Cooks Source Magazine Controversy: Is It Copyright Infringement?

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Monica Gaudio, who wrote a story about apple pies, is finding out that some people think that “public domain” means they can take your work and print it without your knowledge. No publication has the right to publish a blogger’s work without their consent and make a profit off it (at least according to the US government) – and she and an army of angry online writers are not letting Cooks Source Magazine get away with it.

Gaudio recounts on her blog that she was surprised to find out from a friend that she had been published in Cooks Source Magazine. After contacting the editor Judith Griggs numerous times, asking for a donation to Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism of $130 for compensation, an apology in the magazine and an apology on Facebook, she claims she received this response from the editor:

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!

Here’s the original post. Here’s the edited version from the magazine.

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Last we checked, if the website is copyrighted (as Gaudio’s website is) the content is protected. While her recipes are not safe from reproduction, the text she wrote is. Even if the author does not put the copyright symbol on the page, the material cannot be reused unless they explicitly say they want to put that work in the public domain.

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Techland contacted the magazine by email and phone but didn’t hear back. However, people online are responding to the controversy on Cooks Source Magazine’s Facebookby creating a fake Twitter and retweeting the news (including some comments by Neil Gaiman). Several advertisers have also pulled their ads from the magazine. And some other writers are accusing Cooks Source Magazine of plagiarizing from other mainstream publications such as CNN, Martha Stewart Living and NPR.

Moral of the story: Never piss off a blogger.