Copyright Infringement and Me
Nov. 3rd, 2010 @ 11:14 pm
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.|
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!
|Date:||November 4th, 2010 02:16 pm (UTC)|| |
Just thought I'd point out, this has made the front page of reddit.
Good luck, and stick it to them proper.
|Date:||November 4th, 2010 02:20 pm (UTC)|| |
Re: More Awareness
Umm!! Helllo redditors!!! ;)
I like the "Some people think I'm great in bed, therefore you're lucky I screwed you" approach.
Please let us know how this goes on. You just became a class project on ethics in our class.
|Date:||November 4th, 2010 02:21 pm (UTC)|| |
How lovely!! And this is why I asked for a donation to a school for journalism. ;)
The web is public domain huh?
|Date:||November 4th, 2010 02:32 pm (UTC)|| |
Wow. Just.... wow.
Here from Scalzi's Whatever.
Good on you, and I hope the public-shaming-in-progress clues the editor into her atrocious behavior, and truly epic misunderstanding of both copyright law and "teh interwebs".
And for what it's worth, I went and read your article on godecookery and, while I don't bake or have any particular interest in medieval pies, I thought it was a nice piece of work. It's kind of cool how you translated the recipes to use modern language and measurements.
referenced to your post from Internet Fail
saying: [...] The author's original account of this theft, along with quotes from Judith's email, is here. [...]
|Date:||November 4th, 2010 02:43 pm (UTC)|| |
|Date:||November 4th, 2010 02:48 pm (UTC)|| |
This is a pretty minor nit, but accuracy in such isn't a Bad Thing. You referenced a link to the University of Maryland. That link is actually to the University of Maryland University College, a different, though related, institution.
Good luck with things, I hope you can make the weasels pay for stealing your work.
This is not minor at all, it's theft pure and simple.
|Date:||November 4th, 2010 02:48 pm (UTC)|| |
Lawyers love this
You can sue for copyright infringement. The beauty of this is that for every copy they published and for every set of eyes that saw it online, you can be compensated. This can work terrifically in your favor, costing them a lot.
I used to own a writing company and my lawyer LOVED it when a client didn't want to pay for the copy they used. Slam dunk cases. Contact an attorney and go for it.
Here via Twitter--and Re-Tweeted. Their FB profile says, "We know each and every one of our advertisers personally, and we stand behind their work one hundred percent."
I wonder if their advertisers would stand behind the magazine's
work if they knew that the magazine published your work without permission or compensation?
I agree with the people advising you to get a lawyer. I'm hoping to be an IP Attorney one day, and what this editor did was beyond the pale.
Yup, I would let the advertisers know what is going on. Hit these guys where it hurts.
You now have been tweeted by Scalzi and retweeted by Gaiman.
YEAH -- this has gotten a little cray-cray!! :)
I noticed that!! My life is complete!!!
(Can we get @wilw? :)
Neil Gaiman retweeted you, I hope this goes well for you!
Yes. You're my favorite. :)
|Date:||November 4th, 2010 02:55 pm (UTC)|| |
Submit it here
Submit your issue to http://www.ragan.com . It's a active online publication for PR/marketing communications. They would be very interested in the response from the editor and if (when) they run it, you should get lots of support and assistance.
|Date:||November 4th, 2010 02:57 pm (UTC)|| |
One thing we should point out
Not defending them, but isn't it true that if they hadn't credited you at all and instead just rearranged some stuff in the article, they would have protected themselves against your allegations of copyright infringement? They actually shot themselves in the foot by giving you credit.
|Date:||November 4th, 2010 07:43 pm (UTC)|| |
Re: One thing we should point out
No. That would be a defense, more or less, if someone else submitted it but the original work is copyright, and to do what you describe is both plagiarism (which this isn't) and theft.
They tried to avoid that by giving credit. The problem is, they didn't have permission. My suspicion is they expected to be able to say, "You got published, aren't you happy," if someone complained.
That the editor didn't know how to pull off a piece of flim-flam on that front (as a photographer I see this all the time.... "Can we use your work on our flyer/magazine cover/article? Just think of all the exposure you'll get."
To which I say, "exposure" doesn't pay the bills, and previously used work is differently salable. Pay me, and you can use it.
The appalling part is the ones who say, "We pay professionals. Since we found it on the web/flickr, ergo you aren't a professional, and we won't pay you."
To them I say, "if you use it you will pay me first,, or pay my lawyer later."
Attack Of Teh 50-Foot Stoopid
|Date:||November 4th, 2010 05:00 pm (UTC)|| |
Re: Attack Of Teh 50-Foot Stoopid
Please permit a small clarification:
–The Editor of
You should contact a lawyer.
That completely sucks!
Perhaps George Takei should record a 'Cooks Source, you are a douchebag' video too.
|Date:||November 4th, 2010 03:04 pm (UTC)|| |
The best part is...
...if you compare your original piece with the magazine version, it really wasn't edited at all. She moved some stuff around, from your "Discussion" sections at the end of each recipe, to make it read a little more linearly for magazine purposes, and in a very few cases she added some words (presumably to fill up the space she needed filled), but 99 percent of your copy is intact. Clearly, it was not "in very bad need of editing," nor is it "much better now" -- although very likely more people ARE reading it. ;-)
The plagiarized story is here: http://on.fb.me/awjRMS and here: http://on.fb.me/b5RIXv
Great article, by the way. Speaking as a freelance writer myself, I'd say for the amount of research you put into it, you (or the Columbia j-school) deserve a lot more than $130.
|Date:||November 4th, 2010 03:20 pm (UTC)|| |
Re: The best part is...
Thank you, Josh!! That was very sweet of you.
|Date:||November 4th, 2010 03:05 pm (UTC)|| |
double-checked with the wife (a lawyer) and that editor is an idiot (my wors, not hers): content on the web is not public domain.
if contributors are paid for their content, they owe you. by the editor's own admission it was "their bad" and thus they should correct it.
as for changing content around to avoid copyright infringement, if it can be shown that a certain percent of the content retains unique wording or identically worded passages they may still be liable for plagiarism.
what they're probably banking on is that it will cost more to hire a lawyer and take them to court than the settlement would be worth. however, if you could show they have a history of doing this to other writers and can build a larger case...
Rather astonishing. I can't believe any professional would be so ignorant as to take a story and publish it, and then tell you, the author, that you should be grateful.
It reminds me a little of the Rand Paul supporter stepping on a MoveOn representative's head before the recent election, and then the supporter afterward saying that she should apologize to him.
|Date:||November 4th, 2010 03:09 pm (UTC)|| |
My new magazine!
Check it out!
Here from Gaiman's Twitter: That's some bullshit; my displeasure as a writer was noted.
|Date:||November 4th, 2010 03:11 pm (UTC)|| |
At least one good thing came of this: the next time I make apple pie, I'm totally using one of those recipes. And now I must peruse the rest of that website to see what else I can find I might like.
Please do!! The Godecookery.com website is fantastic! :) (I just own the domain name and pay for the hosting -- and I own that one article.)
The Internet is <s>for porn</s> public domain?