Awards and citations:

1997: Le Prix du Champagne Lanson Noble Cuvée Award for investigations into Champagne for the Millennium investment scams

2001: Le Prix Champagne Lanson Ivory Award for

2011: Vindic d'Or MMXI – 'Meilleur blog anti-1855'

2011: Robert M. Parker, Jnr: ‘This blogger...’:

2012: Born Digital Wine Awards: No Pay No Jay – best investigative wine story

2012: International Wine Challenge – Personality of the Year Award

Monday, 17 December 2012

Natalie MacLean: breach of copyright?

On Saturday 15th December Palate Press posted an article on Natalie MacLean and the use of other writers' wine reviews allegedly without permission or full attribution:

'Natalie MacLean: World’s Best Wine Writer or Content Thief?

Natalie MacLean is a well-known wine writer who self-publishes a subscription newsletter at, who proudly proclaims she was named the “World’s Best Wine Writer” at the World Food Media Awards. Unfortunately, Ms. MacLean appears to be building her reputation, and her business, on the work of others.'

Read the rest here including Jancis Robinson's indignant reaction. 

Examples before full attribution given. Peter Lehmann review has now been credited to Ben Edwards but no attribution for SeaGlass 

I have invited Natalie MacLean to respond but have yet to receive a reply. Natalie has, however, sent this general reply to those who have complained: 

Natalie MacLean: 'I wanted to let you know that I’m in the process of adding the information that has been requested, beginning with the most recent reviews and going backwards. All of the reviews that I have quoted were first quoted in liquor store catalogues and store shelf slips. I quoted them from those sources and indicated that.

However, I have agreed that I will also add the information beside the quotes, including names and publications, and not rely solely on the directory that is on my site.

As I said, I do listen to feedback from colleagues and readers and do make changes as a result.'
Although it is welcome that Natalie is starting to sort out the attribution issues this does not address the breach of copyright. She ought to be seeking the author's permission before she publishes wine reviews in their entirety. I hope she will adopt this practice from now on.  

I trust that none of the tasting notes used belonged to Martin Isark as this could prove to be expensive. Martin has successfully sued three companies who used his tasting notes without permission. See here

Tom Lewis' thoughts on intellectual property here.  

Payment for submitting samples for review
It would seem from comments on the Palate Press post that Natalie MacLean asks wineries to take out a subscription to her website when they send her samples for review. I think there are differences between this practice and the one related to a visit to Murcia by Jay Miller and Pancho Campo (now sin MW) as shown in the Murcian emails in October 2011. Most importantly as far as I know MacLean does not have a much vaunted declaration of ethics as Miller's boss has. 

However, this demand for payment for reviews is for me unacceptable behaviour. It is also very foolish and short sighted as it only damages Natalie's reputation, credibility and in the cases quoted that she does not get samples. 

Indeed overall in this very regrettable affair Natalie MacLean's failure to use proper attribition and failure to obtain permission to use reviews before publishing them will mean that it is ultimately her reputation and credibility that will suffer.  

See further Palate Press post here on pay to pay.   

A further reponse from Natalie MacLean to David Honig posted on the Palate Press comment section here. There continues to be lively debate on this post as well as the subsequent 'pay for play' one here.

Hi David,

I am writing in response to your blog post this weekend regarding wine reviews on my website.

I have now sought and obtained legal advice to ensure that I am not only doing the right thing, but also complying with any laws that might be applicable both in the US (fair use) and in Canada (fair dealing). The laws differ slightly for the two countries, but I have had a thorough discussion with a legal expert on copyright and know that what I am doing now and what I will be doing in the future is not only legal, but right. I wanted to take this advice before replying to make sure that this issue is dealt with properly.

For all reviews previously quoted, please know that I am working to revise the way I format third party reviews to cite full names and publication details. Also know that I have never charged to review wines, and have reviewed many wines from wineries and wine agents who do not pay a subscription to my site. It’s $2 a month to access the subscription part of my site, but that does not determine whether or not I review a wine.

Except for Michael Pinkus, no writer or magazine has ever contacted me to ask for a different attribution or to remove their reviews. For those who have recently, I have done so immediately. As well, my own reviews have been quoted on other wine sites and no one has ever contacted me to ask permission. I had believed that it was also fair use to quote my reviews.

I wish to thank the many wine writers and bloggers who have contacted me to show their support and understanding over the past few days. I am grateful to have this issue clarified and I hope that it helps other writers and bloggers avoid any such issues in the future.

If you’d like to continue this discussion, please feel free to contact me as I’d be happy to talk with you.



Given Natalie MacLean's use of other writers' reviews without seeking permission, her failure to give proper attribution and apparently charge for reviews, I have removed the link on Jim's Loire to her site. A small gesture but not a site I can now recommend. 


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Those interested should follow the story on It makes interesting reading.