The internet defending copyright laws? WHAT?!

Posted on November 4, 2010

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It might seem like this story comes out of Oppositeland, but it’s actually true: the internet, that bastion of copyright infringement, plagiarism and illegal downloads, are actually helping maintain the copyright claims of one blogger against a print media magazine that ripped off their work then had the gall to say “tough.”

It’s actually quite embarrassing, if only because it shows how clueless and shambolic some small (yet professional) publications can be, and how a little fiefdom of a magazine can inflate an ego to the point that they think bloggers are beneath them. It’s a strange new take on the old vs. new media argument, and it’s one which the new media are definitely assured of winning.

Cooks Source Magazine (yes, we noticed the lack of an apostrophe, too) is a local advertiser-paid free magazine. It’s not Esquire or anything like that, but it has a healthy print run (up to 30,000) and trades in actual money from the advertisers. It’s likely that Judith Griggs, proprietor and editor of the magazine, makes some money from it on top of the revenue she gains from advertising to go to print costs.

She’s seemingly been running the magazine since 1997 by stealing articles wholesale from the internet, without payment but with a weird attribution whereby the writers get a byline, but aren’t informed that they work has been stolen and is being used to gain money for its editor. Monica Gaudio realised this when a friend commented on her article on apple pies being in the magazine, and she had no idea about it.

When she realised her material had been stolen, Gaudio contacted Griggs and after a back-and-forth, asked for $130 to be donated to the Columbia School of Journalism. As she points out, that’s 10 cents a word.

The reply she got back is baffling.

Yes Monica, I have been doing this for 3 decades, having been an editor at The Voice, Housitonic Home and Connecticut Woman Magazine. I do know about copyright laws. It was “my bad” indeed, and, as the magazine is put together in long sessions, tired eyes and minds somethings forget to do these things.
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!

There isn’t really anything you can say to that. However, the internet as always are keen to point out when people mess up, and quite admirably they’ve gone about informing advertisers about the stealing of copyrighted material. Some, including Laura Puchalski of the 2nd Street Baking Company, have already decided they don’t want to pay out anymore.

As an advertiser, we are disappointed in Cook’s Source and we are pulling our ads from this publication. Many of us (as is the case with our business) paid several months in advance for advertising and are unlikely to get any compensation back.

Take a look at the links cited in this article for more information, and marvel at how the internet can sometimes be a force for good. Comments as always are welcome below.

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