Thursday, November 4, 2010

More Plagiarism, Because the Internet Is All Public Domain

Cooks Source managing editor Judith Griggs has just tanked her career with great energy and enthusiasm.

For folks who don't want to wade through the sea of links above, or the many more below, the basic story is this. A writer named Illadore on LJ (whose post is the first linked above, under "managing") wrote an article on the history of how apple pie has developed, which was posted on a web site for historical reenactors, back in '05. Recently, a friend pointed out that the magazine Cooks Source had the article, and asked her when she'd sold it. Illadore went, "Huh?" She figured she'd contact the Cooks Source folks and straighten this out:

So. I first phone the magazine then send a quick note to the "Contact Us" information page, asking them what happened and how they got my article. (I thought it could have been some sort of mix-up or that someone posted it to some sort of free article database.) Apparently, it was just copied straight off the Godecookery webpage. As you can see from the page, it is copyrighted and it is also on a Domain name that I own.

After the first couple of emails, the editor of Cooks Source asked me what I wanted -- I responded that I wanted an apology on Facebook, a printed apology in the magazine and $130 donation (which turns out to be about $0.10 per word of the original article) to be given to the Columbia School of Journalism.

Sounds reasonable to me, particularly since she wasn't asking for any kind of cash restitution for herself, but rather as a donation to a school which, presumably, teaches its students about copyright law. [cough]

Ms. Griggs responded (in part) thusly:

"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!"

So... right. Not only is anything posted to the internet automatically public domain (?!?) but Illadore should be paying Ms. Griggs for the editing! After all, Illadore now has a nice piece for her portfolio, so Illadore's come out ahead, right?

I think it says something about Ms. Griggs's knowledge of English and her editing skills (or research skills, since this is easy to look up if you can't tell from the context) that she was unable to recognize through a reading of the actual article she stole that the recipes were from 14th and 16th century cookbooks, and their language was perfectly appropriate for their time, and for the historical reenactor audience. Instead, it apparently just looked wrong to Ms. Griggs, bad writing that Illadore should've thanked her for fixing. Wow.

But seriously, this is a woman who is taking a paycheck for her work as a magazine editor, and she honestly -- really?? -- believes that anything posted to the internet is in the public domain? She's so sure she's right that she feels comfortable taking a patronizing tone with someone she's ripped off. Clearly it couldn't possibly be Ms. Griggs who's in the wrong here; that's completely outside the realm of possibility. Right? Right?!

This woman is in dire need a a few good smacks with the cluebat. Luckily, the internet is giving them to her.

Aside from the above links, on Making Light (in a nearly useless link because it's an open thread and only a few of the hundreds of comments are on this topic, and there's a sidelink but I can't link to that, but anyway) there are reports in comments of Ms. Griggs also having plagiarized Martha Stewart, Weight Watchers, The Food Network, CNN and WebMD (per James MacDonald, citing a Facebook page), Martha Stewart (again) and Cooks Illustrated (per Tom Whitmore, citing the Washington Post), and Disney (per Jon Meltzer).

Paula Dean (linked under "career" above) has been notified on her Facebook page of a recipe theft and has said that she's forwarded the matter to her legal department. You don't mess with Paula, folks, seriously.

I've also seen mention in several places that Neil Gaiman has Twittered about this, but I couldn't get his page to come up when I tried the link. Seems Mr. Gaiman's feed is even more popular than usual today for some reason.

Massive stupidity, seriously. This isn't some newbie webzine we're talking about here; Cooks Source is available online but it's also a paper magazine, supported by ad revenue, distributed on newsstands. How did someone this ignorant of copyright get to be the managing editor? And just how much do the people who hired her for that job regret it right now...? [Ahh, found out the answer to the second to last question at least -- Ms. Griggs owns the magazine. Well, there you go.]

I have to include the title to John Scalzi's post (which is linked under "tanked" above): The Stupidest Thing an Editor With Three Decades of Experience Has Said About the Web Today." Also BoingBoing's (linked under "energy"): "Today's Web Justice Driveby." Incisive commentary right there. [wry smile]

How about a quote from Judith Griggs's Twitter feed: "I don't know why everyone is so angry." Umm, yeah. That's kind of the problem, hon. [EDIT: Cindy Potts has pointed out that this Twitter feed looks like a spoof account. All I can say is it sounded like her. [wry smile]]

And the Bitchery has declared a Googlebomb of their definition of the new verb "to griggs" -- Judith Griggs. I'm contributing a link, because when you've been in the business for thirty years you get zero sympathy from me for not having yet learned the most basic laws that govern your industry. When you take money for your work, you're declaring yourself to be a pro and it's your responsibility -- nobody else's -- to have all your ducks in a row. Especially when you get snotty at other people over their supposed ignorance. [eyeroll]

Any bets on how long before Cooks Source is going to be out of business? If it were owned by some conglomerate, they could just fire Ms. Griggs, replace her with someone who knows what copyright means, and move on after some groveling. Given that it's completely her enterprise, though, I don't see it surviving. Maybe if it were only a bunch of blogs griping, but with the LA Times and Washington Post and who knows what other mainstream news sources picking it up, they're doomed.

Not that I'm crying over it. This is an example of blatant ignorance and arrogant stupidity. Good riddance.



Charles Gramlich said...

I am once more officially boggled. I can't believe it, and yet I do.

Dawn Wilson said...

Indeed. I was shocked that this woman actually things everything on the Internet is public domain and free for the taking. Um, WRONG! Copyright is copyright, even on the Internet. I always make sure to ask permission to quote something or reprint something. You should never think or expect the writer to think that is a good thing or feel grateful for the extra exposure. (And in this case, it's "exposure" in the literal sense. How sad there is no payment made for this!)

At the same time, I am pleased to see just how widely this is spreading across the Internet. It's spreading like wildfire. It's a wonderful thing to see just how positive of an impact coming together on the Internet can have when someone is wronged.

I really hope this gets resolved.

Angie said...

Charles -- it always seems that the most recent mushroom cloud has to be the last one, that surely everyone knows better now, right? And yet a few months later someone else comes along.... [sigh]

Dawn -- I agree. The internet makes it that much more likely that this kind of violation will go unnoticed, and also makes the social penalty overwhelming. I've seen a few people arguing that the nasty response from a bazillion people is way too much, but Ms. Griggs brought it on herself. No one's actually throwing rocks through her windows that I've heard, so it's all still just a matter of hurting her feelings. (Wow, bummer.) Since 1) she's apparently been ripping off whatever caught her fancy for many years, and 2) her attitude when caught was deplorable, I'd say a good bout of shaming is just what she needs. And really, it's the attitude that triggered the mass outrage; if she'd said, "Really? You're not supposed to do that? Whoa, I never knew that! I am so sorry! Here, let me get my checkbook -- how do you spell 'School of Journalism?'" then everything would've been fine and Illadore might not even have posted about it. Even if she had, the internet crowd certainly wouldn't have found anything there to fuel its mass outrage. If she'd just behaved like a decent human being, none of this fall-out would've happened.

Nope, still no sympathy.


Suzan Harden said...

Ah, the American sense of entitlement and total denial strikes again. Griggs needs a serious flogging, and not just the verbal one she's getting on the 'Net.

Angie said...

Suzan -- I don't know that I'd go that far, no matter how satisfying it is within the bounds of my imagination. But I can't say I'm at all sorry if her feelings are being hurt.


Whitni said...

Another case of what is done in the dark will come out when a big SPOT light of "seriously" is shown on it! I'm glad for folks like you Angie that take the time out to post these kinds of Tom Foolery and asinine shenanigans! I really hope the writer gets the compensation she asked for. Looks like Just Deserts are being served up! Now let her run and print that!

Angie said...

Whitni -- yikes, I didn't get a comment notification on this. :/ But yeah, a lot of people shone their lights on her. Haven't heard a word about her since, so I'm assuming she either went out and got a real job, or else she's hiding under a new pseud. If the latter, I can only hope she learned something from this mess.