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Cooks Source: The Web Is Considered Public Domain


Here’s a word of caution for those who believe that content can just be “lifted” and dropped into a blog, magazine or other form of publication.  Have you heard of the Cooks Source incident that is burning a hole through cyberspace this week? Listen in.  In fact grab a cup of coffee and a piece of pie while you’re at it (but make sure it’s your own recipe!)

I’m not going to give a blow-by-blow account since NPR has done a much better job here. In summary, a blogger named Monica Gaudio realized that an article she had written online had been used – without her permission – in a print and online magazine called Cooks Source. So Monica did what we advocate here at GeneaBloggers: basically she sent a cease and desist email and also asked for monetary compensation in the form of a donation (totaling $130, equal to $0.10 per word of her article) to the Columbia School of Journalism.

Want to see the response she got back from the magazine’s editor Judith Griggs? Put down your coffee and swallow that piece of pie lest you choke on it:

…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!”

As my mother would say, “are you for real?” Seriously.  So a magazine (with about 28,000 subscribers from what I could see) has decided to set its own standard for intellectual property and how it should be used.  Really?

Well, as the NPR article states, “Internet justice is always swift and often severe.” There is literally an online mob complete with angry townspeople, pitchforks, torches, rakes and hoes.  Just take a look at some of the comments on the Cooks Source Facebook page ( and you’ll have a great laugh.  Griggs just doesn’t get it.  In fact a group of Facebook users is now going back to all the Cooks Source articles and tracking where the articles were “lifted” from.  And I guess they should thank Griggs for her magazine’s superior editing and cleanup skills on the original work.

Not only does Griggs continue to be as clueless and condescending as in her original response, but in my opinion, she has no business being in the publishing business.  And good for Gaudio for asking for a donation to a journalism school where hopefully there is at least one course on ethics and journalism.

Remember folks – your blog post is your intellectual property.  You have control over how it can and cannot be used by others.  Please check out our copyright resources for bloggers and protect your work!

©2010, copyright Thomas MacEntee

7 thoughts on “Cooks Source: The Web Is Considered Public Domain

  1. As someone who has just had an article that was published on lifted by a woman who has blasted it all over the web listing herself as the author, I hope that Griggs gets everything she has coming to her and more. Maybe it will make all other plagiarizers think before stealing the work of others.

  2. As I posted on Facebook earlier today, “Plagiarism is NOT a compliment, and copyright infringement is a crime.” Unfortunately, even in the genealogy community, I’ve learned that scenarios like the one above are all too common. Plagiarism and copyright infringement were the topics of discussion at a meeting of the Southern California Chapter of the Association of Professional Genealogists earlier this year. I was shocked to hear that some of my colleagues had been victims of plagiarism and/or copyright infringement. It’s outrageous that people are getting away with this behavior, but I think it may have something to do with the fact that this field relies so heavily on volunteer effort and generosity. Maybe people start to assume that every bit of information is just out there for the taking, because so many are giving it away.

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