>Internet Insanity of the Week

>I’ve had a difficult time trying to figure out what to blog on this morning. It’s not that I couldn’t think about any topic I wanted to discuss. No, it’s that there are so many. The internet this week has exploded with news and information about the publishing industry, any of which would be perfect for discussion here at MGC. So my problem has been in trying to narrow the field down some.

The first topic was easy to decide upon. Nathan Bransford, whose blog I’ve read and enjoyed for quite some time, announced Friday that he was stepping away from his position as an agent to take a job with CNET. While I wish Mr. Bransford success, I shall miss his blogs about the industry, especially his weekly round-up. You can find his announcement here.

Then came the topic that showed just how powerful the internet can be. On Thursday, Monica Gaudio recounted on Live Journal how something she’d written in 2005 had been published by Cooks Source Magazine without permission and without remuneration. (I’ve linked to her LJ and not just the article because the subsequent posts are as interesting as the original as she recounts now the story took on a life of its own.) Like most of us, she contacted the magazine — several times — before hearing back. It is the editor’s response to Monica that caused all the furor and ignited the internet in righteous indignation.

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!

But it gets better, boys and girls. After the magazine’s facebook page was inundated with outraged posts from people who had learned of what happened from a myriad of sources indluding John Scalzi (who wins the prize for the best headline — The Stupidest Thing an Editor With Three Decades of Experience Has Said About the Web Today) to Time Newsfeed to BoingBoing to Neil Gaiman retweeting about it, the editor of Cooks, Judith Griggs, supposedly posted this comment on the magazine’s fb page:

I did apologise to Monica via email, but apparently 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!…Best to all, Judith.

And the roar only got louder. Not only were emails and fb posts being made to Cooks, their advertisers were being targeted as well. Some, after learning of the accusations against Cooks, pulled their advertising. Will it teach Griggs and Cooks Source a lesson about copyright? Who knows. Especially since it appears this isn’t the first time they have “lifted” articles.

So, for the quick lesson, “The Internet IS NOT the public domain. There are both uncopyrighted and copyrighted materials available. Assume a work is copyrighted.” That quote is from an excellent resource on copyright law. Bookmark it. I have.

You can see more of my thoughts on this issue here.

A couple of links of interest. First, for those with agents, you might want to read this article from Scrivener’s Error about the lawsuit brought by Peter Lampack Associates against author Martha Grimes for breach of contract because she didn’t pay Lampack for commissions earned on a book Lampack did NOT sell. The court ruled against Lampack, fortunately imo, but it still remains to be seen if the decision will be appealed. However, do take a look at the story and supporting documentation.

Then, for those of you looking for workshops, Dean Wesley Smith has a list of workshops he’s associated with here. For those short story writers out there, I’d particularly recommend the workshop with Denise Little.

So, how to wrap up what started to be a short post and ended up taking on a life of its own? What are your thoughts about the debacle that is the Cooks Source fiasco? How do we, as writers, protect ourselves from lawsuits such as the one filed by Lampack? Or should we even worry about it? Finally, do you know of any workshops coming up that you’d recommend?


  1. >I'm inclined to agree with Scalzi's AAR on the Cooks Source topic (I'm also inclined to lol at the ongoing internet debate on where, exactly the apostrophe should go in "Cooks" heheh). What really ticked the internet off most likely wasn't the fact that a persons work had been lifted like that. What probably got every so angry was the tone of the editor. It's one thing to steal (afterall, the internet does have a reputation to maintain for evilness). It's another thing entirely on the 'net to respond like a jerk and be totally wrong in that response while the victim of your theft is being about as honorable as you can imagine.

  2. >Chris, I have to agree. And the editor compounded it with her response on fb. Talk about fanning the flames. Still, you have to admit this has to be one of the fastest internet conflagrations in a long time.

  3. >Y'a know what worries me about the Cooks Source thing? I already periodically have to explain to students, members of my writing list, and other people that really, honestly, you shouldn't be terrified that someone is going to steal your stuff. You CAN share it for critique, honest. And now that incident is going to get tossed in as proof that no, people really do steal stuff, so maybe you shouldn't ever trust anyone.

  4. >There's a big difference between "Some publishers conider anything posted on the internet as having been published" and "Some Publishers consider anything posted on the internet as ceding copyright,thus making the work public domain."One hopes that this mess will settle the latter, not just in everyone's mind, but in court. It might even help the former situation, in establishing clearly the writer's ownership of the work, copyright intact and not sold, licenced or released unless specifically so declared.

  5. >Kate, unfortunately, her later comment proved she didn't learn her lesson. After all, it did get them so many more followers on facebook. Of course, the fact those followers were, to be polite, dissing her didn't seem to penetrate.

  6. >Mike, I know. For that reason alone, I talked with my critique group about it this afternoon. And I pointed out the link I posted here to the copyright explanation.Sigh. The business faces enough issues right now without this idiot muddying the waters even more.

  7. >Matapam, fingers crossed. I suspect that if it is found that the magazine has lifted articles from such sources as Disney and Food Channel, to name a few I've seen alleged, there will be legal action taken. Of course, this is a small publication and it probably won't survive the threat of a suit, much less having to pay any sort of damages and, frankly, having it fold won't settle the issue.

  8. >Rowena, most definitely. It still amazes me the foolishness of people. This is why you don't put the address on your email until you've had time to read it and read it again to make sure you aren't making an idiot of yourself before sending it.

  9. >Let Cook's Source try that defense on lifting material off the web with Righthaven. If that were true then all those blogs sued for all those hundreds of thousands of dollars for posting portions of The Las Vegas Review-Journal content wouldn't be desperately trying to settle out of court.Not that I agree with RightHaven at all…simply that the defense by Cook's Source is ridiculous.

  10. >Quilly, you are evil. I'd forgotten about Righthaven. Honestly, I think they deserve Cooks Source and Cooks Source deserves them. Both do nothing more than muddy the waters and make it hard to run a blog.

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