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A Public Service Announcement: The Internet is Not Open Source

November 4, 2010

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.

Hmm.  Wow.

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.

The original author’s own take, as well as that of author Nick Mamatas, are here and here.

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.

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18 Comments leave one →
  1. Jenne' permalink
    November 4, 2010 11:52 am

    This is sick Stephen! And the NERVE of that idiot editor! That just fires me up! I want to start a blog just so I can put their name out there so everyone can know what a douchebag they really are. UGH!

    • November 4, 2010 11:58 am

      That’s precisely why I decided to go ahead and blog it. I mean… I don’t even understand where they could have gotten the notion that the internet is “open source” – and then have the nerve to say in they have over 3 decades worth of experience in the same breath! They obviously weren’t paying attention during those 3 decades…

  2. November 4, 2010 11:54 pm

    Oh.

    My.

    Goodness.

    That is just outrageous!!!! Seriously? Who says things like that? Who would have the nerve?! Who lives like that!

    That really amazes me that somebody would act like that, especially a professional.

    • November 5, 2010 8:53 pm

      A presumed professional. The consensus on the net seems to be that Cook’s Source was a one-woman operation. What those “3 decades” of experience really amount to is pretty unclear. But this person clearly didn’t have an understanding of how bad her position really was. Dilligent “crowd-sourcing” revealed that this lady had swiped articles and photos from Food Network, Disney, NPR, and a host of others. The poor lady she stole from probably can’t afford a lawyer. These other guys… they’re already lawyered up. Her “editing” days are basically over.

      • November 5, 2010 9:21 pm

        That, honestly, is actually kind of sad. I mean, for the editing lady. For the writer too. I guess nobody turned up with any loot at the end.

      • November 6, 2010 3:22 am

        I’d be sadder for her if she hadn’t done something that was (a) blatantly illegal, (b) profited from it, then (c) told the writer from who she had stolen that said writer should be glad her work was stolen. I can understand how tough it is to struggle with a labor of love. But what she did is the exact opposite of how to actually go about doing it.

      • November 6, 2010 4:49 pm

        I did think that the whole “You should be paying me” thing was VERY off.

        It wouldn’t have been okay, in my opinion, even if the writer got paid a million dollars. Without consent is without consent. Period.

      • November 6, 2010 7:28 pm

        Indeed.

  3. November 5, 2010 12:32 am

    Mind boggling. I had a twitter leadee (i.e. someone I follow?) link to Cooks Source’s facebook page commenting on how social media can make good companies and this is the result of bad companies. I didn’t understand why everyone was attacking the editors and now that all makes sense.

    • November 5, 2010 8:49 pm

      If you search the #cookssource hashtag, you’ll get a lot more than that. This thing really exploded on the internet…

  4. November 5, 2010 9:32 pm

    Well that’s scary. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

    • November 6, 2010 3:20 am

      Perhaps a little scary, but it almost certainly will be having a happy ending. The good news: the internet’s got your back!

  5. November 8, 2010 4:07 am

    *speechless*
    That’s a bit like saying the rape was your own fault for being out there dressed as a ‘tart’, you would never have got laid otherwise, and we tidied you up at the end so you looked almost respectable.

  6. November 10, 2010 12:44 pm

    Will have to share that. Although it’s not new, if you read Colleen Doran’s blog she has plenty of these stories (apparently the artists are even more plagiarized than writers)! 😉
    Well, that’s why we better put that “It’s copyrighted” band on each and every blog, I guess…

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