Thursday, November 4, 2010

The internet is NOT public domain

This news story is overrunning Facebook, Twitter, and the blogosphere, and as a professional writer and editor, I'm shocked, amazed, and appalled!

A writer, Monica Gaudio, was congratulated by a friend for being published. But wait--why didn't Gaudio know about it? Gaudio blogs on LiveJournal, and in 2005 wrote an article called "A Tale of Two Tarts."

Long story, short: Cooks Source magazine (yes, without an apostrophe!!) decided to lift Gaudio's article wholesale from the internet and publish it without notifying her, asking her permission, or compensating her.

Thinking there must be some logical explanation, Gaudio contacted the editor of Cooks Source, Judith Griggs, and finally received this in reply:
"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!"
Because if it happens on college campuses and the workplace, it must be okay!! And by the way, Ms. Griggs, your e-mail needs a good edit. You should pay ME to do it!

And this was at the bottom of her e-mail signature:
This electronic message may contain information privileged for the addressee only.
Please be advised that the Cooks Source email addressee is not intended to be transferred to any other addressor, and any copying, distribution or use of the contents of this message is prohibited.
The Cooks Source (sic) Facebook page has exploded in entries, and the previously unknown regional magazine is now infamous. Apparently, this is not the first time it has plagiarized other people's work.

"Griggs" is now a new word:

1. To use content on the web without permission, then request payment from original author for rewrites and editing.

2. To remain ignorant of plagiarism, ethics, copyright, and asshat behavior.

What is truly sad about this story is that Judith Griggs is not the only one who believes that if it's on the internet, it's in the public domain. I am constantly educating people about copyright and fair use of other people's work...whether it's on the internet or elsewhere.
This is wrong on so many levels. How could someone be so stupid?


  1. I could NOT turn away from this trainwreck today and was constantly checking back on various websites today to watch the drama unfold. The woman still has not, um, done anything! Apologized. Admitted her, uh, mistake, ignorance, gravitas, whatever. I cannot wait to see what happens next. When you piss off the Internet, the Internet does not forget.

  2. Ohmygod! The HUBRIS and ARROGANCE of Ms. Griggs! Jeez! I find this appalling, as a writer.

    BTW, I am sure people are lifting and using my photos, despite my copywrite logo. I see when and which photos are downloaded. A magazine did have the good grace to ask my permission and even pay me for using two of my photos in their print version, but did not reimburse me for using one of my photos on their website.

  3. I love the fact that I work with colleagues who get as incensed about this as I do! :)