(UPDATED) Lift a Blogger's Post? But Honestly, Cook's Source, You Can't Do That

BlogHer Original Post

FAIL stampIn yet another case of misunderstanding blogging, Cook's Source magazine reprinted a blogger's piece without her permission. But wait! It gets better! When the author of the piece inquired about it, she was told by the editor that everything on the Internet is free domain. And! The author's piece was in need of so much editing, the author should compensate her for a job well done. I'll wait while you stop boggling.

Done now? I'm not.

Let's dissect this a little further.

The author, Monica Gaudio, details the issue quite well. In short, she found out that her piece had been printed in the actual print version of the magazine via a friend who happened to see it. Monica then phoned and emailed the magazine to figure out what was up. Had someone illegally posted her piece on one of those "free article" websites? Nope. They just lifted it. After a series of emails, Monica asked for an apology to be printed both in print and on their Facebook page and a $130 donation ($0.10 per word) be made to the Columbia School of Journalism.

Instead, she got an email reply so dripping with condescension and an absolute lack of knowledge as to how the Internet, blogs and copyright work that we're all left wondering how this "editor," Judith Griggs, got that title.

Here's the most mind-boggling part of the email for me.

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.

(Read the rest at the original author's original post.)

As Monica linked in her post reply, the Internet is not fair use. When in doubt, you should assume that the piece you are thinking about yanking is copyrighted and you should therefore ask for permission. I mean, duh. It's 2010. Shouldn't we know this by now?

Needless to say, the Internet has blown up with support for Monica. Cooks Source is trending on Twitter. Amusingly, Smart Bitches Trashy Books made a new verb out of the whole debacle. To "griggs" someone is to lift their work without telling them and then demand payment from the original author for rewrites and editing. Their example is hilarious.

Example of usage: "Why'd you get an F on that essay?" "I griggs'd the professor's doctoral thesis from her website, and I even cleaned it up for her and told her she should give me an A, but she failed me anyway."

In fact, the Cooks Source Facebook page has all but imploded with comments and links from people who apparently understand copyright. Who needs so-called-journalist-editors when we have so many people figuring out that Cook's Source has been lifting content for who knows how long? So far, other pieces that have been called out are a Food Network recipe, originally found here and a WebMD piece on Food Frauds. Pun not intended there but totally, totally appropriate.

I tried to contact Griggs to confirm the story. No answer. As the phone number is being posted over and over on the Facebook page, I'm guessing that it will take awhile for a reply.

The blogosphere has come through with their thoughts on the matter. Here are just a few of the dozens of posts that are popping up minute-by-minute.

More are pouring in as this news goes viral. If you write about it, let us know and I'll include you in this round up.

If you do choose to write about it, however, make sure it's your own work. And if someone calls you on lifting their work, please don't write a condescending email in reply. I'd hate to have to make a hashtag like #buthonestlymonica out of something stupid you said. Then again, our readers are smart.

Plain and simple: Cook's Source needs to own up to what they've been doing, print apologies and retractions, and pay up in some way or another. I mean, even South Park apologized when they lifted stuff from the web. Surely Judith Griggs has more class than South Park. Right? RIGHT?!


Update, November 5, 2010, 1:00pm: Monica let us know that she has not yet heard from Cook's Source regarding the scandal. My phone call was not returned either. Shocking.

Cook's Source made a new Facebook page, claiming the original page was hacked. Whatever the case, they're claiming that their page was hacked, whining about "libelous" facebook messages, and still using poor grammar to insult people as shown by this status update:

There's lots of people here that do not seem to understand a few basics yet they seem to all be experts in the print business.

Sorry, Cook's Source, the vast majority of us writing about these issues do understand that you're in the wrong. More over, we understand that you seem allergic to apologies.

Posts exploded all over the web, ranging from small time blogs all the way to Time and The Washington Post. The #buthonestlyMonica hashtag had some of the funniest tweets ever, which Monica appreciated herself. (Kudos to BlogHer staff for the creation of that Internet gem.)

The real meat and potatoes of the issue comes into play with the information that Cook's Source ripped off recipes and images from other blogs, like Simply Recipes (one of my personal favorites), and big-name celebrities like Martha Stewart and Paula Dean.

This is much bigger than originally thought. Not that Monica's story by itself wasn't huge. It was and is and will be important for people to understand copyright law. I wonder if we'll continue to learn of other bloggers who were caught up in this magazine's unethical tactics. I hope not, but part of me guesses that this is far from over.

Contributing Editor Jenna Hatfield (@FireMom) blogs at Stop, Drop and Blog and The Chronicles of Munchkin Land. She is a freelance writer and newspaper photographer.

Photo Credit: Hans Gerwitz.

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