Thursday, November 4, 2010

Biased Opinion - Cooks Source, Judith Griggs, and Copyright

Well, another case of copyright ignorance has become the talk of the Internet. Apparently, a writer named Monica Gaudio wrote an interesting article about some early apple pie recipes titled A Tale of Two Tarts and posted it on the website Gode Cookery. Later, without asking, and without compensating her, the magazine Cooks Source decided to put her article in their publication. When Mrs. Gaudo contacted them and asked for an apology and some minor compensation, the magazine's managing editor responded with one of the most ignorant and obnoxious responses possible.

"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!"

Managing editor Judith Griggs manages to misstate copyright law, serves up an attempted apologetic for plagiarism, misunderstands the very nature of the article she stole by saying it needed editing, and has the gall to ask for Ms. Gaudo to pay for the fact that her article was misappropriated. Given this level of ignorant stupidity, Judith Griggs is a woman who has no business working as an editor, or in any other profession in which she isn't carefully supervised. After attempting to take the nice route, I seriously hope Mrs. Gaudo sues Cooks Source for statutory copyright damages and winds up in front of a judge that awards enough damages to put them out of business.

For anyone who does not know, material that is posted to the internet is not public domain. (Actually the term "public domain" drives one of my copyright lawyer friends up the wall. As she points out, "public domain" is not a term that appears in the copyright lexicon. There are works subject to copyright protection, and there are works that are not.) You do not actually have to post a copyright notice for copyright protection to attach to your work, although if you do, at least under U.S. law, you gain some additional legal protections, like the right to sue for statutory damages if your work is infringed. Copyright applies to works of authorship, which includes pictures, sculpture, writing, dance choreography, music, movies, plays, and pretty much every other expression of the artistic mind. Copyright protection attaches to an artistic work of authorship as soon as it is "fixed in a perceivable form". What does "fixed in a perceivable form" mean? Well, it means that the work has been put into a form that others can observe - by being, among other things, painted, written, printed, stored in computer memory, or yes, put onto the internet. This means that Griggs is, quite simply, dead wrong about copyright as it relates to the internet. Publishing something on the internet makes it immediately subject to copyright protection, whether the author puts a notice to that effect or not. In fact, posting something on the internet is often the "fixing in a perceivable form" that makes the contents of the post subject to copyright protection.

(For the record, all of the writing that appears in this blog is copyrighted to me. Any elements that are not copyrighted to me are used for criticism or commentary pursuant to the provisions of 17 U.S.C. § 107).

And it appears that Cooks Source is a serial offender when it comes to misappropriating the work of other people. They appear to have stolen articles from NPR, Food Network, Martha Stewart, and WebMD among others. And someone has conveniently compiled an ongoing list of articles stolen by Cooks Source. The people at Cooks Source seem to have no shame, no ethics, and no conscience. Here's to hoping that they close their thieving doors soon, and everyone associated with this crooked magazine finds themselves unemployed and unemployable.

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