The wonderful world of plagiarism and copyright infringment

October 3rd, 2011 | Posted by greg in Books | Daily life...

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There was no ‘sorry’, no excuse. The people who blandly used my photo on their blog just removed the post following people’s comments. So it seems that you can copy anything, use it and if you get caught, you delete it and get away with it.

When I was a student at the Ecole Hoteliere de Lausanne, we had to write and sign the school’s code of honor in front of every essay or other self-written work, upholding the school values in not copying other’s work. At that time, I couldn’t conceive the relevance of such text… not until recently.

I am no one special, I don’t pretend to eat bizarre things, I don’t recount my first encounter with an oyster over 3 pages of my book, I haven’t challenged the ministry of education to re-launch their school food program, nor do I have the charm of Nigella Lawson. In fact, I look more like a bear chasing his honeycomb. So, let me ask you, why would people use my material?

Whether on my blog or in my books, I simply enjoy sharing my work with anyone who wants to see it and the goal of my sharing is to inspire others to create, to adapt or simply to replicate; that’s what any cookbook is for. When I see my recipes made to perfection by people, I am the happiest man in the world; the book served its purpose.

Now, there is a fine line between using published material like that and using the actual photos and text I wrote claiming it’s theirs. The good thing about my text is when you read it, it’s like you’re having your mouth full of baguette, wrapped in a sort of Frenglish tone all the way through. Not that I am proud of, but when I saw my recipe in a publication, I straight away knew it was mine, with the same grammar mistakes. At least, the perpetrator should take a little time to correct my poor English, but then again, I guess copying other’s work is already breaking boundaries in their intellectual abilities.

I have spent the last 5 years working on my published books, writing, testing, baking, designing, researching, and proofreading (my favorite)… We spent entire weeks of photo shoots from the morning until late at night; nearly killed our photograph out of starvation because we were so focused into the food. Then the day of publishing comes. The first copy is all about checking what mistakes went through the last proofread. Inevitably there are a few and we’re learning. But hey, we’re published, we have an ISBN and it’s an awesome feeling!

Then someone at home decides to blog or to write a recipe for a magazine. Oh… that looks pretty… [This is the part where you need to be creative and I’ll let you decide what spontaneous action is going through  the mind of these people… by the way, mentally challenged people are also spontaneous, it’s all about the context, isn’t it?] …and the next thing I see is my actual text and photo used in magazine or my blog photo used on other people’s website – all of this without having ever received any demand to do so.

I then question the people using it and somehow, I feel a general sense of denial in their response or even, the page disappears altogether, leaving a few inerasable proofs on Google cache. What worries me the most is that the last two cases were done by fellow pastry chefs (and even Corporate Pastry Chef!), not from the Camping du Bois-de-Finges, but from highly regarded international culinary establishments and to blandly act in such manner is only bringing their moral values to zero.

There seems to be very little legal action that can be done when it comes to blog. International laws, different countries and so on, make the cases often difficult when it is related to the internet. On the other hand when people copy my published books, there is a copyright protecting it. Then again, when it is copied in China, there is little you can do too… sadly.

At the end of the day, I am not looking for rewards or anything like that. I just want the right credits to be given to the right people and I know I am not the only one in that case. I don’t believe in court cases, but I rather believe in exposing the truth to many people will do justice.

To shamelessly use one’s work and pretend it’s yours exhibits a very low form of self-esteem. If the culprit would actually ask me for permission, I would most likely be more than happy to say yes. But is that asking for too much?


Real life case study

The orignal photo from our afternoon tea.

My photo used on someone's blog.And the very next day, gone!And the very next day, gone!


And even better…

The original in my book Never Skip Dessert

The same in a publication distributed all over Asia!

I removed the names and info of the incriminated people and companies, perhaps I should have left it there… then again, perhaps not… that’s it… I am way too kind!

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25 Responses

  • colette says:

    Unbelievable! I’ve always worried about that use and “abuse” of information by others without proper acknowledgement…but this just exceeds my expectations! Recently the same thing happened to a friend who found his posts republished in another blog and his photo in a magazine…is it so hard, as you say, to just ask for permission and name the author. Guess so? because they did not even apologise. What a shame…I feel the only thing we have at hand is to make it public and at least expose those people until a copyright serves its purpose. Maybe you are too kind :) By the way, congrats on your books, which I’ve loved to read and will in time put into practice! 

  • As a musician, this is a problem I have suffered with for years, and the internet has not made it easier.

    It is all about credit, I think. Especially with photos that may not be something you can sell (though yours are really good).

    I am more than happy for people to use photos off my blog, as long as they link to my blog – this is a photo of pork from Food Lovers Diary. They get a picture, and I get the traffic, with any luck.

    However, it is still probably misrepresentation, since if they are not reproducing my recipes as well, what they are showing is not what they are writing about.

    With my music it is more complicated as I dont allow any use of that without fees being paid – doesn’t stop people thinking they have some human right to steal it though.

    • Oh yes, with music it must be even more difficult to control… I like your remark on human right to steal, I think it rounds it up pretty much!
      By the way, your blog is very nice and I would understand why people get attracted to use your photos! :)

  • Thomas Weber says:

    the once who are ahead of the curve will get copied, ultimately you should be
    proud that your renowned competition is so clueless that they have to copy you
    and especially your ideas and beautiful pictures.

    It probably
    helps when you start watermarking your pictures, see attached.


    PS: I love
    your remark “Camping du
    Bois-de-Finge” not a lot of people know where this is!!!

    • Thomas Weber says:

      Of course not once but ones, so much about my swinglish!!!

    • Thank you for your suggestion Thomas, I am looking into preventing copy and watermarking the photos now. I knew about this before, but I never thought anyone would actually copy my work. I am not sure if there is such thing as being over-humble… I think it goes into naivety thereafter… And so I learn my lesson! :) I also think that to be copied is a form of recognition, but if it’s stolen, it’s not too flattering! ;)
      I added a link to the camping in case people wonder where is the Bois-de-Finges! :)

  • Spencer says:

    These people who copied your photos and/or recipes are not bakers, pastry chefs, or food bloggers…they are scam artists or cut and paste artist!  Real bakers, pastry chefs or food bloggers have their own creative juices to come up with their own recipes from their heart, mind and soul!


  • Tracey@Tangled Noodle says:

    Plagiarism and copyright infringement have long been the bane of the blogosphere, which makes it  so easy for people to style themselves as ‘writers’, ‘photographers’ or ‘chefs’ without having any real talent for any of these. But what is surprising (and disheartening) is that they are now showing up among professionals such as the two pastry chefs in this post! There is also a current dust-up involving Bee Yin Low, author of ‘Easy Chinese Recipes’ and the blog – it seems that a former Masterchef Australia contestant posted a recipe strikingly similar to hers on his blog. When confronted, he claimed it was original (his mother’s recipe), never mind that the text was nearly identical to Bee’s. Sigh. 

    So sorry that it has happened to you. As for not revealing the names of the perpetrators, you demonstrate what they glaringly lack: a sense of fairness and ethics. 

    • Thank you Tracey!
      Bee’s story sounds very sad too… and from a Masterchef contestant on top of that!
      At first i thought the case of my book copy would be a once in a lifetime occurrence as it is so stunningly ridiculous! And then comes along other people doing similar acts! I always thought that adding watermark or disabling right click on blogs was a sort of arrogance, but now I realize it’s simply a protection against these sad people. No wonder people turn sour when things like this happen…

  • I share your frustrations and disappointment. However, I am afraid some people just do not and probably will never appreciate other’s work and contributions. 

    Please keep writing and keep sharing. You are one of the very few professional chefs that are willing to share, and I value this.

  • you’re too kind, chef! with regards to copyright infringement, there are so many “blogs” which are just copy and paste blogs. a blogger friend of mine had her whole few months of content copy and pasted into another blog. the person wouldn’t have any shame, since there’s really no personality behind it, just articles copy and pasted from everywhere to earn ads money. it’s a mad mad mad world!

  • Manlun Tung says:

    You are really too too kind!

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  • Pingback: Apple pectin, sugars and roselle: test recipe for diabetes - Gregoire Michaud

  • you should have left the details there so that we could help you teach that idiot a lesson! Its precisely such people that murder creativity and interest.

    Like what Anita said, please keep up your wonderful work Chef Gregoire. I’m a big fan of your work and I’m sure you already know this by now. LOL Let not this little episode be a setback to you. 

    • Thanks a lot for your kind words Alan, I really appreciate your support.
      I am not sure if the fact of being hacked right after having published this post is related but it seemed related. Of course, I won’t put any sweat into finding the culprit; instead I protect my blog better. So instead of making things weaker, they made it stronger! ;)
      Thanks again for your super support Alan!

  • Renee says:

    I realize this is an old post but honestly cannot imagine what these people are thinking. How do they think they won’t get caught? I have wondered too about these blogs where you just basically make someone else’s recipe and write about it all the time. I guess it is fair use, as long as you cite the source clearly and plainly but this is one reason it took me so long to decide to start a cooking blog … I didn’t want to do that, and wasn’t sure how I’d feel about creating something entirely original week in week out. It’s one thing to do it when you’re in the mood and feel like it and another to do it for publication on a regular continual basis! I just cannot imagine accomplishing it by stealing what someone else really did! Incroyable. *shaking head*

    • Thanks for your insight Renee. I agree with you; it takes a lot of passion to come up with creative and quality content for a food blog, especially if it isn’t your every day job. For chefs (like me) it’s way easier because we’re in this all the time.
      But yes, regarding the boldness of copying and claiming it’s one’s own is very daring and like you, I could not (and still can’t) believe they actually did it!

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