Cooks Source cribs blogger's work, suggests payment for the privilege
November 5th, 2010
04:45 PM ET
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CNN Tech has weighed in on the publishing blunder that's got everyone from food fiends to 4chan up in arms over online copyrights. In a nutshell, a blogger named Monica Gaudio found that a post she'd written about medieval tart making had been reprinted, without her permission, in a Western New England print magazine called Cooks Source.

When Gaudio contacted the magazine's editor Judith Griggs to ask for an apology on Facebook and a donation of $130 - approximately $.10 a word - to the Columbia School of Journalism, she was shocked to receive a reply that read, in part:

"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!"

When Gaudio brought the story public on her blog, the collective denizens of the internet, well...

They did not like that one bit.

CNN Tech has the full story of the ongoing online backlash against Cooks Source, but we'll hazard a guess as to what got folks' - especially food writers - brioche in a bunch.

It's not just the brazen copyright violation (not plagiarism, as some outlets are calling it, as that would entail passing it off as their own work, and not, as one writer termed it "writer rape'," as that's almost mind-bendingly insulting to actual rape victims). It's Griggs' "Isn't that cute? Let the pros take it from here." head pat that reminded online writers that no matter how rigorously, artfully and honestly they pursue their craft, there are still plenty of people in the food world who regard what they do as somehow less valid and valuable than print.

This is despite the James Beard Journalism Awards committee's (of which I am a member) decision to make the awards platform-neutral and allow blogs and websites to compete head-to head with magazines and newspapers in all categories. This is in complete disregard - or ignorance of - the prevalence of blogs penned (okay, typed) by food writing (in print, even!) royalty like Barry Estabrook, Marion Nestle, Robb Walsh, Michael Ruhlman, David Lebovitz, Gael Greene, and Mark Bittman, just to name a handful. By Griggs' reasoning, as this content is available on the internet, it can be picked up and repurposed willy-nilly, free of charge.

Go ahead and try that and see how long it takes for the first lawyer-borne letter to thwack your inbox, physical or virtual. Looking is free but lifting - that, by all rights, oughta cost you something.

"[W]e should all be grateful that there has never been such a profusion of fascinating accounts of fine dining so available—and provided free of charge," wrote Bruce Palling in a recent Wall Street Journal article entitled, "Have Food Blogs Come of Age? The Mainstream Culinary World Finally Acknowledges Bloggers". Perhaps the article was behind the WSJ's paywall at the time and Griggs was waiting for it to migrate to the free part of the site.

In any case, amidst the flaming pitchforks and virtual pitch bombs, perhaps the food media can come together, refresh their collective understanding of "copyright infringement", sing a few Kumbayas and maybe even collaborate on a few new recipes. There juuust might be a few folks who could stand a big ol' serving of humble pie.

CNN Tech has more on the Cooks Source copyright violation story

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Filed under: Blogs • Think

soundoff (10 Responses)
  1. Kathy cochran

    One more, very important thing – I don't mind if you quote my work – just make sure the stuff is attributed to me. That means you use the quote marks and say from where you got it and who did write it. Easy to do and legal.

    March 17, 2011 at 8:40 pm |
  2. Kathy cochran

    If I write something on a NAPKIN it is copyrighted. Get a clue people. Copying another's work, no matter the medium, is stealing/plagiarism. Plain and Simple.

    March 17, 2011 at 8:21 pm |
  3. Moo


    November 13, 2010 at 3:43 pm |
  4. Evil Grin

    It's stealing no matter how you look at it. The web might be public, but it's not public domain. You should be aware that anything you put online is likely to be stolen, but that does not mean that you're not stealing if you copy/paste directly from someone's blog, or use a photo from someone's photobucket account without permission.

    It is stealing.

    Cook's Source should have contacted her, asked her for permission to use the text and given her credit within the book. If they had done just that, they could have avoided this whole mess. It continually boggles my mind as to how big advertising campaigns, songs and books that are likely to be seen or heard by thousands of people think that they can use a photo, text or portion of another person's song and expect that the original creator will not get wind of it, or won't mind.

    November 9, 2010 at 9:13 am |
  5. Hamburglar

    Once 4chan gets involved its all over for them. They are going to find out where Judith lives (assuming they havent already) along with her phone number and post it online, her life will be public domain to all the nutcases at 4chan. Theyll also find out her family's information and start harassing them as well. Unfortunately they are also probably harassing the hell out of Gaudio as well.

    November 8, 2010 at 12:13 pm |
  6. If recipes were songs..

    Letsee, didn't Jammie Thomas just get nailed to the wall for 1.5 MILLION DOLLARS for a little "copyright infringement"? I can promise all of the collective lyrics in those songs were less than the sum of the written work "lifted" from Monica's blog by Cooks Source.

    Cooks Source should be relieved that the worst they were asked for was a donation. Monica was well within her rights (as proven by the RIAA) to sue the crap out of them.

    November 7, 2010 at 6:39 pm |
  7. fenris

    Blogs are copyrighted materials. Most of the content on the web is, especially in this case when a copyright notice is at the bottom of the webpage as it was with Monica. Apparently recipes aren't always but it wasn't just a recipe in this case that was copied, but an article about the origins of the apple pie. This was essentially copied word for word. Most universities warn their students very carefully about copying anything off the internet.

    November 6, 2010 at 11:31 pm |
    • Jamie

      There's no "especially" here: it is automatically legally considered copyright. The only difference is that no reasonable argument can be made by Griggs that she could possibly have mistaken it for "public domain", when it clearly does NOT say it is released into the public domain, and on top of that, explicitly features a copyright notice informing you of the piece's copyright status and owner.

      December 13, 2010 at 11:18 pm |
  8. SparkleFarkle

    I am not that sure of te legalities here – if a blog is actually copyrighted material. I tend to doubt it. That said – I do find it appalling – if not illegal – then certainly morally reprehensible that Cooks Source would use someone else's blog in their magazine. I think Monica took the high road to ask for a donation. They should pay for using her material. It's insulting that Cooks Source would suggest that Monica should pay them.

    November 6, 2010 at 4:24 pm |
    • Jamie

      Of course blogs are copyrighted. At least in the US. Many people are under the mistaken impression that something is only copyrighted if it features the copyright details somewhere on it or if it is registered, but this is not actually the case, at least now nowadays.

      This is how US copyright law works in respect to modern works (as opposed to stuff from like, the 1800's): so long as something is "fixed in a tangible medium", then it is considered AUTOMATICALLY copyrighted. That's right: AUTOMATICALLY. You don't even have to register it with the Copyright Office (registering your copyright just means it's easier to defend your copyright since you have documented proof you own it as of X date)

      Additionally, "tangible medium" has a wide-ranging definition that does, indeed, include digital copies of prose.

      Additionally: unless something was published before 1922, NEVER assume that it is "public domain". "Public domain" is a very specific state; IIRC, things that are old enough are automatically public domain, but anything published nowadays isn't, unless EXPLICITLY STATED AS SUCH BY THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR. That is, if you write something on your blog and say "By the way, I hereby release this piece into the public domain", then it is. Unless you actually say you're doing that, though, the law assumes you want to retain your copyright, and thus, you retain your copyright.

      December 13, 2010 at 11:16 pm |
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