A word of caution to other food bloggers: Tastespotting is back. And its changed

Update: I’ve been chatting with Sarah of Tastespotting offline and she has been very responsive to the concerns I outlined below, and to make a long story short, this long post is now all null and void (hey, that’s the Internet for you). Tastespotting is back in all its glory, the terms of use are short and sweet, and so enough writing about it. I’ve got to get back to checking out food porn as I am a loyal fan of the site once again. Thanks Sarah! :-)

First off, I apologize to the regular readers as this post is not the usual food/recipe subject matter (but I’ll get right back to it after this one, I promise). However, for my fellow food bloggers, I just wanted to say yay, Tastespotting is back. Except its different now and in a very fundamental way that was worth discussion before we all hastily get back to submitting our photos. I apologize for the length of this post, but if you’re first instinct is to go and submit photos to Tastespotting again, please take a moment to read this.

As soon as I went to log back into my Tastespotting account, I was presented with new terms and conditions of using their site. Given the mysterious disappearance of the site before and the many odd legal theories that were out there, I thought it would be worthwhile to read these terms (if anything, it might suggest what happened when the site originally disappeared!), and I’m very glad I did, for as long as they remain as they are, I most definitely will not be using Tastespotting, and I imagine a number of you will be doing the same. In short, you will be giving up your copyright ownership of your photos, putting your photos in the public domain!

Below is a portion of a letter I promptly emailed to Tastespotting:

I was absolutely delighted to see Tastespotting is live again, however there was one item in the terms and conditions that truly made this is a deal breaker for me and I’m writing you to ask that you please reconsider (or if I have entirely misinterpreted things, I would greatly appreciate clarification).

The issue in question is under article 6 of the terms of use, specifically “By uploading, submitting or otherwise disclosing or distributing Content for display or inclusion on the Site, you represent and warrant that you own all rights in the Content and you agree that the Content will be dedicated to the public domain under the Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication, available at http://creativecommons.org/licenses/publicdomain/. For clarity, the foregoing does not apply to the Content on any external sites to which the Services link.”

I can appreciate the legal need for Tastespotting to have license to display the photos, but I do not understand why I must also forfeit my rights to any stranger on the internet. Many food bloggers experience problems where other food blogs (not just automated spam blogs, but blogs with real people behind them) lift either content, photos, or both, and republish them as their own (e.g. some other blog will write a post on apple pie and use my photo of apple pie as their lead photo as if it were their own photo). I have experienced this with much greater frequency as of late, and my only protection to stop this content theft from happening is the copyright I hold over my photos and the legal rights that I have by owning that copyright.

My understanding of the new terms is that If I were to be using Tastespotting from now on, and I posted a picture of apple pie, any user would have the full legal right to republish that apple pie photo on their own web site as if it were their own…or to do whatever they please with it. Is this is a correct interpretation? This also appears to place the burden on me if users other than myself submit my photos to Tastespotting. I would then have 3rd parties giving the appearance of me relinquishing my copyright (without my permission), resulting in other users mistakenly now seeing that photo as public domain and leaving me to go and correct this with whoever has since re-used my photo.

Given how frustrating this problem is as it exists today, it pains me to voluntarily avoid the Tastespotting community, but forfeiting these rights would be crippling for me and the well being of my site.

So what do you think of this? Will you still be using Tastespotting if your photos are put in the public domain? I’m afraid I won’t–I’ll stick to Foodgawker, FP Daily, and RecipeMuncher, among others (know of any other good ones?). If you used to use the site and won’t be any more, consider contacting Tastespotting to let them know how you feel about this. And please comment below…I’m curious to hear how my fellow food bloggers feel about this.

Anyways, I’ve spoken my peace. Back to food for me…

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18 Responses to “A word of caution to other food bloggers: Tastespotting is back. And its changed”

  1. Allen Says:

    I will be using Tastespotting, Foodgawker, FP Daily and RecipeMuncher are poor substitutes for the quality of Tastespotting.

  2. noble pig Says:


    I’m so glad I have you to do this kind of work for me! Anyway I’m glad you looked into this. You know I always thought about it even before the original debacle but becuase there was no contract I didn’t think of it.

    I will NO LONGER be using Tastespotting. I mean they are protecting themselves. Obviously something happened but I’m not into it. I’ll stick with Foodgawker.

  3. Jude Says:

    Thanks for the info. I knew there was a catch when I saw the link to the agreement but was too lazy to read it.

    That said, I think Foodgawker, FP Daily, and Recipemuncher are all excellent alternatives and I’m glad that they popped up when tastespotting disappeared.

  4. Ivy Says:

    Mike, thanks for letting us know. After all this publicity about Tastespotting, I am sure a lot of new bloggers will rush to register. Under these conditions, no I will not register.

  5. sarah Says:

    hey mike – trying to email you, but getting bounce back….could you drop an email to the one listed with this comment?


  6. Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) Says:

    Thanks for the heads-up, Mike. You might want to post this on Food Blog S’cool, also. I’m quite happy with Food Gawker — it’s Tastespotting, without the attitude.

  7. crabbycook Says:

    Good catch Mike, though I’m a bit confused too. Just reading article 6 it doesn’t refer to photos specifically but to all “Content”. I take this to mean recipes as well. That seems to be a bigger issue.

    I suspect most food bloggers (myself included) are preparing recipes they seen on TV, in magazines or cookbooks and are simply adding their own photos. I certainly don’t have the right to “give away” the rights to a recipe I copied (and attributed) from Gourmet or Bon Appetit, etc. So it strikes me that this is a hole in the clause.

    What, if any, response have you gotten back from TS? I do find it curious that there is no “About Us” page or any additional information about the “new family” referred to in the title line.

  8. Susan at Sticky,Gooey,Creamy,Chewy Says:

    Thank you for investigating this, Mike. I was so excited to see TS up and running again, that I never even read the new terms. Shame on me. As a lawyer, I should know better!

    I think that Sarah is great and I can’t imagine she would do anything unscrupulous. I’m sure that she got some good legal advice before she got involved with TS. It may be that this was the only way she could resurrect the site. I’ll be very interested to see how this plays out.

    I’ll have to think about how to proceed. My pictures aren’t all that great, but they are mine and I’ve grown attached to them. 😉

  9. Kevin Says:

    I wonder how the new terms and conditions affect the old content which they are still displaying?

  10. Karina Says:

    The terms appear to have been changed. I just clicked to view them and there is no longer a mention of the public domain or creative commons.

  11. Ari (Baking and Books) Says:

    Thank you for writing this post and for contacting Sarah about the Terms of Use they had on Tastespotting. That would have been horrible, to be giving up your rights to your photographs if they were submitted to the site!

  12. We Are Never Full Says:

    Even after this update, it is very comforting to know that there are actual people willing to listen to the public about the site, Tastespotting. I always hated how one-sided that site was,almost as if they didn’t care about the people who were paying their bills. I’m glad Sarah reached out to figure this out with you!

  13. Ingar Taste Memory Girl Says:

    Appreciate this post as well as the positive update with Sarah. When Tastespotting got unplugged the first time I went into total panic mode ~ kinda like taking candy away from a baby! So glad to see them up and running again to get my daily fix.

    Great photos btw on this blog :)

  14. Helene Says:

    Thanks Mike. I’m not going to be using Tastespotting under those terms. I’m glad you posted about this.

  15. Meeta Says:

    Hi Mike – this is great and really interesting. i would be interested in what you chatted with sarah about that. as i wanted to add a picture with my copyright signature i was contacted by tastespotting and asked to remove it – now i understand why.

    so – do we have grounds to be alarmed?

  16. sarah Says:

    hey all – sorry that it’s late in getting back to this, but just wanted to pop in and say a huge thanks to mike and everyone else who has been emailing, IM-ing and posting about this issue along with all the other things related to TasteSpotting. i can’t tell you how much means to me that everyone is 1) glad to see it back and 2) interested enough to provide the kind of feedback i’ve gotten.

    thanks again, all!


  17. White On Rice Couple Says:

    Thanks for all this Mike! You’ve really investigated this so thoroughly , for the best interest of all bloggers! I can’t thank you enough for bringing these issues up and feel so much more educated on these legalities.

  18. Ari (Baking and Books) Says:

    Incidentally, I asked Sarah if she could add a line in the Terms of Use that clearly states the photographer/blogger owns his or her photo, even if the Terms of Use change in the future. I asked her about this because this line – “TasteSpotting reserves the right, at its sole discretion, to modify or replace the Terms of Use at any time” – made me a little nervous after reading your post. That was about a week ago and she hasn’t replied yet… I guess the answer is no?

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