Teachable Moment: Copyright

*UPDATE* 1:08PM Eastern 1/16/2012 The offending site is being altered. This is all I wanted.

If you are dealing with content issues please read the site I reference below for how to handle what you’re specifically dealing with.

Heather says:

Over the weekend I received quite a nasty surprise. There is a woman in Ocala, FL copying the premise of Home-Ec101.com. I have filed a DMCA takedown, been in contact with my publisher, and the next step, if she does not comply within 72 hours, is to contact her hosting provider. (If you ever have questions about how to handle content theft, copyright infringement, and plagiarism, PlagiarismToday is my favorite resource).

Over the past few years I’ve dealt with a few issues of copyright violation. It’s part and parcel of working on the Internet where many people assume there is no copyright and that all content and ideas published on this medium are fair game. This is simply not true.

All of the work here on Home-Ec101.com is original and the rights belong to me or in some cases, my writers.

Point of clarification regarding copyright and recipes.

Recipes are sort of touchy. You cannot copyright a list of ingredients and basic instructions. Original narrative is copyrightable, as are pictures and collections of recipes. When I find someone has re-published one of my recipes with my pictures and narrative I generally politely contact them and ask for the work to be altered, removed, or properly credited.

I also don’t mind if someone is inspired by my work. I do not own the concept of education in the home economics field. It’s perfectly ok to start another website on this topic. I have contacted people in the past to let them know, it may be difficult to brand their work with the name Home-Ec 101, since I’ve been using it, in this context since 2007, and as a traditionally published work since March of 2011.

My personal opinion on image use:

If someone has done something called “hotlinking” I will occasionally replace the original picture with a very tacky image that says this content has been stolen from Home-Ec101.com. Serving images is not free; please, host them yourselves.

I also, and this is my personal opinion others’ may differ, don’t mind if someone uses one of my pictures in a post publicizing my work. Meaning, if you liked a recipe and want to tell your readers about my recipe, I don’t mind one bit if you use my picture to say “Hey, I made this, check out Home Ec 101 for the recipe.” This is also how Pinterest works. I love that so many of you like the pictures and help spread Home Ec 101 around the web. Pinterest helps me learn what people really like on this site.

There are thousands of homemaking websites out there; I love the writers who want to help adults better themselves in this field. We each differ in how we present the same knowledge. There are only so many ways to describe scrubbing a toilet; about this I have no illusions. What makes us unique are our voices.

Here’s why I felt compelled to write about copyright.

Adding one word to Home Ec 101 Skills for Everyday Living is not creating a unique brand or voice.

Advertising Home Ec 101 classes on a tacky site based on my concept? That’s even worse.

I can’t decide what I’m angrier about; the blatant copying or the fact that she cheapened the Home Ec 101 brand and made it look tacky. Here’s a screenshot, so you don’t have to visit modernhomeec101.com.

This is not the case of a new blogger not knowing any better. This is someone who is attempting to make money off of my years of work. Additionally, there will be people out there who may assume that this concept has my approval.

This is also an opportunity for me to help those considering blogging as a hobby or job, develop a deeper understanding of copyright.

If you want to teach home economic / life skills courses in your area, by all means go ahead. Kudos to you for having the drive and initiative to do the work. Just take the time to come up with your own branding and voice.

Thank you,

Heather Solos
Founder of Home-Ec101.com and author of Home Ec 101 Skills for Everyday Living.



43 Comments

  1. ChasAnon on January 17, 2012 at 3:02 pm

    For what it’s worth – I have been readingthis blog for many years, and bought your book when it first hit Barnes and Nobles. I think it’s disgusting how people think nothing of ripping off others work because it’s ‘only’ on the internet, pirating music and software etc. Funny how folks think, it doesn’t matter because online actions like these aren’t ‘real’ crimes yet the internet is so pervasive in our lives most people would be crippled without it.

    I think you’re handling it just fine, people need to speak up when they are wronged so that we create an online culture of responsobility for one’s actions. In other words – you go girl!

  2. JayMonster on January 16, 2012 at 4:33 pm

    I completely disagree. Sure, I could see if the site was “too close” a look, or if she just “grabbed a few recipes” to get herself rolling, you may have a point in her not seeing what she was doing as bad, but this was complete and utter theft of concept… I mean, really?? Right down to taking the Tag Line? If she is really that incoherent to not now what she is doing… then she has no business being in a kitchen where there are sharp objects.

  3. mikestenger on January 16, 2012 at 3:48 pm

    Hey Heather, sorry I’m late to get around to you sharing this post with me. I’m glad the person is changing their site. It was obviously a blatant rip off.

  4. HeatherSolos on January 16, 2012 at 2:08 pm

    Kevin I do think you raise a good point, but I still believe there was intent involved. Will I pursue it past this point? No. I consider the matter closed.

  5. HeatherSolos on January 16, 2012 at 2:01 pm

    To the absolute best of my knowledge, it is up to the copyright holder to deal with that issue.

    As a matter of etiquette crediting sources is appropriate, if a recipe has not been significantly altered. Some food bloggers will say you credit the inspiration no matter where it came from.

    I tend to take a there’s rarely anything new under the sun approach. I’m sure versions (the lists of ingredients, not the narratives) of many of the recipes I use are out there somewhere some before I posted them, some after. I’m not going to get too worked up unless someone grabs the narrative and pictures without credit.

  6. HeatherSolos on January 16, 2012 at 1:28 pm

    Also everyone should read Saving4Someday’s comment on when DMCA is appropriate.

  7. crazyadventures on January 16, 2012 at 1:07 pm

    Awful! I clicked through and saw she’s altered her site. The title is still the same, but all the infringing copyright stuff has been taken off and replaced with a “coming soon!” or “cooking, craft, home-ec classes.” Needless to say, she’s at least listening, thank goodness.

  8. HeatherSolos on January 16, 2012 at 1:07 pm

    It would appear things are being changed on the site right now.

  9. saving4someday on January 16, 2012 at 1:01 pm

    Heather, I’m sorry you’re dealing with this. I don’t think it’s so much a copyright issue though, unless the other blog is posting your photos and your content. You indicate … “There is a woman in Ocala, FL copying the premise of Home-Ec101.com.”, and ideas/premise are not protected by copyright and a DMCA should not be lodged because someone is doing something similar. As for website names, those are not covered by copyright. Domain name laws are woven into trademark and cybersquatting and are handled through ICANN and UDRP so long as there is a legal trademark.

    I think there could be some trademark issues though, which are not handled through DMCA.

    Filing a false DMCA carries with it some pretty hefty penalties. You mention ‘blatant copying’, but I don’ see where she copied something that is subject to copyright. ‘Skills for Everyday Living’ is not covered by copyright as it is a ‘short phrase or slogan’. And the name of your blog may be your brand but it would be trademark, not copyright, that would potentially be the body of law to look to for protection.

    It sounds like your main point of contention is you feel this other blogger is cheapening your brand. Of course if she’s taking copyrighted images and content, by all means use DMCA to protect your copyrighted work. Using the proper legal channel is what is needed. However, do so only on the advice of someone who is trained in this area. I see too many people filing DMCAs that have no copyright basis and the consequences can be harsh.

    DISCLAIMER: Nothing in this comment is to be construed as legal advice.

    • HeatherSolos on January 16, 2012 at 1:03 pm

      @saving4someday I appreciate your advice on the matter.

      • saving4someday on January 16, 2012 at 1:04 pm

        @HeatherSolos No advice, just information. 🙂

        • HeatherSolos on January 16, 2012 at 1:07 pm

          @saving4someday sorry, bad turn of phrase.

    • KeterMagick on January 16, 2012 at 1:14 pm

      @saving4someday The “Fix it, Clean it, Cook it , Wash it” bit is the same, too. I think most reasonable people would say that she not only copied, she did it on purpose and with the intent to create confusion with Heather’s brand. If, as recent comments indicate, she has changed her site, then the dilution issue may go away, but Heather, do check her metatags to see if she’s poaching there. I’m not giving her the hits. BTW, she also is a dog-breeder (a huge no-no in my world), and has an equally tacky dog breeding web site. It’s amazing what one can find out with a search on Whois.net and a follow up on the registrant’s name on Dogpile. [evil grin]

      • saving4someday on January 16, 2012 at 3:04 pm

        @KeterMagick First, I love Dogpile too! Second, dog breeders are not well regarded in my book either. Third, dilution and creating confusion are trademark issues. Your suggestion to check the metatags is great because that’s becoming more prevalent with trademark violations.

  10. KeterMagick on January 16, 2012 at 12:56 pm

    Wow… throat punches and horse heads (hey! what did the poor horse do?)… who knew homemakers could be so feisty! Heather, this sucks and you are handling it just fine – as the Warren Zevon song says, “send lawyers, guns, and money.” ;o). Venting to a supportive audience is good for you, too. And yes, that site is a blatant and ugly ripoff, and you are 100% justified in saying so. You also should contact Google and let them know what’s going on so her site won’t show up on searches for your site. HUGS!!!

  11. stark23x on January 16, 2012 at 11:57 am

    @HeatherSolos you realize that you command an army, right? I mean, I’m not advocating violence, but if you *wanted* someone beat up…

    Just sayin’. 😉

    • HeatherSolos on January 16, 2012 at 11:59 am

      @stark23x I’ll be pursuing this through the proper, legal channels.

      • stark23x on January 16, 2012 at 12:00 pm

        @HeatherSolos As a responsible adult should. I’m only about half that, so you know…I spend some time imagining a throatpunch or two.

  12. hotmama2u79@gmail.com on January 16, 2012 at 11:52 am

    Thank you for posting the information to educate all of us. I’m sure that the woman’s actions were out of error and not intent to hurt you. I don’t think there is any reason to make the person feel bad by catty comments though. I hope the woman will find a way to share her desire to help other women in her own creative way.

    • HeatherSolos on January 16, 2012 at 11:55 am

      @hotmama2u79@gmail.com I must disagree, this was not an error. While my opinion about the bad design may be construed as catty, I do not believe I stepped too far out of line.

      • stark23x on January 16, 2012 at 12:03 pm

        @HeatherSolos@hotmama2u79@gmail.com All of my prior kidding aside, I agree that this was an intentional theft. Too many similarities to specific hallmarks of this site to be a coincidence. You just can’t do that and think it’s okay. Her intentions may be great, but she shouldn’t be allowed to simply use Heather’s hard work to start a business without permission or compensation.

      • hotmama2u79@gmail.com on January 16, 2012 at 1:43 pm

        I guess I was a little surprised because I follow your blog, and from what I have seen I have never known you to make a public discussion about someone. You had every right to do what you did with contacting her and going through the proper channels to protect yourself, but I was a bit surprised when it came down to posting the site and calling it tacky. It was disappointing. Also, for some reason, when you open a forum like this it encourages others to attack too. I know that is no what your blog is intended for joking or not. I know you were upset and you have every right to be, this is you concept, your hard work and your creativity, in a way it is YOU. But, helping others is what YOU are about, even women who make mistakes.

        • HeatherSolos on January 16, 2012 at 1:46 pm

          @hotmama2u79@gmail.com I understand your point, but I firmly believe that this was more than a “mistake” I firmly believe it was intentional and therein lies the difference.

        • HeatherSolos on January 16, 2012 at 1:49 pm

          @hotmama2u79@gmail.com if I believed it were a mistake, I would not have called attention to it, as I alluded to having done in the past.

          Since the site has been changed, I consider the issue over, anything further from my end will only come from my publisher, if they see it as an issue, as they hold the copyright for the book.

        • ChristineMathias on January 16, 2012 at 2:16 pm

          @hotmama2u79@gmail.com I understand your inclination to want to refrain from name-calling and to always err on the side of helping others…I think it’s a credit to Heather and this community that she’s built that you would expect that. Where we differ is that I don’t see this post as deviating from these standards; the offending website clearly isn’t at the same level of design and is full of many grammatical errors, and it’s an honest concern that it could potentially cheapen/harm the brand that she has spent years building.

    • lindasellers on January 16, 2012 at 11:59 am

      @hotmama2u79@gmail.com I don’t think anyone can claim ignorance on something like this. In general in life you can’t pass off someone’s idea and business strategy as your own. She just thought she’d never get caught.

    • JayMonster on January 16, 2012 at 4:37 pm

      @hotmama2u79@gmail.com “Catty Comments”?!? Believe me, Heather has held herself high above what most others (including me) would do in a similar situation, which is just nothing short of insane and blatent theft.

  13. KelbyCarr on January 16, 2012 at 11:16 am

    I am so angry for you! And I am so glad you are taking a stand, and using this is an opportunity to educate people about these issues.

  14. bywordofmouth on January 16, 2012 at 11:10 am

    You should totally have them come and clean your toilets for that … no matter which way they choose to do them 😉

  15. Nikki_S on January 16, 2012 at 10:59 am

    Heather I’ve often wondered about recipes. As I do more and more cooking (I think I owe that in part to you), I am using the Internet and a lot of my favorite sites to find great recipes. I’d love to blog about them (with my own pictures of course) but I’ve never known what the line is on copyright for food and recipes is so I usually just post “we made X tonight. Thanks to http://www... whatever for the recipe) with a link on Facebook.

    It’s sad that this is happening to you but I think you’re handling this as graciously as possible and I think that speaks volumes to who you are and your brand. You have a whole community behind you and I know you’ll get through it!

    • HeatherSolos on January 16, 2012 at 11:18 am

      @Nikki_S gracious would probably have been keeping my mouth shut publicly, but. . . that human thing bit me in the butt again. 😉

  16. SarahHolbrookMcCubbins on January 16, 2012 at 10:56 am

    Probably immature, but my number is blocked so….I left a message at the number on their website telling them that their website looks horrible and is an obvious copy and that it is sad they can’t think of an original idea on their own!

    • hotmama2u79@gmail.com on January 16, 2012 at 1:49 pm

      @SarahHolbrookMcCubbins This is what I’m talking about Heather. This is not what your website should be promoting

      • HeatherSolos on January 16, 2012 at 1:52 pm

        @hotmama2u79@gmail.com I’m not promoting this. I never even suggested that anyone should take any action. I outlined the steps I have taken and expressed my frustration.

  17. jaredwsmith on January 16, 2012 at 10:52 am

    Heather, on the bright side, you haven’t made it until someone creates a poor ripoff of what you have created — and you, ma’am, have made it!

  18. PinkGranny on January 16, 2012 at 10:45 am

    I can’t believe that the person would actually use your pictures along with their stolen content. If I am inspired, I do link back to the blog that inspired me. Credit for hard work goes to the person who created it. I wish I knew how to put a watermark or label on my pictures showing that the picture is mine and I don’t want it to be ‘used’ freely by someone else. I don’t have a lot going on with my blog yet but it does concern me.

  19. ReneRavenKelso on January 16, 2012 at 10:31 am

    Wow blatantly ripping you off. And showing no original thought whatsoever. Nice. Go get’em!

  20. mghollis38 on January 16, 2012 at 10:15 am

    Ugh. That’s horrible. I hope it gets resolved quickly and peaceably. (Quilt blocks are similarly hard to copyright.)

    • HeatherSolos on January 16, 2012 at 10:20 am

      @mghollis38 as long as no one uses my word-for-word narrative and pictures for the recipes here, I don’t mind them getting passed around. I love food and I want others to enjoy it, too. I can understand how quilt blocks would have more of a personal, artistic feeling of ownership.

  21. pguyton on January 16, 2012 at 10:13 am

    to what address should i deliver the horse head?

    • HeatherSolos on January 16, 2012 at 2:09 pm

      @pguyton I know you’re just feeling protective. Be nice.

      • pguyton on January 16, 2012 at 2:11 pm

        @HeatherSolos @yes m’am 🙂 how about a horse head made of mashed together gummybears?

        • HeatherSolos on January 16, 2012 at 2:26 pm

          @pguyton that sounds awfully sticky.

Leave a Comment