Let’s say that you are the publisher of a free cooking magazine with recipes and pictures. Let’s also suppose that you’re looking for fresh new talent or articles, for you magazine.
A) Scan the blogosphere for young writers that fit your style and offer them placement in your magazine?
B) Scan published magazines and websites looking for new articles and then ask for permission to republish?
C) License content from reputable sources? OR
D) Simply copy articles and information from published, copy-write protected web sites and reprint them without permission?
If you are Cooks Source Magazine, (don’t bother with that link, it’s currently toasted, try the Facebook page here until it too is gone.) you obviously choose D, but take care, for in that way direction you only find pain and destruction, as you will see in a moment.
Monica Gaudio published a story last evening that came to me through several news sites today, almost all at once. (A few are linked at the bottom of this post) The story, to quickly summarize, starts with a post Monica did on a web site in 2005 on old English tart recipes. It was written, posted and she moved on from there. Although her post doesn’t state it, I dare say she may even have forgotten the post over time. Imagine her surprise then, when a friend called her to congratulate her being published in Cooks Source Magazine. When Monica researched it, sure enough, it was her article published without her permission. Doing a little “Google-fu”, Monica found the contact information for the magazine, contacted them, and informed them of the obvious mistake. When asked what she “wanted”, Monica states that she requested
I wanted an apology on Facebook, a printed apology in the magazine and $130 donation (which turns out to be about $0.10 per word of the original article) to be given to the Columbia School of Journalism.
To a novice like myself, I would say that was almost like giving them a slap on the wrist, but, I am evidently not as forgiving as Monica. If the publisher, Judith Griggs, had done as requested, I doubt any of us would even be hearing about this whole escapade. However, Ms. Griggs responded in a most peculiar way. Below is a quote from the email.
“Yes Monica, I have been doing this for 3 decades, having been an editor at The Voice, Housitonic Home and Connecticut Woman Magazine. I do know about copyright laws. It was “my bad” indeed, and, as the magazine is put together in long sessions, tired eyes and minds somethings forget to do these things.
But honestly Monica, the web is considered “public domain” and you should be happy we just didn’t “lift” your whole article and put someone else’s name on it! It happens a lot, clearly more than you are aware of, especially on college campuses, and the workplace. If you took offence and are unhappy, I am sorry, but you as a professional should know that the article we used written by you was in very bad need of editing, and is much better now than was originally. Now it will work well for your portfolio. For that reason, I have a bit of a difficult time with your requests for monetary gain, albeit for such a fine (and very wealthy!) institution. We put some time into rewrites, you should compensate me! I never charge young writers for advice or rewriting poorly written pieces, and have many who write for me… ALWAYS for free!”
Well…There just aren’t words…
The idea that anything on the internet is “public domain” is silly at best, more likely criminal at worst. While copy-write law is clear that a list of ingredients is not protected, that is not what happened here. This “magazine” lifted the whole article and had the audacity to claim that the editor should have been compensated for her “advice” and providing an article that would look good in a portfolio.
I am not going to rant on about this,even though there is a mountain of stupidity in Ms Griggs thought pattern, because that is not the most interesting part of the story.
Monica did what anyone engaged in blogging or social media would do – She posted about it Then a few others saw and passed the story on to their friends, who posted links on Twitter to the Facebook page where thousand of people are venting their “dislike” of the magazine. This item has become a trending topic on Twitter. The Facebook page is getting updates so fast you have to go back several pages to find anything older than an hour ago. Authors such as Neil Gaiman
and John Scalzi
have tweeted their disgust with the magazine, and of course, someone setup the fake twitter account CooksSource just to keep the meme alive (It has since vanished). This has even made the “main stream” news sites such as the Guardian and the Washington Post (see the block of links below) It seems this has become that proverbial “Tempest in a Teapot” that threatens to spill out even further. According to posts on the Cooks Source Facebook page, people have found that the magazine has even lifted articles and information from Paula Dean and the Food Network, Martha Stewart, and even more are being uncovered as the situation develops. Check out this Twitter Search for more “goodies” as the story continues to develop.
***Update: For an in depth look at this story as well as evidence of other alleged acts of plagiarism, go to Edward Champion’s post here.***
Needless to say, this has turned into quite a mess for Cooks Source Magazine and its now famous editor. Some advertisers who have been contacted have even called the magazine to cancel their relationship. It has definitely been a long day for Ms Griggs at this point and I dare say that $130 donation sounds much better in hindsight.