Friday, November 5, 2010

Copyright Infringement & Bad Magazine Editors (Or, Things That Piss Me Off)

I get kind of ranty in this post. And it has nothing to do with novels or books. But it's important to me, and it has to do with writing, so I'm talking about it. But we'll be back to our regularly scheduled programming with the next post.

Most of you are probably already aware of the controversy surrounding Cooks [sic] Source magazine and how they steal articles from writers on the Internet.  So you have to forgive me, but as a writer AND magazine editor, I'm doubly infuriated by this. And I need to vent.

If you have no idea what I'm talking about, here's the run-down: Monica Gaudio, a writer, got word from a friend that her article about apple pie, originally published on the Godecockery website, had appeared in Cooks Source magazine. But Monica never gave Cooks Source permission to print her story. So she emailed the editor, Judith Griggs, and asked what was up. Long story short, Judith swiped the story from the Web, thinking that was totally fine. She said it was "her bad" and asked Monica what she wanted.

Monica requested an apology in print and on the magazine's Facebook page (where the article appeared), and a $130 donation to the Columbia School of Journalism. Judith refused, claimed what she did was fine because the Internet was "public domain," and insinuated that Monica should pay her something for "editing" her article (her edits involved correcting traditional medieval spellings in old recipes.)

So Monica went public with the incident, and posted Judith's rude email on her LiveJournal. And the Internet exploded.

Turns out, Cooks Source took stories from other people, too - people like Martha Stewart, Paula Deen, the New York Times, Cooking Light, and NPR. And if it hadn't been for Monica, who knows how much longer this tiny regional magazine would have gotten away with it?

I know I usually keep it pretty light over on this blog, but I really need to talk about how much this pisses me off. As a writer, my articles are ALL OVER the Internet. Google my name and, after my Twitter account and blog, pretty much everything you get is stuff I wrote for my job or reviews I write freelance. And I got paid for all of it. If I ever had that story reprinted anywhere else (which, by the way, neither my freelance job nor my full-time position would be cool with), you bet I would want to be paid for it. Or at least told about it. (No. I would want to be paid.)

But here's what makes me the angriest of all - if Cooks Source needed free content to keep their magazine going, and that's why they felt they needed to turn to stealing to make it happen, it's EASY to get contributors to send free articles in. That's why people have PR managers. There are entire websites dedicated to connecting editors with PR reps. So if Cooks Source wanted a story about apple pie but couldn't afford to pay for it, they could have gone to a PR news site and submitted a query asking for a contributed article. Instead of stealing one. Chances are their inbox would have been FULL of pitches, all from PR people happy to submit an article to help promote their company. Eventually, they'd build up a store of trusted PR reps, and they wouldn't have to turn to the websites anymore. Which makes it clear that this whole thing is about laziness more than anything, because if you look in the right places, the content will come to you. 

They also could have contacted local journalism schools to see if there was anyone looking to build a portfolio by writing some stories. When I was in college, I would have JUMPED at the chance to see my article in a professional magazine (though at this point, Cooks Source is far from professional.) In the email, Judith Griggs said she had several young writers, all happy to work for her for free. If that's the case...where are they? And why didn't she call on them...ever? (Of course that was probably a lie to save her butt.)

I was recently laid off. I've been kind of keeping that in because I didn't want to get too depressing, but this is my last month at my job. My boss fought to keep me, but in the end...the parent company did what it had to do. Being in journalism is hard right now, and everyone is working to keep their costs down. So when I see irresponsible people doing irresponsible things, it makes all of us look bad. It makes her look ungrateful for having a job when so many people in the field can't find - or keep - work. And it makes me angry that someone who apparently has three decades of journalism experience doesn't know something I learned my sophomore year in college.  

I guess the good thing about all of this is that pretty much every publishing professional will know that woman's name (oh, man, I feel sorry for any other magazine editor with the name Judith Griggs), and likely her face (her picture was up on her Facebook profile for awhile), so after the inevitable downfall of Cooks Source as advertisers pull out and lawsuits roll in, Griggs isn't likely to find another job in this field. And I'm sure she'll think twice next time she wants to refuse giving a much-warranted apology to someone.

On a happier note...
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  1. wow. I'd heard a little bit about what was going on, but didn't really have a clue. that's awful. :( What a horrible plagiarizing magazine.

    Heather, I'm so sorry about your job :(

  2. I had read the post on LJ a while ago, and couldn't believe people would do that. It's just horrible -- taking articles without paying, and insulting the author when he/she does ask for recompense.

  3. I was so floored when I first read about this. It's just shocking. This is the one biggest no-no for a writer. Just the other day, I had someone find my blog by Googling the first two lines of a blog post I'd written, which--having taught writing at university--tells me that someone has plagiarized my stuff (as a teacher, if we suspected plagiarism, the first thing we did was Google the first two lines of a text). But it's bad enough to plagiarize someone's content for a school paper (I flunked more than one student for this), it's another altogether to profit from it. It's downright abominable.

    But, that aside, I'm so sorry to hear about your job, sweetie. I'm torn up for you. If you want to chat or anything, just hit me up. I'm there. I'm sending you some seriously positive vibes. You're so talented, sweetheart. Something new will come along soon, if it already hasn't.

  4. This is so unbelievable. What is wrong with people?


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