Cook’s Source Copyright Infringement – Lessons to be Learned

by JadeDragon

Copyright Notice:  Anyone is welcome to republish this article for free as long as you leave the links intact and don’t charge me for correcting it.  Ok, on to the article.

The Cook’s Source controversy is a great example of how you can destroy your business with copyright infringement.  Basically little regional magazine Cook’s Source lifted this great heavily researched article on the medieval origins of Apple Pie directly of the author Monica Gaudio‘s website.  A friend called Monica to congratulate her on being published, except Cook’s Source had published (stolen) the article for both the print and Facebook versions of their publication.   You can read the story directly here and here but I’m focusing on the fall out.

According to her story, Monica wrote to complain, and she reports she received this outrageous response from Judith Griggs, managing editor of Cook’s Source. This after Ms. Griggs stated earlier in the email she had “three decades” of experience in the publishing business:

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!”

Even dumber, reportedly at the bottom of the email from Judith Griggs was this little gem:

This electronic message may contain information privileged for the addressee only.
Please be advised that the Cooks Source email addressee is not intended to be transferred to any other addressor, and any copying, distribution or use of the contents of this message is prohibited.

I’m going to take my chances that posting up an excerpt of the email and commenting on it is going to be ok.   As you will see, Cook’s Source has not denied sending out the response, only continued to justify their actions.

When I went to the Cook’s Source website today I found they have pulled the site down. Instead the Cook’s Source site states in part (reproduced here for archive and commentary purposes since it is likely to change again for obvious reasons):

We have cancelled our Facebook page on Thursday, November 4th, 2010 at 6:00PM. It has since been since been hacked by unknown parties and now someone else unknown to us has control of it.

We also cancelled our website on the above date, as our advertisers were listed therein, and with the harassment that has taken place on Facebook, we felt was unsafe for them.

(A number of comments made here and here indicate that many people planned to contact the Cook’s Source site and their advertisers to complain.  Contacting advertisers to choke off the flow of revenue to a publication that is willfully doing wrong is a time honored tradition, and advertisers are known to vote with their ad budgets.  I’m not advocating harassment, but it looks like the advertisers got a lot of attention!).

Last month an article, “American as Apple Pie — Isn’t,” was placed in error in Cooks Source, without the approval of the writer, Monica Gaudio. We sincerely wish to apologize to her for this error, it was an oversight of a small, overworked staff.

(Just telling the truth that Cook’s Source lifted the article of the net without permission would be the right thing to do. Calling it an “oversight” and justifying it because of a “small, overworked staff” is nothing but a smack in the face of the writer.  Statements like this only do more damage to reputation, evidently written by the same small overworked staff that penned the email that started this trouble.)

We have made a donation at her request, to her chosen institution, the Columbia School of Journalism. In addition, a donation to the Western New England Food Bank, is being made in her name. It should be noted that Monica was given a clear credit for using her article within the publication, and has been paid in the way that she has requested to be paid.

(Clear credit in the magazine just shows they knew who owned the article, but they did not pay until after all hell broke loose.)

This issue has made certain changes here at Cooks Source. Starting with this month, we will now list all sources. Also we now request that all the articles and informational pieces will have been made with written consent of the writers, the book publishers and/or their agents or distributors, chefs and business owners. All submission authors and chefs and cooks will have emailed, and/or signed a release form for this material to Cooks Source and as such will have approved its final inclusion. Email submissions are considered consent, with a verbal/written follow-up. Recipes created in the Cooks Source Kitchen are owned by Cooks Source and as such approval is given for chefs and cooks in our area to use them. Artwork used is created by our staff, or is royalty-free or purchased “clip-art.”

(This sounds like a good plan!)

Some comic entertainment – Hitler’s view on Cook’s Source before the Lessons

Lessons to Learn

1.  The internet is not public domain. Stealing someone’s published work is no different than taking cash out of their wallet. Taking work, even when you give credit, is not right.

2.  Check your facts on legal issues BEFORE you go writing people to tell them to go to hell.  Cook’s Source is good enough searching Google to find an Apple Pie recipe, so you would think they could find articles on article copyright (links to an article on this blog) to review.

3.  Step up and admit you were wrong instead of justifying the wrong actions of your “small, overworked staff”.  Doing more damage with the wrong approach just leads to being written up as a case study on how not to do PR.

4.  On the internet, hours and days are enough to destroy your business when you screw up.  Anyone ever looking for Cook’s Source in the future is going to find this controversy.  The advertisers are evidently scared.  Perhaps this is the end of the magazine?  If so, Judith Griggs will be looking for a job and the story of her ill planned email is going to come up when potential employers Google her name.

For more information read this post at Plagiarism Today where Jonathan Bailey points out this is not a plagiarism issue because Cook’s Source gave credit, but it is a Copyright Infringement issue.  See multiple other documented cases of Cook’s Source violating copyright here.

What are your thoughts?  Comment below now.

Other Articles of Interest:

Update on Cooks Source

Article Copyright & Rights Explained

Where to Buy High Quality Content (there is no need to steal it!)

Plagiarism Today: An Original Success Story