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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    [User Picture Icon]
    From:paradigmshifty
    Date:November 4th, 2010 03:13 pm (UTC)

    As a question...

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    Rather than sue the magazine, would it be better to sue the editor personally - especially as he/she has admitted culpability? I make this point for two reasons:

    1. If the magazine does have a significant number of readers, it would seem poor form to punish them for the actions of an individual. And, as others have said, the damages you would likely get would be sufficient to cause the magazine to fold. (Pun not intentional.)

    2. The violation does appear to be the work of a specific person, not that of the whole editorial team (based on what you have provided - I could easily be wrong). And that individual obviously knows that they have done wrong and have been caught, and has gone on the offensive, seeking to scare you into just dropping it. Because otherwise, his/her professional reputation is shot. Sueing the editor directly makes that certain, and makes sure that the punishment is directed where it is most deserved.

    It might also be possible to negotiate a deal with the owners of the magazine in question (assuming the editor isn't one of them) that in return for agreeing not to include them in the suit, they agree to dismiss the editor. They would probably do so in any case, assuming the magazine survived, but that would ensure it happened.

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    From:(Anonymous)
    Date:November 4th, 2010 04:30 pm (UTC)

    Re: As a question...

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    ...You could always sue the company and then take control of it with the winnings you get from the lawsuit.

    I think if you sued the person you wouldn't get much as all they have to do is declare bankruptcy. the magazine, you could always sue for a specific a mount that wouldn't Tank it, but be a lessoned learned.
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    From:nomissnewo
    Date:November 4th, 2010 03:13 pm (UTC)
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    Hey there, I'm a media reporter for The Next Web. Can you please contact me at simonowens@gmail.com? Would like to do a story on this incident and am under deadline.

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    From:ext_309421
    Date:November 4th, 2010 03:14 pm (UTC)

    That's some serious nerve for a "professional editor"

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    With that attitude, it's clear this was no honest mistake - it's very likely that many others have been plagiarized as well. You might contact some of the other authors in the magazine, I'm willing to bet they'd join your efforts.

    I think what offends me the most is the insult of suggesting you should be grateful for her editing service. Oy!
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    From:(Anonymous)
    Date:November 4th, 2010 03:18 pm (UTC)

    public domain

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    This woman seriously needs taking down a peg or two. How anyone can put in the same email that they know about copyright law and then claim that the internet is 'public domain' and expect to be taken seriously I don't know
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    From:ext_309414
    Date:November 4th, 2010 03:19 pm (UTC)

    Criminal behavior

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    Many don't realize that copyright infringement also has a federal felony criminal component. From your story, the tests (10 or more copies in a 180 day period and (1) that a valid copyright; (2) was infringed by the defendant; (3) willfully; and (4) for purposes of commercial advantage or private financial gain), have been met.

    In addition, the editor admitted taking the content thus making prosecution easier.

    Consider having your attorney include these facts in the letter they send. "If you do not respond we will have no other choice than to turn this matter over to the US attorney's office in Springfield, MA for criminal copyright prosecution under 17 U.S.C. § 506(a) and 18 U.S.C. § 2319"

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    From:shaelbopp
    Date:November 4th, 2010 03:20 pm (UTC)
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    This is a clear cut case of copyright infringement. Get a lawyer; it's possible you may be entitled to enough money to interest one in your case. And even if you are entitled to less money than most lawyers would want to bother with, you will probably be able to find one willing to take your pro bono on principle.
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    From:puritymatters
    Date:November 4th, 2010 03:21 pm (UTC)
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    This is abhorrent! Talk about unethical and illegal (stealing is still illegal, right?). I wonder what she would do if one of her pieces of were treated in the same manner.

    Perhaps you can contact the Attorney General of the state it was printed in? Or the Better Business Bureau. They are supposed to be able to handle claims of fraud (which I would wholly consider this to be).

    And even better...how can she accuse your piece of being poorly edited when I counted at least 3 grammatical errors in just the part you quoted from her email to you.

    Good luck to you. I wouldn't let this go, principle or no. What was done was just plain wrong. Go get 'em!
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    From:crainefish
    Date:November 4th, 2010 03:22 pm (UTC)
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    Found your article through John Scalzi's blog. UNBELIEVABLE. Hang in there, and get yourself a good lawyer!

    E-mailed the website letting them know the action was execrable and the editor should be fired, reposted the on my Facebook. It's not much, but it's something... Good luck to you!
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    From:mattjames-loremaster.myopenid.com
    Date:November 4th, 2010 03:23 pm (UTC)

    We've got your back!

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    This is starting to go viral. No worries, Monica! We all have your back.
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    [User Picture Icon]
    From:illadore
    Date:November 4th, 2010 03:30 pm (UTC)

    Re: We've got your back!

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    thanks! :)
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    From:chickwriter
    Date:November 4th, 2010 03:23 pm (UTC)
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    Illadora - your info is being retweeted all over the place. There are hundreds of folks going to the Cooks Source Facebook page and posting their dislike of the action.

    Sorry this happened. I agree with above posters - lawyer up.

    Doesn't matter if you're a college student, your work is your work. Stealing is stealing.

    Thanks for letting the world know. We authors are a force to be reckoned with.

    Sincerely,
    Maria Lima
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    From:ladynorbert
    Date:November 4th, 2010 03:24 pm (UTC)
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    Your story is floating around Twitter, which is how I found you. I posted it on Facebook and also in the forums of ThatGuyWithTheGlasses.com (the literature section). Good luck! I hope you get satisfaction -- please keep us all posted!
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    From:mariadkins
    Date:November 4th, 2010 03:24 pm (UTC)
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    i've posted this everywhere i can - except for on my blog; i'll get to that.
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    From:shaxberd
    Date:November 4th, 2010 03:25 pm (UTC)
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    If they did this to you so brazenly, then they've probably done this before multiple times. It might be worthwhile to use some more internet-fu to look up other articles similar to yours by authors not on their staff and make some inquiries that might lead to a class-action lawsuit.
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    From:viviane212
    Date:November 4th, 2010 03:27 pm (UTC)
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    Incredibly frustrating. Wishing you luck.

    Oh, and there's this:

    http://jeffgreenspan.com/letterbombing/
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    [User Picture Icon]
    From:pingback_bot
    Date:November 4th, 2010 03:30 pm (UTC)

    No title

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    User word_geek referenced to your post from No title saying: [...] makes it worth mentioning. I got this from Scalzi, who got it from various other sources, but here [...]
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    From:(Anonymous)
    Date:November 4th, 2010 03:30 pm (UTC)

    Report the photo

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    I'm not sure if you've done this or not yet, but if you go to the photo of your article on Cooks Source's Facebook page, you can report the photo as your intellectual property. This may or may not help, but it might send a message to Cooks Source and their smug ass clown of an editor.
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    From:chomiji
    Date:November 4th, 2010 03:32 pm (UTC)
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    And Ms. Intarwebs-Are-Free's follies are now on Smart Bitches Trashy Books.

    Seriously, what an awful excuse for a human being that editor is.



    Edited at 2010-11-04 03:32 pm (UTC)
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    From:sintari
    Date:November 4th, 2010 03:34 pm (UTC)
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    Look on the bright side! Once a good IP lawyer is finished with this case, you're going to own a magazine!
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    From:ext_309442
    Date:November 4th, 2010 03:36 pm (UTC)

    That woman is a moron for stealing your work!

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    I'm sorry, but I live in Connecticut; she misspelled "Housatonic"!
    And that's just evil; she obviously is either entirely oblivious to copyright law, or is a thief and a liar through and through!
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    From:bookishwench
    Date:November 4th, 2010 03:37 pm (UTC)
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    college students get, oh, I dunno, tossed out for being caught for plagiarism?

    As a college English instructor, I can assure you that while academic plagiarism is easily at an all-time high, college students most definitely are penalized anywhere between class failure to expulsion, and even in some cases voiding a degree if it's found later.

    Also, judging by the writing quality of the letter, which includes over a dozen grammatical and punctuation errors, I would be terrified of this person editing my work.
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    From:magnifique_f8h
    Date:November 4th, 2010 03:37 pm (UTC)
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    Got here via @neilhimself.

    This is just appalling. I've RT, posted on my blogs and Facebook. If there is something good to fight for, this is one of them. Good luck!
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    From:gramina
    Date:November 4th, 2010 03:38 pm (UTC)
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    Their facebook page now has many, *many* more comments in the last ten hours than in the preceding at-least-three months; I suspect someone there has figured out they made some kind of mistake, at this point.

    I would try to sound sympathetic (with them), but I'm not.
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    From:(Anonymous)
    Date:November 4th, 2010 03:42 pm (UTC)

    What can I do?

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    Sorry that I haven't read the cagillion responses, but please tell me what I can do to make that editor's life miserable.
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    From:(Anonymous)
    Date:November 4th, 2010 03:43 pm (UTC)

    that is SOOO annoying

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    What's their twitter page!! I am @JayStrut on twitter and will tweet-defend you!!
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    From:(Anonymous)
    Date:November 4th, 2010 03:46 pm (UTC)
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    Please, PLEASE fight this. You gave her a chance to make it right, and she threw it back in your face. I would love to see this editor and her publication pay for their arrogance. If the RIAA can get tens-of-thousands of dollars per copyright infringement, then there has to be some kind of compensation available to you that would harm them financially.
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