Cooks Source Scandal: Into the Frying Pan

Into the Frying Pan
As a swarm of bloggers have documented, blogger Monica Gaudio recently discovered that Cooks Source magazine had copied one of her articles from the Web and reprinted it without permission. (Read perhaps the most comprehensive account by digital media educator Kathy E. Gill.)

Allegedly, when Ms. Gaudio contacted the magazine asking for an apology and compensation to be donated to a J school, editor Judith Griggs offered a flippant “my bad” pseudo-apology, asserted that content on the Web is “public domain,” and then proceeded to suggest that Ms. Gaudio should pay the magazine for having cleaned up her article.

When Ms. Gaudio went public with this incident on her LiveJournal account, the story went viral and all-out war has been declared by the online community with hundreds of blog posts, an acid rain of comments on the Cooks Source Facebook page, a new Wikipedia entry, and a Google bomb that displays the new definition griggs or to be griggs’d, meaning:

1. To use content on the web without permission, then request payment from original author for rewrites and editing.
2. To remain ignorant of plagiarism, ethics, copyright, and asshat behavior.

It doesn’t appear this incident was an oversight (we can forgive mistakes). Instead, it looks like this is the Cooks Source business model, as clueless as that may seem. One blogger has created a Google spreadsheet that ostensibly documents more than 100 examples of articles in Cooks Source copied from other publications. Another blogger seems to have confirmed several instances where the copying occurred without permission.

Having worked in publishing for more than 30 years, I’ve seen mistakes, miscommunications, and some legitimate disputes regarding publication rights. I’ve never seen a publisher flat-out steal content as a matter of course, and then reveal such a complete lack of awareness.

Consider somewhat of the inverse situation. A young woman shared 24 songs via Kazaa, and was recently hit with a $1.5 million judgment in a suit by the RIAA.

If I were advising Cooks Source, I’d recommend a heartfelt apology to be accompanied by significant payments for each instance of copying without permission. It appears that Cooks Source is a tiny operation with hardly any money, but unless it comes to terms with its aggrieved authors I suspect it won’t be around much longer.

Author’s Note: You probably noticed my use of the word “allegedly,” and my observation of how this incident “appears” and “seems.” I didn’t interview the primary parties, and I don’t feel obligated to do so (I’m not a news organization); however, I’m cognizant that things on the Internet are not always what they seem… even if lots of people believe them. I’ll update this post if I become aware of any new facts. In the meantime, you can search for “Cooks Source,” and occupy yourself for a week reading the results.