Friday, 30 March 2012

WW Skye's tomato and pumpkin curry and copyright issues

I've never got on the Skye Gyngell bandwagon.  There was never any reason to.  Not until Lucy wrote up this Tomato and Pumpkin Curry with Lime and Coconut.  Though I fancied the recipe, it was really the serendipitous arrival of curry leaves in my kitchen that prompted me to make the curry.  I loved the way that Skye wrote the recipe which has prompted me to reflect on some of the copyright discussions going on in the blogosphere lately.

My mum was at my place and needed to take curry leaves along to the centre where she volunteers in the kitchen.  I gave her the last of my (much neglected) stash in the freezer and in return she brought me some from her garden.  She also brought along some basil and parsley.  It seemed foolish to go out and buy fresh coriander (cilantro) which I don't like anyway when I had fresh herbs in the house already.  So began my tweaking of the recipe.

It seems a good a time as any to bring up the thorny issue of copyright and recipes.  It has surfaced in a few posts I have seen lately.  Vanessa Kimbell (who recently became a published cookbook author) has posted a blogger code of fair practice that includes only posting recipes where bloggers have requested permission to use them.  Lucy of The KitchenMaid has removed a recipe upon request due to copyright issues.  And Amanda of Lamb's Ears and Honey has boldly refused a request to remove a recipe on the grounds that she has not breached any copyright issues.  All posts (with their comments) make fascinating reading.

I have spoken before about where I stand on recipes and copyright.  I have seen a few furores about copyright during my time blogging. Not Quite Nigella and ACP, Alosha's Kitchen and America's Test Kitchen, and Monica Gaudio and Cook Source.  I have also recently stumbled across a photographer who is grappling with copyright issues and Pinterest.  In fact I thought I would never finish this post because I keep getting drawn into fascinating posts and comments.

[Update: I've found two more interesting links since uploading this post - BlogHer article on Elise Bauer of Simply Recipes finding her blog content made into an e-book for sale on Amazon and reflections on Pinterest by Meeta on What's for Lunch Honey. And I found one positive one at The Window Seat about Pinterest's changes.]

One of the best pieces of advice about food blogging copyright issues that I have found is on recipe attribution by David Lebowitz.  To summarise the law as I understand it: you cannot copyright a list of ingredients but you can copyright creative expression in how a method is written.  As Jennifer Geuvin puts it so nicely "Sharing recipes is, after all, part of the tradition of cooking. But sites are still struggling with defining the line between what's acceptable or even beneficial copying, and what's damaging their brand or profits."  Recipe copyright feels like tradition and technology colliding ever so awkwardly.

This whole copyright debate seems to be about more than the law.  It seems to be about moral rights as well, which I think is a murkier area to dabble in.  Whatever the law, argue some, you will be taking away a cookbook writer's income by reproducing recipes.  I agree, however, with those who say that blogging can promote a cookbook.  I actually discovered Dan Lepard (who is central to much of the recent debate) through blogging.  However I think part of the issue is that the internet has changed how we share information and for every person like myself who wants to abide by copyright law, there are many more who just don't care.  Though I don't know that there are many people who would - or could - find all the recipes from any one cookbook on the web rather than buy the book?

For me, if I read about a recipe on someone's site I really want to see their version of the recipe.  Which doesn't mean that I wont go to the original recipe and might even buy the book.  This brings me in a roundabout way to Skye Gyngell's recipe for Tomato and Pumpkin Curry with Lime and Coconut.  When I read about it on the KitchenMaid, I was curious to know how Lucy had adapted it, especially as she lives in my region and uses different pumpkins to those that Skye has access to.

I also can't help but think that it must be frustrating to get a recipe just right, only to find someone like myself who doesn't eat fish sauce, doesn't like coriander, has access to different pumpkins, wants to bump up the protein with nuts, prefers to add the spinach in the curry rather than on the side and just doesn't follow the method.  Every now and again in this sort of situation, I question if it is even the same recipe but I like a recipe to have a heritage even if it sometimes looks quite different to the original.

I don't think that my recipe was quite as successful as Skye's because E had to eat bread with his because it lacked something.  I didn't manage to get the balance of flavours quite right but it was close enough for jazz (ie very good if not excellent).  The aroma while I cooked was amazing.  It was one of those pleasant early autumn evenings where it was a joy to potter in the kitchen while E and Sylvia sat on the verandah and played with coloured beads for the spokes of the bike wheels.  E did call the meal a "tightener" because it was very filling.  It was also pleasantly spicy from the fennel and mustard as well as the chilli.

The recipe made me think I could become a Skye fan as much for her wonderful way with words as for her interesting flavours.  I wish I could write so eloquently that people delight to read it - for example: "The curry should be pleasantly (not aggressively) hot; sweet (but not sticky); sour (but not so much that it makes you squint); and salty enough to underpin and ground the dish."  Such lyrical writing makes sense of copyright laws.  Of course if I copied out this recipe word for work, I can understand why it would be frowned upon.  But I hope you will agree that I am entitled to share my below version of the recipe.

I am sending this curry to Ricki for her Wellness Weekends event.

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
This time last year: New Kitchen, Old Stuff
This time two years ago: Eat Drink Blog Conference - notes and reflections
This time four years ago: Dahl, Panch Phoran and Candlelight

Skye's Tomato and Pumpkin Curry with Lime and Coconut
Adapted from Skye Gyngell in the Independent
Serves 4

1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 red onion, peeled and finely sliced
3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
1 green chilli, chopped (I left out the seeds)
10 curry leaves
1/2 cup of raw cashews
850g pumpkin, peeled, trimmed and chopped
2 tbsp caster sugar (or other sweetner)
1 1/2 tbsp soy sauce (maybe more next time)
1/2 tbsp umeboshi vinegar (maybe leave it out next time)
Juice of 1 and 1/2 limes
15-20 baby roma tomatoes, halved
400g tin of diced tomatoes
270ml tin of light coconut milk
two good handfuls of baby spinach (about 120g), chopped
1 handful of basil (or fresh coriander), plus extra for serving

Dry fry fennel and mustard seeds in a small frypan over medium heat until the mustard seeds start to pop.  They will be quite well cooked and fragrant by then.  Use a pestle and mortar to grind the seeds. 

Heat the vegetable oil in a large frypan or wok.  Fry the onions for about 10 minutes over low to medium heat until soft.  Add garlic, chilli, curry leaves and cashews and cook gently for another couple of minutes.  Add ground mustard and fennel and continue cooking for another 5 minutes.  Add pumpkin and cook for about 10 minutes (I did 5 but next time would do 10 minutes as in Skye's recipe).

Now add sugar, soy sauce, umeboshi vinegar (if using), and lime juice.  Taste to check for a good balance of hot, sweet, sour and salty.  At this stage I wouldn't do too much adjustment to the hot and sweet flavours because they will be affected by tomatoes and coconut but check it is sour and salty enough.

Now add both the fresh and tinned tomatoes and cook for about 20-25 minutes until the pumpkin is tender (I did 20 but probably could have had the pumpkin a little more cooked.)  Stir in the coconut milk.  As my pumpkin was needing to cook a little more I also added 1/2 cup of water and I then simmered it for about 15 minutes (longer than in Skye's recipe).  A few minutes before it is ready, throw in the spinach so that it wilts in the curry.  Once pumpkin is cooked, turn off the heat and stir in a handful of basil leaves. 

I served the curry with rice but I think it would go really well with rice noodles too.  Serve with a few torn basil leaves scattered on top.  Skye advises letting it sit overnight for the flavours to mature but I served it straight away, though the leftovers were lovely the next day.

On the stereo:
This is the return of cult fiction: 30 classic film and tv themes - Various Artists

39 comments:

  1. I love curries--so this sounds good to me even if E felt it needed something more! As for copyright issues, I agree that if I am rewriting it, and providing credit for the ingredient list (ie, a link), then that's okay; but some bloggers simply copy the entire recipe word for word onto their own blogs (and I've even seen a few who've nabbed my photos!)--well, that's just rude and inconsiderate!

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    1. Thanks Ricki - rewriting a recipe word for word is inconsiderate - it also looks silly when you include some of the personal touches that are added to recipes - taking photos is just rude! This is one of the reasons I finally wrote an FAQ on comments so at least I was clear on what I expected of readers.

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  2. Well put Johanna! And I think that copyright is a thorny issue for so many. As I understand it too, you can't copyright a list of ingredients but the method can be. The curry sounds lovely s does Skye's writing!

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    1. Thanks Lorraine - if you haven't checked out Skye's writing I recommend it - and her curries!

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  3. I love your thoughts on copyright - I've been grateful for your past posts on the topic too. I always worry that I will inadvertently do something I shouldn't, but it does seem that the legal side is actually quite lax, or at least it doesn't raise too many issues for people like me who rarely follow a recipe exactly. The moral side, though - that is one I sometimes worry about. How much adapting counts as enough adapting to make it different? I don't know the answers but value these sorts of posts!

    The recipe looks lovely too :)

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    1. Thanks Kari - I get worried too that I will inadvertently do the wrong thing - which is why I always take notice of these copyright discussions. I am not good at following recipes either but am glad to give you some food for thought

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  4. I always try to write my recipe instructions in my own "voice", which is partly in the hopes that people won't just copy and paste my recipe. As I think I've mentioned before, I've decided to as much as possible not write out recipes from others unless I've substantially changed them, but I think there's a bit of grey area when, say, it's a recipe with simple ingredients that you can already find in almost that form in a million places on the internet. Does that make sense? I use recipes mostly for inspiration these days, anyway. I think I'm rambling. :P

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    1. Thanks Hannah - you are right about 'voice' - blogging has made me appreciate how different cookbooks each have a different voice, though some are quite similar. I understand your rambling - it is a confusing issue with lots of grey areas

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  5. Interesting post. I do get toey around this subject as I would hate to think I'm ripping someone off of there stuff. I'll have to read some of your links as I seem to have missed this round of discussions. The Lebovitz one is a good one though, and I have read that a few times before...just to make sure!
    Dish does look go Johanna :-)

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    1. Thanks Brydie - it is good to go back to posts like the Lebowitz one every now and again for a refresher - I like his common sense as well as an understanding of the law and a perspective of a cookbook writer

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  6. I so agree that you are entitled to share your version of this recipe - a list of ingredients is not of itself capable of copyright protection; the copyright in the recipe is in the expression of ideas through the method. This curry looks delicious; it's a shame that it wasn't as tasty as it looks. However, I adore pumpkin and curries, so I am tempted regardless.

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    1. I love pumpkin curries too - I wondered if it was my dislike of coriander and avoidance of fish sauce that made the difference - would be interested to hear if you do make it with these - and I think it is interesting to think about recipes as expressions of ideas rather than an ingredient list! Would the issue be different if the recipe was embedded in the discussion rather than kept separate at the bottom of the post?

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  7. I think that your musings on copyright are just spot on Johanna.

    And what a lovely curry. I love Skye, and have been lucky enough to eat at her restaurant. Delicious, but the most expensive meal I have had in recent years.

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    1. Thanks Helen - I'd never heard of Petersham Nurseries when I lived in london but it sounds like you were lucky to go there - would love to taste the food after this curry

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  8. Oh the copyright issue...I tend to agree with you. I am more likely to purchase a cookbook if I have successfully tried a recipe from it or if another blogger that I trust have, so I think in that sense, blogging actually helps PROMOTE cookbook sales. but, I also have a raging cookbook addiction...so maybe that's just me. :P

    I LOVE the sound of this curry! Totally my kind of meal!

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    1. Thanks Joanne - recommendations from trusted bloggers is worth a lot to me but I also need to see a recipe to see if it my sort of thing and then look at the book to see if I like the feel of it too and check if there are lots of recipes I like - I am trying to limit my cookbook addiction but being fussy but it doesn't always work :-)

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  9. The expression "close enough for jazz" made me smile. I've heard Americans use "close enough for country" :-)

    Smita

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    1. Thanks Smita - never heard of close enough for country - am not sure where close enough for jazz came from because I picked it up from my partner

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  10. As you know I had a bit of a blogging break because of home-moving, so I missed out on much of this on-going debate around copyright and blogging. I read with great interest your thoughts and followed all the links to the sites. My heart really went out to Lucy/Kitchen Maid. I also felt great admiration for Amanda/Lambs Ear. Since starting my blog, I have always been conscous of copying other recipes whether its a fellow blogger ('facon bacon' No Meat Athlete) or a celebrity cook ('Rhubarb and Lentil Curry' Celia Brooks). I have always acknowledged the source of inspiration, even where the recipe has been signicantly adapted. And in many cases got in touch with the authors directly (Nanci McDermott 'Real Thai Cooking'). Still I worry that I may oneday inadvertently do something esp. as my blog grows! So your post is very much appreciated.

    So who created the original beetroot and chocolate brownie recipe, I am sure the other brownie recipes whether with sweet potatoes, butternut squash, banana and so on have been adaptations of others...I am just being sarcastic here. I bumped into a local chef here, who thinks he invented the chocolate and beetroot recipe.

    The curry looks good too. I have a Skye cookbook and not yet cooked from it, time to flick :)

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    1. Thanks Shaheen - easy to miss blogging discussions when you are busy - you seem to have thought through the acknolwedgement issue and raise a good question about where recipes come from - wonder what our foremothers would think about the way we share recipes today!

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  11. I love reading your musings and recipes, because there's always a story behind them, or a reason that you substituted for a certain ingredient, or added another ingredient in. I think you make all the recipes you post your own, and that's why I love reading them! I'd agree with giving your inspiration, even if the recipe is fairly significantly changed, just because it's interesting to know what the inspiration was at the beginning.

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    1. Thanks Caroline (no more C?) - yes, giving inspiration is about more than acknowledgement - it is about a chain of recipe development - that is one thing that the web does more successfully as I think before the web that people sharing recipes weren't as careful with attribution and so many recipes are around today that don't have any source of where they came from and they lose their provenance or story

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  12. That's the problem these days with technology. Suddenly everyone is becoming to precious to share their recipes or getting knock back and smacked for sharing the recipes from cookbooks. Gone are the days, where we would studiously copy recipes from our mother's and aunts recipe books, which were littered with newspaper/magazine cutouts... *sigh*

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    1. Thanks msihua - I sometimes feel a bit nostalgic for the old way of sharing recipes - technology makes it more complicated and more transparent. But I don't think the days of cookbooks are gone - not for me anyway

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  13. Ok ... firstly, fantastic recipe and I will be trying it myself. Secondly, blooming heck! As I said on Lucy'd blog, the whole point of my blog is to keep all my favoured recipes in the one place, previously they were spread throughout different note books and of course cookbooks, but that can b a pain when your in the door after work and need to get the dinner started or bake that cake for the next day. Also, so long as the credit has been given to the author / publisher then surely publishing the recipe is actually helping them to increase their revenue in some small way. I would understand if everyone was publishing more than half the book but odds on its a single recipe, maybe two. This is a thorny issue to be sure!

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    1. The problem with this is that while the notebook is yours, and other people can't see it, as soon as you post a recipe on your blog, it's indexed by Google and you're showing it to the whole world. Google doesn't discriminate between what you post for your own use, and what The Guardian puts on it's website, it's all public.

      Maybe one of those software "notes" packages would give you the accessibility you want, without making the recipes public. And no, you putting a recipe on your blog doesn't help the food writer to earn anything, there's no fund of internet dollars that sends them pennies when someone clicks on your site, and as I note below, the problem isn't one blogger posting a couple of recipes, it's the aggregate impact of many bloggers, all posting different recipes from a book, that creates a problem and in effect putting a whole book onlinbe withour permission. And then search engines make it available.

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    2. Thanks Chele - I too treat my blog as a notebook - one where I can find the recipe in my own language. Unfortunately for Oh gosh and bother the world has changed and we share in a different way now - the internet has made many tasks much easier for us than if we were to do them offline - we have been looking into different online systems at work that rely on the internet so I could name quite a few - I think that the way you can organise your recipes on the web is quite different to trying to do it offline - and I write this as someone who tried to start an index of recipes on a software program on my computer and got overwhelmed by trying to work it.

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    3. JohannaGGG, as relatively 'early starters' where the internet is concerned, we do understand its usefulness. But I'd guess that the company you work for, while using online systems, will also have things they won't want to share with the world at large, that won't be available to me via Google. And that if their "product" was the written word, they'd probably want to avoid it being given away on other peoples' websites. And that's all we are saying: that we'd like to choose how much of what we do we share. Sharing is about what you do with what's your own, it's not a generous act if you choose to "share" what belongs to someone else.

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  14. Yes, yes, you most definitely are entitled to share your version, which was inspired by Skye. I think food bloggers - as long as they credit their sources, are helping to promote the revived interest in food and with that cookbooks. There has been a lot of nonsense talked recently about this issue. I've reflected on it, it's made me upset and it's made me angry. I no longer feel as if I want to promote the book I thought was the best ever. Anyway, everything has already been said by others and to be honest I'm sick of the subject now.

    But your pumpkin curry sounds delicious. It's my favourite curry ever and we always do ours with tomatoes too - sometimes with coconut & lime AND I just make it up! I very much doubt there is an original recipe out there.

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    1. Thanks Choclette - sorry to hear that all the copyright issues have affected you like that - I agree that it is a shame the Dan Lepard's latest book is becoming an outcast in the food blogging community. I was quite keen on buying it but am rethinking that

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  15. Hope you won't mind me chipping in here, as I'm Dan Lepard's business manager and the editor of his book Short & Sweet. If you actually go and look at my requests to bloggers, you'll find they are perfectly reasonable, and usually couched in friendly terms - for example:
    "This is a really difficult thing to ask, as I can see that you’re a fan of Dan Lepard, but we do ask bloggers not to post his recipes, but instead to simply give a link to where Dan chose to publish it (if it is online), or simply to name the book it was taken from, and then to write about how they adapted the recipe to the tools and ingredients they had to hand, and to concentrate on their own original words and photos." (I usually say more than this, but you get the idea).

    This is hardly an attack on bloggers, and if someone refers to it being a Dan Lepard recipe three times in their blog and then heads the recipe itself "Dan Lepard's recipe for...", it's hardly unreasonable to say that it's a Dan Lepard recipe and ask them to abide by our request not to publish.

    It's also a bit "off" for a blogger to take offence at being asked to remove a professional food writer's recipes from their blog, when they carry a notice on every page of that blog saying something like "The content of this site is © Me and should not to be reproduced without prior permission" or "please don't reproduce them in any form without asking first". It smacks of expecting from others a courtesy which they don't themselves extend to the writers whose recipes they take. And these are actual cases that I've had to deal with, where the blogger took offence at being asked to take down a recipe.

    Bloggers do sometimes claim that posting recipes "must" be good for book sales, but the facts don't support this. Over exactly the period when blogs have mushroomed in numbers, cook book sales have not risen in tandem, in fact I can give you evidence that the exact reverse is happening. And in any case, no-one has yet produced a convincing argument about why they HAVE to post a recipe, and why they can't just link to where it can be found (or name the book), and then in their own words and photos talk about how they made it.

    There are so many food bloggers writing great stuff about their baking & cooking, without posting other people's recipes, so cutting & pasting is clearly not obligatory. And we're also very happy if people give a link to where Dan Lepard has chosen to post a recipe - and yes, it does matter to generate traffic on a site that's commissioned or licenced some work, rather than the recipe being reproduced elsewhere. And again, I have to say that I don't get the big problem some bloggers have with giving a link to a recipe. If someone really feels they won't mention Dan's name, or recommend a book they know is good, unless they have free rein to post recipes, then they may be saying more about themselves than about anything we've requested.

    And the fact is, we do make a lot of recipes available. But what we then ask is that bloggers stick to that list (which is how traditional media has managed for years when writing features or reviews of cook books), and not to post other recipes. It's not that we imagine that one blogger would post the whole book, but many bloggers acting independently and posting at random is a sure recipe for the whole book to end up online, without our permission, across a large number of websites. And our choice is to avoid that happening. You may think we are wrong - but we ask you to respect the fact that it's up to us to choose how we protect and promote our work.

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    1. Ohgoshandbother - I only discovered Dan Lepard through blogging and as a result bought one of his cookbooks. Due to your comments, I am now rethinking my plans to buy Short and Tweet.

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    2. JohannaGGG, can you say a little more about that, I don't see what would motivate that decison.

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    3. I see on Dan Lepard's forum he has posted this house rule -

      "Do not reproduce other people's recipes on this forum. You can list the ingredients and weights used, and describe what you did, but if you exactly copy anyone else's recipe and paste it on the forum I will remove it."

      I think this is a reasonable request. I'm part of the Mellow Bakers group that has started baking from The handmade loaf. We don't intend to publish his recipes but still have fun blogging about it.

      Not sure you have proven the link between in the downturn in cookbooks sales and blogging though. There has also been a massive increase in recipes available legitimately on the internet. For example, you could happily find a recipe using the BBC or channel 4 Food sites, or indeed the wonderful Guardian/Observer site. I think people buy asparagus and think "oh what can I do with this?" and then use such a site and instantly find the recipe they were seeking. And that's just three sites - there are vast databases out there. Me, I get more fun from pulling out half a dozen books and looking under A in the index for asparagus(and then finding that half-remembered recipe that I was looking for a week later!)

      I agree that there's an art/skill in communicating how to bake bread through the medium of writing and I think that should be respected. cut and pasting from a book (or someone else's blog)is not ethical. Dan Lepard has been very generous in making numerous recipes available for free on the internet. Do check out his Guardian column.

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    4. Thanks Ray - interesting that Dan has this house rule on his forum - I noticed a while ago that urls had changed there and maybe it was part of a change of how the site was administered, including making sure no recipe was copied word for word. I agree that cutting and pasting the recipe is unnecessary.

      I agree that it is great that Dan Lepard recipes are readily available on the Guardian website and have spent quite a bit of time there looking at his recipes.

      I think your point about the increase in recipes available on the internet changing how we search for recipes is nicely expressed and I agree it is lovely to sit down with recipe books to search for a recipe!

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  16. Oh man that copyright stuff... tricky business. I'm going to check out the posts you linked to. Seeing people post recipes from cookbooks makes me want the cookbooks more rather than less. It's like taking a book out from the library or something. But I can understand a cookbook author getting upset that their recipes are reprinted (if it's done word for word) especially if the cookbook author isn't one of the huge ones. I was just reading the comment from ohgoshandbother, and while more cookbooks may not be being purchased, I think it's likely that a wider variety of cookbooks are being purchased. Like more cookbooks have the opportunity for exposure versus people just sticking with brands/names they know.

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    1. Thanks Ashley - I think I get more inspiration to buy books from blogs than from the library these days but I know what you mean about it being like borrowing a book. But yes it is indeed tricky stuff

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  17. Thank you for telling your thoughts on copyright! I only copy recipes for my cooking with friends series, but usually ask the blogger before I do. Now I'd love to recreate this recipe and feature you with this wonderful pumpkin and tomato curry! May I? :D

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  18. Thanks Kath - I think your cooking with friends series is a great one and would be thrilled if you wanted to feature me in the series - as I have spelled out in my FAQs that I am happy for anyone to post recipes from my blog in their own words.

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