We wrote the Food Blog Code of Ethics after many heated conversations with fellow food bloggers. Those discussions inspired us to lay down some basic guidelines for food writing on the Internet because we couldn’t find any that already existed. These aren’t laws that we expect everyone to follow. These aren’t rules you have to accept as your own. We know they don’t apply to everybody. They’re a jumping off point to start a bigger discussion.
The Code is not intended to limit anyone’s freedom of speech. We offer these pages to advocate accountability, accuracy and honesty in the world of food blogging. The Code is designed as a set of guidelines, not a punishable set of laws.
1. We will be accountable
- We will write about the culinary world with the care of a professional. We will not use the power of our blog as a weapon. We will stand behind our claims. If what we say or show could potentially affect someone’s reputation or livelihood, we will post with the utmost thought and due diligence.
- We understand why some bloggers choose to stay anonymous. We respect that need but will not use it as an excuse to avoid accountability. When we choose to write anonymously for our own personal or professional safety, we will not post things we wouldn’t be comfortable putting our names to.
- If we review a restaurant, product or culinary resource we will consider integrating the standard set of guidelines as offered by the Association of Food Journalists.
2. We will be civil
- We wholeheartedly believe in freedom of speech, but we also acknowledge that our experiences with food are subjective. We promise to be mindful—regardless of how passionate we are—that we will be forthright, and will refrain from personal attacks.
3. We will reveal bias
- If we are writing about something or someone we are emotionally or financially connected to, we will be up front about it.
4. We will disclose gifts, comps and samples
- When something is given to us or offered at a deep discount because of our blog, we will disclose that information. As bloggers, most of us do not have the budgets of large publications, and we recognize the value of samples, review copies of books, donated giveaway items and culinary events. It’s important to disclose freebies to avoid be accused of conflicts of interest.
5. We will follow the rules of good journalism
- We will not plagiarize. We will respect copyright on photos*. We will attribute recipes and note if they are adaptations from a published original. We will research. We will attribute quotes and offer link backs to original sources whenever possible. We will do our best to make sure that the information we are posting is accurate. We will factcheck. In other words, we will strive to practice good journalism even if we don’t consider ourselves journalists.
* The issue with photo copyrights is a complicated one, so we contacted an expert. This is what Jacqueline Lipton, PhD and professor of law at Case Western had to say: “In response to your query, generally it’s wise to always seek permission from the copyright holder if the image in question doesn’t have a license attached describing permissible uses (eg a Creative Commons type license).
Of course, depending on the type of use being made, the reproduction of a photograph without permission could be a “fair use” under the copyright law, particularly if no commercial use is being made of it and it is not interfering with a market for the photograph – which may well be the case on many blogs. Thus, the otherwise potentially infringing use could be excused under the fair use doctrine.
It is important to recognize that the question of attribution is a separate question to copyright infringement. While you should always attribute the source of a picture, copyright infringement is a separate question and you can infringe copyright even if you give appropriate attribution. While many copyright holders will only ask for attribution in return for permission to use the picture, it is NOT a general rule of copyright law that if you give appropriate attribution, you have not infringed copyright. Copyright law deals with acts of copying or displaying a picture, not how it is attributed.”