14 days ago, Cooks Source magazine was hotly discussed and debated only by certain folks who decorate with goose-shaped cookie jars and have strong opinions on what brand of ladle to buy. Today, if you haven’t heard of Cooks Source, you must be living under a rock. What catapulted the magazine to instant fame/shame is an alleged case of content theft followed by a kamikaze Facebook page bombing and age-old copyright debate with a new media twist.
Last Wednesday, blogger Monica Guadio baked up a post wherein she told a tale of how her seemingly innocent piece about the history of apple pie wound up published in Cooks Source. The kicker is that Guadio never was compensated for the publishing of that article, nor was she ever asked permission from the magazine to reprint it. When Guadio was informed by a friend that her blog had appeared in Cooks Source, she fired off a couple of e-mails to magazine editor Judith Griggs.
As the world now knows, Griggs responded with a condescending brush-off as featured on Twitter and Facebook. Amongst Griggs’ gems in the e-mail is her belief that “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!” Soon Cooks Source’s Facebook page had to be shut down after it had been flooded with angry fans who sided with Guadio. Then the Cooks Source website was shut down.
While all of this Internet rallying around the poor little blogger is very interesting and entertaining, there’s a deeper issue going on here that doesn’t end with Griggs and Cooks Source. Publications or wannabe blog kingpins have been giving writers the shaft for years. While Guadio is the most visible in content battles, she ain’t the only one. Talk to any writer – especially one who works in new media – and they will tell you that tales of work being lifted, changed, renamed and bastardized all while being underpaid or not paid at all. What we can hope is that the Cooks Source drama opens an honest dialogue about the value of original web content and how we protect ourselves from falling victim to or committing plagiarism in the digital age.