When the Internets attack!

Last week had an amazing (to me) incident in which IronMan killed its debut IronMan Access program following a volatile response from the triathlete community.  Social media (twitter, FB, forums, etc) played a large role in this process.

Today... repeat.

This story is summarized so well elsewhere that I'll be brief.  Cooks Source, a small Massachusetts-based food magazine, took an article from a blogger named Monica Gaudio, 'edited it' and published it along with her name.  There was no request to use the article, and the article is present in the original publication (Godecookery) and on Monica's domain, and is copyrighted.  Gaudio found her work on the web and emailed the magazine to find out what happened.  

She asked for an apology on facebook (the facebook fanpage is essentially the magazine's web site) and in print in Cooks Source, and for a donation ($130/$.10/word of the original article) to the Columbia School of Journalism.  She received the following reply, supposedly from Editor Judith Griggs (Bolded emphasis mine):
"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!"

Thus, the Internets storm commenced.  I first saw this on twitter, but within an hour it had exploded.  The Cooks Source site was not functioning at the time of this posting.  Their facebook fan page is now full of hate mail.  When you Google Cooks Source, most of the links that come up refer to this issue.  

There is even a pop-culture reference to the editor of Cooks Source.

No public statement has been made by Cooks Source at this time.

This brings up some really interesting issues regarding writing and the web.  It is clear that just because something is on the internet it is not public domain.  How do you think videos can be pulled from youtube? 

Also, how should periodicals (web or otherwise) interact with the blogging community?  Clearly not like this, although it's allegedly not the first time that Cooks Source has lifted work.

Who should be responsible for policing/enforcing the standards of journalism if an Editor is clearly incapable of doing the job?  Does the periodical's readership deserve to be informed?  Many people have suggested to Gaudio that she obtain an attorney.  Some of the other sources of Cooks Source's alleged misappropriations include NPR and Martha Stewart - will these entities respond?  Would they have been aware of the plagiarism if not for this incident?

Finally, what constitutes web plagiarism?  I'm not sure this question applies to the above episode, because I can't compare articles.  However, there is a thread on the Cooks Source Facebook page where previously posted articles (up for discussion before this SNAFU, I guess) are 'compared' with originals.  At least one does not seem all that similar to me - it more seems like the articles are similar in idea, with the Cooks Source broadened with more elaboration.   So that brings up the following case in point: would this blog post (doubtless similar to many many others - see the links), mostly the paraphrasing/summary, count as plagiarism?  

POST-SCRIPT EDIT:  In addition, several of the alleged duplications brought up on facebook and twitter are still credited to the original author (at least, the ones that I checked out).  Is it possible that Cooks Source is being condemned wrongly for some instances where the author may be aware/have been compensated for their work?  Is this OK?

You can see the original article here.  If anyone has a link to the Cooks Source article, I'd love to see it.

I find this a fascinating example of how social media can play a huge role in PR issues.  Wonder what will happen next.


  1. Oh, there is tons more to this story.

    Check it out here, currently as of 1845 on 6Nov.

  2. Yeah, there were some good followups. I'll link them later. I was hesitant to reference the 'response' on Friday because I came across at least two sources that questioned whether or not it actually came from Judith Griggs. Since I wasn't able to find actual confirmation, I held off.

    One of the (many) things I've found fascinating about this is watching *how* the information has been spreading. I spent some time Thurs PM tracking original blogs/articles, and as I read more and more, I saw that later blogs, news blogs, articles, etc referenced many of the same links. The ubiquitous UMUC definition of internet materials as private domain, for example. There weren't a whole lot of people going to previously-not-cited-sources (like the US copyright office, for example) for information.

    Look for some posts later in the month about copyright and publication issues.