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Food writer fired for plagiarism


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In Richard Olney's fairly awful memoirs, Reflexions, he writes extensively about the Richard Nelson plagiarism case. He says he was initially unenthusiastic about taking Nelson to court because he was worried about the expense and wondered "what good would it do." But he did file suit after a lawyer told him that he had a case, based on Nelson lifting 33 recipes and barely changing a comma. "It was not a question of recipes but of language and style," Olney writes. It does not seem as though the financial settlement was very large, considering the extent of the plagiarism.

His account goes on for several pages, and is a fascinating glimpse into the legal ins and outs of plagiarism in an otherwise not very fascinating book.

Arthur Johnson, aka "fresco"
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I may then choose to add the recipe to my next book, sell it again to another magazine (for a lesser fee) or sell it as part of a package of recipes to, say, a web site. That is MY intellectual property, and I see it appearing on a web site, with no attribution and no fee paid to me...multiplied by the hundreds of times it happens...

Have you ever been unable to republish one of your recipes because someone had plagiarized it on a web site?

Matthew Amster-Burton, aka "mamster"

Author, Hungry Monkey, coming in May

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My favorite food write Ruth Reichl wrote the following in her "Comfort me with Apples":

"...As i cooked i reminded myself of a famous Brillat-Savarin aphorism: "The invention of a new recipe does more for mankind than the discovery of a new star.

I invented the Swiss Pumpkin..."

Here is a recipe in a nutshell: you cut the top of pumpkin, you scoop out seeds, you toast baguette, and then you put layers of gruyere and baguette, and pour mixture of eggs and cream and bake...

Now, in Olney's "Simple french food", there was a recipe for bread and squash soup, where Olney mentioned "...Bocuse has launched a rich and picturesque variation that involves cutting out a lid, seeding, filling with alternate layers, ...".

Both recipes looked very similar. Great minds think alike? :unsure:

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Have you ever been unable to republish one of your recipes because someone had plagiarized it on a web site?

That is not the point. If I get paid for my work, and someone uses it for free without my permission, haven't they stolen it? Don't I deserve to get paid for every use of my work?

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That is not the point. If I get paid for my work, and someone uses it for free without my permission, haven't they stolen it? Don't I deserve to get paid for every use of my work?

I'm trying to write a response to this that isn't overly broad, but I'll have to cop out and say that I personally do not believe they have stolen your recipe and that you do not deserve to get paid for every use of your work. But I can't explain why without going on at length turning this thread into a debate about intellectual property. Suffice it to say, I hope, that it's my belief that creators and the public are best served by thin protection for IP, and I say this as a person who devotes a considerable amount of his time, paid and unpaid, to producing creative work.

Matthew Amster-Burton, aka "mamster"

Author, Hungry Monkey, coming in May

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I was toying with the idea of adding the following, then saw mamster's last message and feel it even more important to comment:

In researching an article recently, I found that a piece in a broad-distribution food magazine had lifted recipe and instructions from a common English cookbook. A few quantities had been changed, and a little of the wording, but certain key stylistic elements were unaltered (which is why I picked up the plagiarism). There was no attribution to the original.

And at the same time I noticed that my local community newspaper (distributed weekly to a portion of my home city) was taking almost its entire food content (1-2 pages *each week*) from material published on the web. Most of the time the source is stated, but I have found out that few or none of the sources gave permission for the reproduction of their recipes, articles, or information.

I would dearly like to see the editors/writers eat a little humble-pie for this, but as a new writer I don't want to affect my own opportunities to publish, so see no option but to ignore the above... and so the cycle continues.

Thin protection for IP might be something that best serves the creators and public (to paraphrase mamster) in some respects, but surely there must be some form of constraint or redress when there is such blatant disrespect of others' work?

-- lamington a.k.a. Duncan Markham

The Gastronomer's Bookshelf - collaborative book reviews about all things food and wine

Syrup & Tang - candid commentary and flavourful fancies

"It's healthy. It's cake. It's chocolate cake."

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The NY Times has one of the larger online searchable databases for published articles. Last year, the Times required all freelance writers who had EVER been published in the Times sign over all rights for future use in any media of their prior articles to the Times, or have their work purged.

I don't think there's any question the suits are concerned that agreements signed in 1985 don't hold much weight in multi-media environments. If they paid you for an article on kumquats published (once) in 1986, you may have rights to payments for use in books, online, etc now.

It isn't a far reach that unpaid stringers whose work appeared uncredited and unpaid by the Times (think about Rick Bragg's evocative stringer) will litigate for payment and retroactive credits. It's all about power. Times, Rick Bragg, assignment editors etc have it, the writers don't have it.

Apparently it's easier still to dictate the conversation and in effect, kill the conversation.

rancho gordo

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lamington, the first example strikes me as more laziness than plagiarism, and the second as obvious plagiarism. Could you make an anonymous complaint, perhaps to your local equivalent of the National Writers Union?

I guess the main thing I don't like to see is a truly unusual new recipe instantly lose identification with its creator. If George Germon had never ended up identified with grilled pizza and Cucina Simpatica never published because "people are sick of grilled pizza," that would have been awfully unfair. At the same time, I don't have a problem with a recipe of mine showing up on RecipeSource. So there's a line somewhere in between those things, but I don't know exactly where to draw it, or even how to figure it out beyond "I know it when I see it."

Rail Paul, don't get me started on the aftermath of the Tasini case. Grrr.

Matthew Amster-Burton, aka "mamster"

Author, Hungry Monkey, coming in May

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lamington, the first example strikes me as more laziness than plagiarism, and the second as obvious plagiarism. Could you make an anonymous complaint, perhaps to your local equivalent of the National Writers Union?

I guess the main thing I don't like to see is a truly unusual new recipe instantly lose identification with its creator. If George Germon had never ended up identified with grilled pizza and Cucina Simpatica never published because "people are sick of grilled pizza," that would have been awfully unfair. At the same time, I don't have a problem with a recipe of mine showing up on RecipeSource. So there's a line somewhere in between those things, but I don't know exactly where to draw it, or even how to figure it out beyond "I know it when I see it."

Rail Paul, don't get me started on the aftermath of the Tasini case.  Grrr.

I guess the main thingI guess the main thing I don't like to see is a truly unusual new recipe instantly lose identification with its creator. If George Germon had never ended up identified with grilled pizza and Cucina Simpatica never published

I would like to just add my two cents to the above comment. George Germon should be recognized and thanked for popularizing grilled pizza in the United States. No one did more to make it a standby in summer. I certainly think his book cucina simpatica is a keeper.

On the other hand, you might want to also thank Armenians and the other folks from southeastern Turkey who have been making similar breads with toppings for a very long time.

“C’est dans les vieux pots, qu’on fait la bonne soupe!”, or ‘it is in old pots that good soup is made’.

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Certainly. I was going to say something like, "I'm sure George Germon wasn't the first person ever to grill pizza," but I felt like I was already playing tough enough.

So, thanks, Armenians! Paula, if you don't mind, what are some of the toppings you might find on the Armenian flatbread?

Matthew Amster-Burton, aka "mamster"

Author, Hungry Monkey, coming in May

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I apologize for supplying only the main ingredients that go on top of grilled Turkish breads. These are simply from notes a while back. You asked for Armenian toppings; I am sure they are somewhat similar. The topping is usually folded within the thin bread before grilling. Fillings include: crumbed cheese with parsley and sesame seeds(izmir)', crushed poppyseed and petmez, atype of grape must(konya); scrambled eggs and a few leafy wild greens(sanlifurfa); cooked spiced potatoes (mersin); and a flat bread spread with spiced ground meat called lahmajun which you can find everywhere including the middle east and is more often baked in ovens.

Some of these breads are prepared on a saj; others on clay trays and still other on ridged grills. It's the cook's choice.

Edited by Wolfert (log)

“C’est dans les vieux pots, qu’on fait la bonne soupe!”, or ‘it is in old pots that good soup is made’.

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