A Public Service Announcement: The Internet is Not Open Source
Picked this up via John Scalzi‘s blog, and I do think it’s worth taking a couple minutes to spread this message (in the viral way things spread on the Internet) so that the offending party is never given the opportunity to make this mistake again.
The story is that a writer who had published an article on medieval-style apple pies to her own web page woke up one day to discover that her article had been… “appropriated”, let’s say… by a cooking magazine by the name of “Cook’s Source“. The author was given attribution, but the article was printed both without her permission or knowledge and without payment to the author.
But, as though the first offense were not egregious enough, the editor of said magazine proceeded to add insult to injury. When the author, Monica, contacted Cook’s Source about the error, she got a response. Oh, did she get a response. Here, quoted in part, is a snippet from the response sent by editor Judith Griggs:
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!
And, later in the letter, this:
There, now. I have gone on enough. Thank you for allowing us to use your (improved) article. the only piece of advice I have to offer is that I would watch your email content, it was very offensive, what you sent.
What else can be said. You, Ms. Judith Griggs, FAIL: the internet, and copyright law, and editing FOREVER. And that, I think, is the end of your career as an editor. I hope you enjoyed your three decades.
Therefore, go forth and spread this message: The Internet is NOT Open Source. And it goes without saying… What a writer writes on the internet is copyrighted without said writer needing to do anything else to secure that copyright. Let us pray. Amen.