Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Another Response

Last night I received another email from Crystal ceder. This one was longer (though it was still "formatted" in one big block of text) and made a number of statements that I think are worthy of discussing.  I have summarized them below:

1. She got the recipes from "an anonymous source" and was not aware they were from my MedievalCookery.com. 
2. A friend of hers sent her the recipes to put together in a book. 
3. She just visited MedievalCookery.com and found my recipes came from "multiple cookbooks" but are published under my name. 
4. I claim the recipes as being my own work. 
5. She has seen the recipes on other sites presented as the work of others. (stated twice)
6. She got "many of those recipes from a friend" 
7. She incorrectly assumed that her friend had the legal rights to the recipes. 
8. The book will be removed. (stated twice)
9. Copyright for cookbooks is complicated. 
10. Recipes aren't usually original, and are versions of other recipes or are original. 
11. She is sorry I think the recipes were taken from MedievalCookery.com. 
12. She wasn't making any money off the cookbook anyways. (stated twice)
13. Her friend may have taken the recipes from other sites. 
14. It's not worth emailing back and forth because she's resolved the issue. 
15. She didn't take the recipes from MedievalCookery.com. 
16. The issue is resolved.

First, having read through all three of her emails multiple times, I must say I'm confused about the origin of her book. Her friend, who is an anonymous source, sent her the recipes to put into a book, that Crystal would sell as her (Crystal's) favorite medieval recipes. Either Crystal has trouble organizing her thoughts or her friend is the invisible type that one makes in childhood.

Next there are the statements that suggest the recipes could have been taken from some other source. How about I provide examples of what makes me think they're from my website and let you decide.

Here is the first recipe in her book ...

... and here is a recipe from my website ...

Here is the second recipe in her book...

... and here is a recipe from my website ...

Note how the ingredients, the instructions, and the color text match up exactly. Also note the words "Emma's Day Tart" in the Ember Day Tart recipe.  Emma is my wife's name in our medieval reenactment group.

I think that's pretty clear.  For all 18 of the recipes in the book there is an exact 1-to-1 correspondence to a recipe on my website, and in all cases the wording of the ingredients, the instructions, and the color text are identical - not similar, not close, but completely the same. Whenever I had a photo to go along with a recipe, that photo is included in the book.

As an aside, here's a portion of the book's introduction ...

... and here's an answer from a Yahoo! Answers page on the question "What did Kings eat in the Medieval Ages?" ...

See the part that I circled in red?  That's the result of Yahoo! erroneously censoring the word "cock". Note that I make no claim that I wrote this text (the poster copied it from a book and noted the source at the end). I just think it's pretty funny for someone to steal an entire book intro and not clean up typos from the source.

As to Crystal's repeated claims that she's seen the recipes on other websites, and the implication that I've stolen them from other sites, there is a possibility of the former but not of the latter. I have been very careful to get permission and give credit any time MedievalCookery.com is hosting recipes written by someone else.

I have come across situations where my recipes have been posted to recipe-sharing websites. When that happens I have sent copyright violation notices to the site and had the recipe removed. Occasionally I'll receive a request to reprint a recipe, but in those cases I always require full credit and a link to the original be provided.

To be fair, there are parts of the recipes on my website that are someone else's work, and which will often show up all over the web. Those parts are the original source material I based my work upon, all of which were published hundreds of years ago and are now in the public domain. It is interesting to note though that I always identify where the source material came from - it's an important aspect of research that allows others to evaluate how closely I've re-created the medieval dish. Take a look back at those screen shots. See the part that's marked "Source:"?  Do you see the same thing in Crystal's book?

I'll be writing another blog post soon about medieval recipes, copyright, and public domain sources (this post is already way too long) that will address Crystal's statements on the subject. Maybe she will read it. Hopefully she won't copy it into a book.


Tomas de Courcy said...

I'd be hilariously amused if the "multiple cookbooks" she claims are the original manuscripts you're redacting from. Also, cookbook copyright is very straightforward.


" 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."

Listing of ingredients (and possibly their amounts) are not copyrightable, but the instructions and colour text are.

I'm just shaking my head at her stupidity. Sorry you have to deal with this.

Doc said...

Hi Tomas,

That possibility occurred to me, though when I checked some of the recipe sites (e.g. food.com) this morning I found a large number of my recipes had been posted by various users without permission or proper credit.

It's not the first time that has happened, but it's a pain to deal with. Scripps Networks is generally pretty good about pulling recipes if you send them a DMCA takedown request.