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Food Blogger Sues Food Network

Snowglobe in the snow being held by someone in pink gloves and a white fluffy coat

A food blogger is taking the Food Network to court in the US for copying one of her videos.

Elizabeth LaBau says that the television channel stole her idea for snow globe cupcakes. 

Court Case Looming

Elizabeth LaBau, from Utah, runs the website SugarHero. She says that she posted a recipe for snow globe cupcakes in 2015 which then went viral. As a result, they became her signature recipe and also brought in plenty of visitors to her site.

hand with red nail polish on a laptop keyboard next to a mobile, pen and notebook

Because so many people loved the recipe, she decided that she should show how they were made. She put together a professional video presenting a how-to for the snow globe cupcakes in December 2016. Complete with edible gelatine globes, the video became an instant hit just like the recipe.

But the Food Network soon saw the video and decided that they liked it. Three weeks after the debut of the SugarHero clip, the Food Network posted their own on their Facebook page. Not only is the recipe the same, but the video is almost identical shot for shot.

LaBau decided to file a copyright claim to protect her interests, but quickly found that she would not be able to claim copyright on the recipe. It’s almost impossible to do so, especially since the recipe had been posted online. The list of ingredients is not something that she would have been able to fight for in court.

That’s when her lawyers came up with something else. They’re claiming against the how-to video, which absolutely is copyrighted content – and shouldn’t be copied in such a direct manner.

Contact was Made

The court papers have now been filed, and they reveal how LaBau tried to take other steps before resorting to legal action. First, she asked the channel to remove the video a number of times. She also asked them to provide attribution to SugarHero as the inspiration behind the recipe, if they would not be willing to take it down. Neither of these requests were answered, and so she was forced to go for legal action instead. She is citing losses in advertising revenue, which would have gone her way if hers was the only video around (and particularly if the Food Network had shared it rather than creating their own version).

LaBau works hard on her blog and should be given due recognition for it. After all, she has a chef job, is a marketing expert, serves as her own copywriter, and has to be a professional photographer and videographer too. Not so for the Food Network, who employ individuals to cover all of these roles. Even despite this huge advantage, they have resorted to copying the work of a blogger rather than coming up with their own spin on it.

"Disappointingly, rather than come up with their own ideas and content, Food Network released a video shortly after hers which copied Elizabeth's creative proprietary work shot-for-shot in order to profit from her creativity and hard work without investing the same time, effort, and thought," said lawyer William Bowen. "We hope Food Network will recognize their error and take steps to address this wrongful misappropriation."

This may serve as a cautionary tale if you have a food sales and marketing job. While you are able to come up with recipes inspired by others, generally speaking, it’s better to at least provide attribution. That way, you may end up avoiding legal action and giving your employers less of a headache. It may even be a better idea to reach out to the blogger for a collaboration on something similar.