From Apple Pie to Cow Pies in One Bizarre Step

This has to be the most perplexing thing I’ve heard about all day and I hear about some perplexing crap–this author, Monica Gaudio, writes a post about old recipes she found for apple pies. And I’m talking old, like so old she’s discussing whether you’d eat the crust of the older pie or if it was just intended as a carrying case. Very interesting stuff to a nerd like me.

She is then alerted to the fact that her post has appeared in Cooks Source magazine, without her permission. It has in fact been stolen by them.

And when she contacts them, the editor says two things which I invite you to marvel at:

1. “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!”–The idea that copyright laws don’t apply to the web is so… well, I’ll say, it’s a common misconception people who don’t work in media industries have. But I have never encountered it from someone who works at a magazine. How do you work in magazine publishing for thirty years and not understand basic copyright law?

2. “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.” Obviously, I linked to the original, so you can ponder this yourself, but Nick Mamatas points out what is probably the truth: “Funnier to me is the implication that Griggs thought the obsolete spellings from the recipes Monica quoted were signs that the piece ‘was in very bad need of editing.'”

Anyway, a shitstorm has ensued. And I read on Twitter that folks have alerted the Food Network that some of their recipes appear to have been used as well. That should be interesting to watch, since they can afford attorneys to clarify forcefully the meaning of “public domain,” “fair use,” and “plagiarism.”

But I still can’t decide if the editor actually didn’t know she was stealing or if she thought she could just get away with it by bullying authors who complain.

It’s very strange.

Update: Here is the best article I’ve read about the incident so far, which outlines the scope and magnitude of the thievery, which appears to be enormous and beyond just an apple pie blog entry.

21 thoughts on “From Apple Pie to Cow Pies in One Bizarre Step

  1. My guess is bullying with a side helping of defensiveness for being caught in a naked act of theft. It’s the old “you should be grateful we paid attention to your stuff at all” and trying to assert (unsuccessfully) that authorship is only legitimate as an intellectual activity under the terms and conditions that the bully defines as acceptable. There is no such thing as a “loose fish” (to use Melville’s distinction that differentiates among ambiguous and new forms of property in a capitalist society) on the web. Someone created everything you read. Credit that person if you use it. There, that wasn’t so painful, was it?

    What comes through, however, is “your work was so ‘inferior’ that we couldn’t wait to rip you off and we really hoped we wouldn’t get caught.” That’s just lame.

  2. And what’s up with publishing the online version of their mag as a bunch of facebook photos? That’s incredibly lame. And they don’t even have a link to it on their “real” web page.

  3. It is weird. Their website says to visit their Facebook page, but there’s no link to it on their website. I guess people are just supposed to magically find it?

    She may have been in publishing for years, but she’s not given a lot of thought to how to make it easier for people to use her stuff.

  4. it’s a common misconception people who don’t work in media industries have. But I have never encountered it from someone who works at a magazine.

    I don’t doubt it for a second, actually. Someone with the resources to fight a tort claim over copyright might just assert that it’s easier to lift 100 articles or images in the assumption that only a couple might even be challenged, and their stock response is this pile of misinformation about copyright. I believe this practice is far more common than you would believe.

    The underlying message is, “You think you have a claim? Fine. Lawyer up, because it’s going to cost you more to fight it than it costs us to steal it from you.”

    Ultimately, the Cooks Source editor is wrong and would probably lose in this instance if the claimant has the wherewithal to litigate it. Underline “if.” That’s a gamble that some of these publications are willing to take.

    There is an implied risk in posting anything to the Internet. You can bend electrons in any way you so choose, but once you put it out there, you risk losing control over your intellectual property.

  5. According to the Facebook page that lists other examples where Cooks Source has stlen material, they’ve stolen from Martha Stewart Living, NPR, Weight Watchers. snf the Food Network (seems all that internet stuff they published as their own is easy to resurrect – who knew?).

    Dumb enough to steal from some poor lonely blogger out there at the end of the Internets is one thing, but Martha Stewart? Hell, she’s been up the river and knows some mean types of people!

  6. I wish I could say I’m shocked about this kind of thing, but I’m not.

    More times than I can count, I’ve been asked to do work for free – or better yet, my compensation would be to “showcase my work on their website” or “have a new project for my portfolio” – as if my working for free was some bone they were throwing at me.

    So, graphic designers have dealt with this for a while. I guess now the internet is a free for all for the written word.

    And what makes me really disgusted is the more this happens, people are just going to quit producing “art” – written or visual – because it’s just not worth it anymore.

    While I haven’t been the victim of copyright infringement – that I know of – I do have a story from a few years ago. I won’t name the actual publication – but it is known as the “fashion Bible” – the publication has an online entity focused at men. I got an email from an editor from the publication – a story was being done on ballparks around the country – and the editor was contacting me about some photographs I had taken at Greer Stadium here in Nashville. Of course, no monetary offer of compensation was being offered – just that I would get photo credit.

    Honestly, I was more appalled that a “serious” magazine was trolling Flickr for photographs. I think I let them use them for credit – simply b/c they had enough wherewithall to not rip me off without my knowledge. And I used a point and shoot camera – I wasn’t out anything. But yeah… that was weird. Never again.

  7. Recipes….

    Let’s say that I have a “friend” who used to work for a “publishing” company with loose morals and tight pocketbooks.

    They were forever looking for books to publish that were in the gray copyright area so they wouldn’t have to actually pay for content. My “friend” may or may not have written two books as a work for hire when they wouldn’t pay royalties to authors whose work they originally sought. My “friend” may or may not have also “written” a book of baby names and a book of recipes using name definitions and recipes found on the internet. The recipe book never saw the light of day because my “friend” quit before it got finished.

    There exists a whole segment of publishers who are in love with the idea of treating the internet as a playground for free material they can republish. My “friend” became a copyright law maven in part to keep from becoming a thief. My “friend”‘s boss threatened to fire him or her a time or two for not lifting certain content. The company’s motto was the old “better to ask forgiveness than permission.” Fortunately for my “friend”, the company’s attorneys gave a presentation on copyright law because the company got sued four times in 2 months. Maybe. Or maybe not. But my friend ended up being a hero. Or not.

  8. More times than I can count, I’ve been asked to do work for free – or better yet, my compensation would be to “showcase my work on their website” or “have a new project for my portfolio” – as if my working for free was some bone they were throwing at me.

    –Or entered into a contest.
    –Or followed up with the promise of “a lot more projects to come”
    –Or accompanied with the promise of being introduced to a friend who also needs graphic design/editing/copy work.

    At one point I had a portfolio comprised entirely of things I’d done for free to “add to my portfolio”.

    Of course, since people hate paying for creative content there is also an entire section at the back of my portfolio dedicated to $9500 of unpaid invoices. At least the contest/portfolio credit losers were honest about not paying me.

  9. Yes, Kat – but I don’t bite at contests or “more projects to come” or “I’ll refer you to my friend(s)” – never have, never will.

    The last time someone said they’d do any of those – or my favorite – bartering – I use this line: “NES, my landlady, nor my health insurance company work on the barter system. Neither do I.”

  10. Actually, I don’t mind if people make a bartering offer. Whether I accept or not depends on what they are offering and what they want in return but bartering still means tangible compensation.

  11. I just read that massive outpouring @Facebook with my jaw dropped open, mainly because as little as two minutes ago, the editor was responding to comments as if she still thinks she’s in the right.

    Someone over there @ FB that she responded to told her she better lawyer up – she’d do herself a favor to listen instead of all the responding (wrongly) to comments she’s doing over there today.


  12. I swear, this is just the strangest thing. At this point, I am kind of wondering if there’s not some weird backstory about the magazine that we just don’t know or something.

    It just seems so weird that the editor isn’t either responding better or taking the facebook stuff down.

    It’s going to be interesting to hear the whole story when it comes out.

  13. I was thinking yesterday “surely this is some sort of hoax” – but who would commit career suicide of that magnitude?

    I saw the FB stuff with the editor. That’s not the editor. Earlier in the day, I had sniffed around on there, and in the “discussions” portion someone had linked the actual editors FB page. It was slightly different.

    After Lynnster made her comment yesterday I looked for what she was talking about. There were subtle differences that tipped me off that someone had created a page posing as the editor. The woman is a moron, but to argue with that many angry people online? Nobody is *that* stupid.

  14. Had the same feeling as Beth; sent a comment to the Twitter acct yesterday, then noticed that it is very new and nobody could *possibly* be that clueless/lighthearted about the whole thing. Will be interested to see what the full real story is.

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