t too powerful after all. But we publish our work here because we want to share it, want it to be read and enjoyed as widely as possible. Perhaps I should be flattered that someone across the world thinks so much of my Summer Corn Soup recipe that he ganked it from OSF and put it up on his own website. I’m not, though. And I’m angry and disappointed that I’ve been given a response tantamount to “talk to the hand.”
In my last e-mail to Fedor I asked a second time that he remove my material. “I am prepared to publicise your behavior,” I wrote, mentally drafting this post as I pressed the send button. And then I waited. This morning my answer came. The entire message from Fedor: “Ok. Do it.” Now here we are.
Nothing will happen as a result of this post, however. A few dozen people will read it and shake their heads and move along. In some extraordinary case, someone might track down Fedor’s e-mail address too and send a nasty little note. That’s about it though, and that’s why I suppose he’ll win and I’ll lose. But I’ll keep posting recipes here and at OSF because there are plenty of people who, I think, just want to make some delicious cookies and who are not interested in ripping me off and eroding my faith in human decency. I’d like to think so, anyway. The cookies are very delicious.