Illadore's House o Crack - Copyright Infringement and Me

About Copyright Infringement and Me

Previous Entry Copyright Infringement and Me Nov. 3rd, 2010 @ 11:14 pm Next Entry
The tl;dr version of this post: My 2005 Ice Dragon entry, called "A Tale of Two Tarts" was apparently printed without my knowledge or permission in a magazine and I am apparently the victim of copyright infringement.

The story:
I was contacted early last week by a friend of mine who lives in the Northeast about my "As American as Apple Pie - Isn't!" article that was published in Cooks Source magazine, mostly to inquire how I had gotten published. This was news to me, as I hadn't ever heard of this magazine before.

However, some basic Google-fu lead me to find them online and on Facebook. In fact, after looking at the Cooks Source Facebook page, I found the article with my name on it on on "Page 10" of the Cooks Source Pumpkin fest issue. (No worries, I have screencaps.) The magazine is published on paper (the website says they have between 17,000 and 28,000 readers) as well as being published on Facebook as well.

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.

What I got instead was this (I am just quoting a piece of it here:)

"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!"


I got nothing.
Scratch that. I sure as heck do. Let's go over the major points:

  • At this point, I am mad as hell. It is now the principle of the thing -- and I also can not quite believe that my copyright was violated -- and then I was informed that I should *pay them* for editing it for me!

  • The web is NOT public domain! Don't believe me? Try the University of Maryland University College -- or just Google it.

  • I should be thankful because I wasn't flat out plagiarized? Don't college students get, oh, I dunno, tossed out for being caught for plagiarism? How is this a valid argument?

    I have some ideas of where to go from here but I am more than willing to listen to other suggestions.



    EDIT: Nick does a better job of telling the story than I do: http://nihilistic-kid.livejournal.com/1553538.html -- Thanks, Nick!
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    From:(Anonymous)
    Date:November 4th, 2010 10:23 pm (UTC)

    Good luck!

    (Link)
    Got here via @anamariecox via RT @lehmannchris: The publishing equivalent of stomping on someone's head then demanding victim apologize to you.

    Totally agree.
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    From:ext_309973
    Date:November 4th, 2010 10:26 pm (UTC)

    Cooks Source didn't offer a donation....

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    Cooks Source didn't offer a donation as settlement, has anyone else stepped up and offered? Can I make a donation?
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    From:gunnora
    Date:November 4th, 2010 10:28 pm (UTC)
    (Link)
    WaPo has picked up the story now. I'm also impressed by the volume of OTHER plagiarized articles alert Facebook readers have located. And they are notifying the copyright holders.

    Can you say, "You are SO OUT OF BUSINESS< BITCH?!!!" Thought ya could!
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    From:(Anonymous)
    Date:November 4th, 2010 10:29 pm (UTC)
    (Link)
    Don't know if anybody has told you, but this was posted on The Consumerist (http://consumerist.com/2010/11/magazine-copies-entire-story-from-web-tells-writer-she-should-pay-them-for-publishing-it.html) this afternoon. I'm sorry this happened to you and I hope this gets sorted out the right way pretty soon!
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    From:(Anonymous)
    Date:November 4th, 2010 10:30 pm (UTC)
    (Link)
    HTML fail! Sorry!
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    From:(Anonymous)
    Date:November 4th, 2010 10:32 pm (UTC)

    copyright infringement

    (Link)
    I would recommend you contact
    the Authors' Guild, based in New York.
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    From:tenchan
    Date:November 4th, 2010 10:34 pm (UTC)

    Content denied

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    It seems the 'October issue' has disapoofed.
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    From:thespian
    Date:November 4th, 2010 10:51 pm (UTC)

    Re: Content denied

    (Link)
    it's still on facebook.
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    From:(Anonymous)
    Date:November 4th, 2010 10:35 pm (UTC)

    Whatever you do, don't let them get away with it.

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    Statutory damages in copyright cases is $750-$150,000 per infringement; they were put in place precisely as a deterrent. Without the statutory damages the magazine would only be liable for the actual damages, which would make stealing articles much more profitable, since if they got caught, they would only have to pay what they would have paid in the first place.

    Other than finding a lawyer, you may want to forward that transcript off to the magazines legal department, or whomever is that editors boss. Then just sit back and watch the fireworks.
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    From:(Anonymous)
    Date:November 4th, 2010 10:47 pm (UTC)
    (Link)
    They sent you an official communication claiming that everything on the Internet is in the public domain? And they publish their things on the Internet?

    It sounds to me like they just said that you are free to copy everything they have and republish it under your own name! ;-)

    But seriously, get a lawyer, because in copyright infringement suits you can either go for actual damages (not much in this case) or statutory damages, which can be up to $150,000 for willful infringement.

    http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/html/uscode17/usc_sec_17_00000504----000-.html
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    From:(Anonymous)
    Date:November 4th, 2010 10:54 pm (UTC)

    You don't need a lawyer

    (Link)
    It's a small claim, you do not need a lawyer. You can file this yourself and claim a few hundred dollars in damages.

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    From:(Anonymous)
    Date:November 4th, 2010 10:56 pm (UTC)

    Wrong Approach

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    When I first heard about this, I was as shocked as anyone who has ever worked for a publication. But I think people are approaching the topic in exactly the wrong way.

    Screaming at Cooks Source for alleged copyright infringement is counterproductive. A civil discussion on laws and respectful copyright practice would be a better way of doing things.

    Blasting the editor on Twitter and launching a guerrilla campaign on Facebook serves little purpose: The point has already been made. Education is the way to go.

    People should imagine they're the editor who has made this lapse in judgment (no matter how many times) and think about things for a bit:

    You're the editor of a small cooking magazine in New England with a readership (I've seen different things) in the ballpark of 17,000. You've been taking content from the Internet under the impression it's public domain. You haven't been corrected for years. Then, one person finds their content in your magazine and informs you it's illegal. You now panic, knowing that this has been your business model for a while. You try to cover your mistake, not knowing it would explode into a huge fiasco. But it does.

    Now, I'm not trying to defend the editor by any means. Copyright infringement is a serious infraction. But think for a moment about the context of the situation and the extent of the response it got. It's disproportionate any way you look at it.

    I am not advocating any penalty, but I'm not advocating against one, either. I'm not getting into that issue. What I think, for what it's worth, is that we need to do a better job of educating people about copyright laws, rights and respectful practice.
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    From:(Anonymous)
    Date:November 4th, 2010 11:11 pm (UTC)

    Re: Wrong Approach

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    If the editor's email had read differently, I'd be agreeing with you anon. But it doesn't - there is a line to be drawn between not knowing what you were doing was wrong and trying to wriggle out of it, and trying to bully someone else into not only shutting up, but also suggesting they owe you money, and Griggs has firmly landed herself in the latter category.

    On top of this, her lack of response (the facebook reply is so overwhelmingly flippant I'm leaving that one for the moment as I'm half convinced it's a hack), apology, or even acknowledgement of what's going on says she's hoping this will all blow over, and she'll get away without making amends. If you're in the publishing business, you're aware what a nightmare, and occasionally heartbreak, it can be to be plagarised. Her lack of apology, never mind that older copies of the magazine (complete with stolen content from larger corp.s) are still up, says she's hoping to get away with this.

    Education wouldn't have helped this - her attitude now she's been told what she's doing is illegal hasn't changed - it wouldn't have changed anything had she known beforehand.

    She needs to be dragged through this courts and this ridiculous parady of a magazine closed down. If nothing else, it might stop a practise which is disturbingly prevalent in the industry, for all it's rarely this blatent.
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    From:(Anonymous)
    Date:November 4th, 2010 11:04 pm (UTC)

    Get a lawyer and start a found raiser...

    (Link)
    Hey, If you get a lawyer and take them to court I'll contribute $10.00 send by PayPal to your legal fees for this case.

    Anyone else like to contribute to take the case to court?
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    From:(Anonymous)
    Date:November 4th, 2010 11:08 pm (UTC)

    So....

    (Link)
    So how many people commenting about how awful this is have illegally downloading music online? Still think that's not stealing, either?
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    From:jauncourt
    Date:November 4th, 2010 11:40 pm (UTC)

    Re: So....

    (Link)
    I buy my music. I am a creative arts person, and I know plenty of people who make their living off creative works. I make an effort to get my money to the artists/writers whenever possible.

    Your assumption is insulting, flawed, and prejudiced.
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    From:kel_reiley
    Date:November 4th, 2010 11:09 pm (UTC)
    (Link)
    that is appalling and totally messed up (also, i think the wrath of the internet broke their website)
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    From:ext_310014
    Date:November 4th, 2010 11:09 pm (UTC)

    Throw the (Face)book at them.

    (Link)
    Justice: Document everything & get a good lawyer. Revenge: Spread this all over the net & encourage people to drop their subscriptions, telling the editor why, and to leave comments on the rag's FB page. Make them sorry they've ever heard of the internet.
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    From:paksenarrion2
    Date:November 5th, 2010 12:54 am (UTC)

    Re: Throw the (Face)book at them.

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    Honestly-I am thinking that once Disney gets done with them they won't have the proverbial pot to piss in much less the magazine or a computer to post to FB on.
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    From:ext_310017
    Date:November 4th, 2010 11:13 pm (UTC)

    This is outrageous

    (Link)
    Gonna speak about this article tonight on our podcast! found this via reddit! I hope you make them pay for your troubles also when you file suit! or podcast is on podomatic called The American Beacon.

    It's one thing to reference you, it's another to down-right copy your work!

    Bill McMicheals- Co-Host and Founder of http://newsnetusa.com
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    From:catsathome
    Date:November 4th, 2010 11:16 pm (UTC)

    Gob-smackingly appalling!!!!

    (Link)
    I came to this after the issue was posted on the SCA Laurels list. The effrontery of the woman is gob-smacking!

    I think you can see the level of support that you have not just in the on-line community (the Washington Post article is polite, but scathing in its criticism of Griggs). I have read the comments on their Facebook website and the various individuals are not holding back.

    Keep up the good work with the website and good luck with this (although I don't think you'll have a problem finding assistance for any legal course of action you wish to pursue).
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    From:fengi
    Date:November 4th, 2010 11:20 pm (UTC)
    (Link)
    Do you have a paypal or some way we can slide you some pie money? Your story and the resulting internet lulz, provide me a moment of small catharsis which slightly relieves the tension over the ugly end to an ugly election.
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    From:thespoom
    Date:November 4th, 2010 11:21 pm (UTC)

    You've been Slashdotted

    (Link)
    http://yro.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=10/11/04/1940257

    Hello Internet, indeed. ;^)

    Good luck with enforcing your rights! I'd say sue em for the donation amount you quoted earlier, *and* lawyer's and court fees (which should be a lot more than the donation). You'll break even, and they'll be forced to realize they can't just take stuff without permission, regardless of its source.
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    From:(Anonymous)
    Date:November 4th, 2010 11:23 pm (UTC)

    Heavy lifting

    (Link)
    Some chick friends and I write a blog at

    www.askmillieandmollie.blogspot.com

    I really do hope you follow through, legally, with this. There are thousands of us who don't need to be bullied by the likes of Judith Griggs.

    We need to take a stand against bullying, and you're just the blogger to do it!
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    From:piedtype.com
    Date:November 4th, 2010 11:27 pm (UTC)

    Plagiarism

    (Link)
    What jaw-dropping arrogance! And ignorance! Not the theft of your story; that, unfortunately, happens all the time. But that letter is just beyond the pale. I'm a retired editor myself, and it's incomprehensible to me that any editor could be this ignorant, especially after 30 years in the business.
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    From:coraline73
    Date:November 4th, 2010 11:30 pm (UTC)
    (Link)
    You don't know me, or I you, but I saw about this via Twitter. I was disgusted by what they did, and their cavalier attitude when you called them on it.You have every right to be angry. I hope all the publicity shames them into apologising and paying you.
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    From:cheez_ball
    Date:November 4th, 2010 11:39 pm (UTC)
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    Heh. I'm also a friend of ugali and dybbuk. :-)

    I just have to say that you have won the internet. <3
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    From:thenebben
    Date:November 4th, 2010 11:41 pm (UTC)

    ...

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    Despicable actions on that editor's behalf. He/she got their hand caught in the cookie jar and attempted to convince you that you were in the wrong. At the very most, what they've done is illegal. At the very least, it is insulting to both yours and every other writer's intelligence to think that they can treat you like that.

    Win one for writers everywhere and take it to the mattresses! Good luck! However, at this point, your case is solid enough that luck shouldn't even be required.
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    From:David Laird
    Date:November 4th, 2010 11:43 pm (UTC)

    One little acronym fixes this: DMCA

    (Link)
    http://theosmblog.com/2010/03/05/file-dmca-takedown-notice/
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    From:bladespark
    Date:November 5th, 2010 12:22 am (UTC)

    Re: One little acronym fixes this: DMCA

    (Link)
    Fixes what? You can't DMCA an already-published hard copy magazine.
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    From:katiefoolery
    Date:November 4th, 2010 11:54 pm (UTC)
    (Link)
    (Here via the Smart Bitches and nihilistic_kid.)

    It has taken me a little while to be able to write a comment because the outrageous arrogance and ignorance of this person truly did some damage to my thinking processes for a while there. For instance, "I do know about copyright" and "the web is public domain" are mutually exclusive claims. And how on earth does someone "accidentally" copy and paste someone else's copyrighted material? And then "accidentally" edit out the authentic spelling? And then "accidentally" print it without contacting the original author? Argh.

    So after breaking copyright laws left, right and centre, she then has the nerve to suggest you should be going to her with offerings and thanking her profusely for deigning to notice you? If I could slap someone through their email address, I would truly bestow that honour of metaphysical impossibility upon her.

    I hope that you find some recourse for this unconscionable action and that Cook's Source and its editor are brought to task for this.
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