This past week has been very interesting in the world of publishing, rights and a most-impressive use of viral news. So much has happened that I felt I needed to blog my thoughts and reactions to this whole issue regarding Cook’s Source magazine.
If you’re unfamiliar with Cook’s Source, it is a free food-enthusiast magazine published in Western New England. The goal of the publication is to provide recipes and food articles to the general public. It is given out for free at various local businesses who also advertise in it.
Previous to Thursday, November 4th I had never heard of Cook’s Source and my guess is no one else outside of their distribution area had either. Then this LiveJournal entry quickly made the rounds on Twitter, instantly becoming viral. Monica Gaudio was contacted by a friend to ask how she was able to break into a published magazine for her article “As American as Apple Pie – Isn’t!”. She had no knowledge it was in there. She contacted the magazine’s editor Judith Griggs asking for three things: an apology on their Facebook page, an apology printed in their next issue and compensation for her work in the form of a $130 donation (about $0.10 per word) to the Columbia School of Journalism.
The audacious reply from Ms. Griggs came back and essentially said screw you. You can click the link above for the full reply but her main points were the following:
– “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!”
– “the article… was in very bad need of editing, and is much better now than was originally… For that reason, I have a bit of a difficult time with your requests for monetary gain… We put some time into rewrites, you should compensate me!”
Enter the Internet. Within hours the Cook’s Source Facebook page was filled with postings on how horrible they are and then a meme began with people using them as the reason behind anything bad happening. The controversy was only made worse by a cryptic post on that site found here:
Well, here I am with egg on my face! I did apologise to Monica via email, but aparently it wasnt enough for her. To all of you, thank you for your interest in Cooks Source and Again, to Monica, I am sorry — my bad!
You did find a way to get your “pound of flesh…” we used to have 110 “friends,” we now have 1,870… wow!
…Best to all, Judith
Cook’s Source claims their Facebook account was hacked so that brings the validity of this update into question, especially given the spelling errors. In the end a sad state of affairs was brought to light: Cook’s Source lifted their material from many places without permission, compensation or attribution. Simple searches turned up material used from Food Network, Disney, NPR and others. These companies all have lawyers most would never want to go near, especially Disney. In addition, Cook’s Source listed their advertisers on their site and many people called to stress they pull their ads and not support such actions. To my knowledge, most have.
In the end, I wish this could be chalked up to an old-world editor with ‘three decades of experience’ having a mental lapse and genuinely using someone’s content without permission. The reality of the situation is that Cook’s Source was simply a compilation of material from the Internet supported by advertisers and run under the guise that anything online is free to use. As a writer, I find this view appalling and am happy to see most everyone else agrees.
Since this broke, it’s been written on CNN, MSNBC, NPR and more. Cook’s Source has abandoned their Facebook page due to ‘hacking’ and supposedly started a new one (I can’t find a link to it) and also placed a lengthy article on their homepage explaining their side of the story. I find it laughable that they state a new policy on content. I question how a magazine could ever operate without guidelines that are incredibly obvious. For your enjoyment, here are their ‘updated guidelines’:
This issue has made certain changes here at Cooks Source. Starting with this month, we will now list all sources. Also we now request that all the articles and informational pieces will have been made with written consent of the writers, the book publishers and/or their agents or distributors, chefs and business owners. All submission authors and chefs and cooks will have emailed, and/or signed a release form for this material to Cooks Source and as such will have approved its final inclusion.
I think the lesson to learn with this entire fiasco is that copyright is still a strong issue with the American people and stealing continues to be wrong. Again, obvious. Even more important than that, we all need to know that this is one of likely millions of instances of content being used without compensation or permission. It is our responsibility to ensure our work is protected and we pursue those who seek to abuse it for their benefit. I would hope Ms. Griggs has seen what real publishing requires and intellectual property is not free.
I bet a $130 donation and 2 apologies don’t look so bad now.