Tuesday, November 9
This affair has attracted a lot of ugliness which I find very disturbing. I know it’s an emotive issue; I agree that Griggs was wrong in using other people’s work without permission, and I don’t think she’s handled things well at all: but I don’t think she deserves the insulting and abusive comments which have been made about her all over the internet.
I’d like it if we could try to create something positive out of this. I’d be really grateful if you would read my post here, blog and tweet about it, and join in. Thank you.
In 2005 a writer called Monica Gaudio wrote a great article called A Tale Of Two Tarts, which discussed (among other things) apple pie’s Americanism (or not) and its evolution from a sugarless mixture of fruit and spices, cooked in a coffin (no, not THAT sort of coffin: read the article!) to its current sweet pastried form.
Roll on five years. Ms Gaudio had pretty much forgotten about her article until a friend of hers congratulated her on her piece about apple pies which she had just read in Cooks Source Magazine (I’m itching to put an apostrophe in there: anyone else?). Cooks’ Source (sorry, I couldn’t hold out any longer) isn’t just a website: it is also a money-making print magazine, which has a whole stable of advertisers which contribute to its finances.
At first Ms Gaudio assumed her friend had made a mistake; but when she, too, found her own work reproduced on the pages of Cooks’ Source magazine without her prior knowledge or permission she contacted the editor who would, she was sure, be keen to recitfy the problem. Ms Gaudio assumed that the piece had been wrongly included by the magazine: it clearly wasn’t plagiarised as her name was still attached to it. So she contacted the editor, Judith Griggs, and asked, quite reasonably I thought, for an apology to appear in the magazine and on its Facebook page, and also for a donation of $130 to be made to the Columbia School of Journalism in her name (the amount being a reasonable fee for the article in question). And this is apparently part of the reply she received:
“Yes Monica, I have been doing this for 3 decades, having been an editor at The Voice, Housitonic Home and Connecticut oman 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!”
Ms Griggs is wrong. Writing on the internet is subject to the same copyright laws that any other sort of writing is: if you don’t believe me, believe the University of Maryland which warns,
If all is as Ms Gaudio explains in her blog article (and I have absolutely no reason to believe she’s misled us with her account), Ms Griggs has clearly breached those laws. If she tries to defend her corner she is going to lose, and lose heavily. Her best course of action would be to make a loud, sincere apology to Ms Gaudio, and to make that contribution to the Columbia School of Journalism as quickly as she can.
Meanwhile, the Facebook page of the Cooks Source Magazine is filling up nicely with people giving the editor all sorts of helpful advice about copyright and the law; blogger Nick Mamatas has written a pertinent post about the situation (which is worth reading if only for his observation about the editing the original piece apparently required, which I had to read three times, it was so marvellous); and I found out about this conflagration on Twitter which is, as we all know, rather good at getting stories out. I bet a few other people blog about this soon.
I am SO glad I am not the editor of Cook’s Source Magazine. And while Ms Griggs is rethinking her policy on acquiring “free” writing from the internet perhaps she could also sort out where her missing apostrophe should go.
ETA: it seems that in July 1999 Ms Griggs was keen to sell Cooks Source Magazine: the Boston Business Journal wrote,
Owner/publisher Judith Griggs is trading in a career in publishing to run a Greenfield bed and breakfast.
I wonder how well that went? It’s not too late for her to try it, even now.
Edited again to add lots more linky goodness!
Neil Gaiman has tweeted “Interesting. Per this Facebook posting @cookssource is not new to plagiarism http://on.fb.me/cjbDl7“, and if you follow the link he provided you’ll see that people are now finding other articles which Cooks Source might have used without permission.
The girls at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books have blogged about this: in an article titled Judith Griggs: The Google Is Our Friend, Not Hers they’ve called for a Googlebombing, which I’m concerned is going a little too far and they’ve taken the trouble to add her to their dictionary.
Meanwhile, someone has today opened a Twitter account in the name @cookssource (which I suspect isn’t run by Judith Griggs or anyone to do with Cooks Source) and is tweeting away quite merrily.
It’s been suggested on Absolute Write that Reddit has discovered that a lot of the magazine’s content might have been harvested from the internet.
There’s now a FaceBook page which shows further examples of articles from Cooks Source which originally appeared elsewhere. It’s been reported elsewhere that much of the content might have been lifted from the internet, but I’ve not seen any confirmation of this: but if I were a food writer I’d be checking my content against Cooks Source pages NOW. At present, people seem to have found matches between Cooks Source articles and the Martha Stewart website; The Food Network; NPR; the website of Boots (the chemist); Alternet; Weight Watchers; and a website owned by Disney. If Judith Griggs didn’t get permission to use those bananas she’s going to be in even deeper trouble than we thought.
A Facebook fan let Paula Deen know that her work has been used by Cooks Source; it seems it did so without her permission, as Ms Deen has now notified her legal advisors.
As an advertiser, we are disappointed in Cook’s Source and we are pulling our ads from this publication. Many of us (as is the case with our business) paid several months in advance for advertising and are unlikely to get any compensation back.
We ask that you please stop emailing our business, we agree that the publication made a grave error, but the blame should be placed with them. Please do not make small businesses like mine pay for their error in judgment.
I’m linked to by the Los Angeles Times! My cup runneth over and my head explodes. I need a glass of wine.
A suggestion from my darling friends Sally Zigmond and Stacia Kane: while I have your attention, why don’t you check out their books and BUY A FEW COPIES? Hope Against Hope and Unholy Ghosts. Winners, the pair of them. This has nothing to do with copyright infringement or Cooks Source Magazine but a friend has been bold enough to suggest it, and I can only comply because I love them both.
There’s been a bit more activity while I’ve been sleeping. I’ve read a good few comments online from people who find the Smart Bitches googlebomb campaign distasteful; and many of the comments on the Cooks Source FaceBook page are way beyond acceptable. I’m uncomfortable with both reactions: Judith Griggs stole from writers but in her defence, it seems she thought she was acting within the law; and she hasn’t killed anyone. The reaction to this episode is completely disproportionate: it has moved from internet commentary to cyber bullying, and that’s just not acceptable. But to paraphrase a couple of comments I’ve read: you can’t release the hounds and then expect them to behave like lap-dogs.
People are now wondering if the photos which were used in Cooks Source were used without permission too.
The Rusty Nail has written a good round-up, but has forgotten to link to me. Never mind. [edited to add: The Rusty Nail blog has been deleted, but here's the link for posterity: http://therustynail.wordpress.com/2010/11/04/judith-griggs-of-cooks-source-magazine/]
The lovely P N Elrod has also written an overview, complete with lots of lovely linkage. I DO like her.
The Guardian has covered the story but some of the comments which have followed are a little bit too rah-rah-open-source-power-to-the-people for me.
Edward Champion has written a fabulous piece about the mess, and has quotes from Ms Gaudio and another writer whose work has been used without permission: Elise Bauer, of Simply Recipes. Ms Bauer emailed Mr Champion to say,
For the record, Cooks Source has used my copyright protected content without my permission. The copyright notice has been on every page of my site for 7 years.
I’m astonished by the flagrant plagiarism and copyright infringement. I’m also dumbfounded by the Cooks Source publisher’s response to complaints that have been made about the use of other bloggers works without permission. This person honestly believes that everything on the Internet is public domain.
Rob Pegoraro at The Washington Post dwells on the mob-like response to this story and, like me, is made rather uncomfortable by a lot of it.
Gawker gets in on the act.
Boing Boing made me laugh (do read this one, it’s fab).
There is now a website called Crooks Source, which has a good list of links to articles about the story.
Some people I don’t know make a few clever predictions about forthcoming announcements Ms Griggs might make.
And finally, Judith Griggs has deleted her personal FaceBook page, but has put up her reaction to all of this on FaceBook. I think she thinks it’s an apology, but I’m not so sure:
Well, here I am with egg on my face! I did apologise to Monica via email, but aparently it wasnt enough for her. To all of you, thank you for your interest in Cooks Source and Again, to Monica, I am sorry — my bad!
You did find a way to get your “pound of flesh…” we used to have 110 “friends,” we now have 1,870… wow!
The Huffington Post has linked to this article (which is throwing a lot more people this way: welcome, all!).
How could I have not noticed Dear Author’s reaction to the story? I’m slipping.
And although this story didn’t make Fandom Wank (because it’s not fan fiction), it has made its sister-site which deals with stories which are too good to miss and a lot of fun was had there.
My apologies to Monica Gaudio, who I referred to as Monica Guadio when I first wrote this piece: I hope it didn’t cause her any more upset, as she’s had quite enough already. I’ve now corrected that mistake, and am very grateful to Phiala for pointing out my error.