Posted in food, personal, writing
November 4, 2010

Cooks Source: How not to run a magazine

If you’re plugged into the blogosphere… odds are you’ve heard about Monica Gaudio and her run in with Cooks Source , a free magazine for distribution in the New England area. A friend contacted her about an article she’d written for it called “As American as Apple Pie – Isn’t” wondering how she’d gotten published. The only problem? She’s written it as “A Tale of Two Tarts” which she had posted in 2005 on a domain that she owns, which clearly has a copyright on it.

So she did what anyone would do. She contacted the editor via email and started a discussion- assuming that of course, the article had simply been wrongly included. It wasn’t plagiarism, it was attributed to her. After a few emails, Judith Griggs (the editor) asked what she wanted. Ms. Gaudio said that she just wanted an apology in the magazine and on the magazine’s Facebook page, and a donation made to the Columbia School of Journalism for $130 (a fair amount to have been paid for a piece of that length). All reasonable, right?

This is what Ms Griggs responded with:

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!

My first reaction was to groan because she’s one of those people who uses “quotations” to seem smart. (Or should I say- to seem “smart”?) But really- public domain? It’s been proven that publishing something on the internet doesn’t make it public domain. If that were the case, nobody would need Creative Commons licenses for their images/artwork. There wouldn’t be regular stories about Reuters or AP going after people who publish their content without paying the fees. If that were the case, YouTube wouldn’t constantly be pulling down television shows or music videos that have been reported for copyright violations.

Ms Gaudio then blogged about her dismay, and well, it spread like wildfire. Seriously. Not only have I seen a ton of blog posts, but Neil Gaiman tweeted about it (links to his first tweet, but he did comment on it more through the day), Reddit picked it up… and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

The tone of the email suggests that this was a lone incident, a mere mistake made in the mad rush to put out a magazine, right? Wrong. The Internet (or rather, those who use the internet) began to look through issues of Cooks Source, and found that not only did she steal the article for her own use, but that she had also taken content (text, not recipes) from NPR, Martha Stewart and Sunset Magazine. As far as the recipes went, almost immediately some were found from Southern Living Magazine, Paula Deen and Giada DiLaurentiis. I’m sure that soon we’ll find out how many of the images were simply taken from other sites as well.

Not only was she stupid enough to not understand that everything on the internet isn’t up for grabs, she stole from people who have ready access to legal teams. Brilliant.

Let this serve as a lesson- if you create a for-profit magazine in which you sell advertising and steal most of the content, you will be caught. Your advertisers will drop you, and likely you’ll be sued. So best to write your own material or give up the magazine idea if you can’t produce your own copy.

This has gotten some excellent coverage, and here are a few links of where I’ve gotten my information from. Marci Sischo, BlogHer, Food For Real, Washington Post, and How Publishing Really Works

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