Copyright for Dummies

In a rare mostly non-genre related post, I’d like to take the opportunity to add to the criticism of editor of Cooks Source, who surprised author Monica Gaudio by informing her that, because she had posted her content on the web, it was therefore free for all to use, with no permission required, and that because they edited her work she ought to compensate them, not vice-versa.

Nick Mamatas, author, and editor at Viz Media’s Haikasoru imprint boosted the signal, which soon made it to John Scalzi’s  Whatever blog and was tweeted by Scalzi and retweeted by Neil Gaiman, so there’s the genre connection, however tenuous.  In the age of social networking, sometimes any publicity is not good publicity, especially when it exposes an egregious wrong by way of insulting an underdog.  Already, people are muttering about contacting advertisers in Cooks Source (which can be found by poking through the magazines articles via the image gallery on its Facebook page, for example here and here). For a savvy net user, direct action takes under an hour.  An apology, and some negotiation for the rights to the article, would have been  faster, cheaper, and far less damaging to the magazine’s reputation.

Update: It turns out that the author who first complained she was plagiarized was not the only one.  Some claims allege that Martha Stuart’s Whole Living site, Weightwatchers.com.au, The Food Network site, and National Public Radio’s site were also plagiarized.

Update II: Several people report that the advertisers have been contacted and are very aware of the problem. An advertiser comments below: “As one of the advertisers who DID pull our ads from Cooks Source and DID lose a month or 2 of our advertising funds as a result, and who HAS been inundated with emails, I thank you for seeing that most of us are small local businesses who stand to lose a lot of revenues from bad publicity, the threats of boycotting, and general disruption of our daily operations. We agree that this publication acted irresponsibly and should own up to that fact by issuing an apology publicly to Monica, as well as to the advertisers such as our business who were caught up in this debacle and who continue to deal with the fallout. We are not looking for compensation (other than the lost advertising money we already requested from Cooks Source, which seems to have been ignored). We would just like a genuine apology to all parties affected and some responsibility to be taken.”

16 thoughts on “Copyright for Dummies

  1. domynoe

    Paula Deen has indicated she will contact her legal department on a post made to her FB page, and advertisers are already pulling ads. The story has been on the L.A. Times, the Guardian, and the Washington Post, to name a few. I suspect the magazine is now dead (just like its website, at least as of this posting).

    No quicker way to put yourself out of business, eh?

  2. Mira

    People have already contacted the advertisers, most of whom have indicated that they won’t be advertising with Cooks Source in future (assuming it has a future). They’re nice little businesses and should probably be left in peace to pursue their own legitimate activities.

    1. Elspeth

      Thank you for adding that about the advertisers, who are being hit pretty badly. They’ve also paid for the advertising in advance and obviously won’t get that money back.

      1. Laura Puchalski

        As one of the advertisers who DID pull our ads from Cooks Source and DID lose a month or 2 of our advertising funds as a result, and who HAS been inundated with emails, I thank you for seeing that most of us are small local businesses who stand to lose a lot of revenues from bad publicity, the threats of boycotting, and general disruption of our daily operations. We agree that this publication acted irresponsibly and should own up to that fact by issuing an apology publicly to Monica, as well as to the advertisers such as our business who were caught up in this debacle and who continue to deal with the fallout. We are not looking for compensation (other than the lost advertising money we already requested from Cooks Source, which seems to have been ignored). We would just like a genuine apology to all parties affected and some responsibility to be taken.

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  4. Tapati

    We tackled the advertisers in the morning and they were shocked. Since they are small businesses please don’t bother them any more. They spent much of the day fielding phone calls. 2nd Street Baking Co. has pulled their ads from Cooks Source, paid months in advance and don’t expect a refund.

  5. paksiegurlie

    Disney was also one of the places that had an article lifted and posted close to verbatim on the website. They too have been notified and I am sure their lawyers are busily preparing a response.

    I would be willing to bet that Ms Griggs is really wishing she had posted that apology and paid that $130. That is going to be the most expensive mistake she has ever made in her life.

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  9. Kathleen

    Actually, this brings up an question that I haven’t found the answer to yet. If you use the share button on a site, how do copyrights apply? I posted something the other day using a share button, mentioned that it was a good article about a topic and put about 2-3 paragraphs up that referenced the topic. I got asked to take the post down. I took it down but I don’t understand why they thought I was violating their copyright. They’re the ones that put the share button on the article.

    In the case of the Monica Gaudio there wasn’t a share button and it was clearly copyrighted material.

  10. Rachel

    Trying to screw over a writer is never a great idea, in the age of the internet.

    Trying to screw over a writer during NaNoWriMo, when every aspiring author on the net is both more keenly aware of such things and generally more actively networking? Well, that’s got to be some kind of record.

    1. Mishaela

      Well, we have to have something to do between word sprints…

      Seriously, though, even most non-writers I know understand the idea: “If you didn’t write it, you don’t own it.”

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