Corporate Copyright Scofflaws 0007 – Cooks Source Magazine Plagiarism Scandal

The largest copyright pirates are the large corporations, particularly in the content distribution business. Yes, those companies who scream the loudest that their customers are ‘pirating’ movies, songs, books, etc. In this series, we are going to look at cases where these companies have engaged in large scale copyright infringement, or in other ways have been ripping off artists.

In all cases I will be working with published information. It is possible that this information may not be up to date, or may not accurately reflect the current status of the situation. If I am supplied documentary evidence which shows a different status, I will publish an update. In cases where a lawsuit ensued, and the settlement was sealed, I will not update the published information, unless I am provided with:

1) A copy of the settlement
2) Permission to publish the settlement

While I realize this may cause problems for one or more of the parties involved, I believe in only publishing things I can reference, so that those who read this have an evidence trail to follow.

Note that the above text will appear in every article, if you’ve read it once, feel free to skip down to the divider.

*****

Oh dear, where to begin. OK, I’m in the middle of writing yesterday, when I decided to check Twitter. @neilhimself had just tweeted:

Excellent research and round-up of the current state of play of #CooksSource Plagiarism Scandal – http://bit.ly/cnhzlS

Now I’ve been following @neilhimself (Neil Gaiman to the non-twitter world) since I first started using Twitter. I admire his writing, and find the varied subjects he tweets on fascinating. So do 1.5 million other people (seriously – he has over 1.5 million followers, in other words more people follow him than live in most cities). And anything with a ‘#’ preceding it (a hash tag) is something people consider important about a single subject.

But #CooksSource? What the heck was that? I’d never seen that hash tag before.

Well, an excellent example of an internet firestorm in action, or as Boing Boing put is so succinctly, Today’s Web Justice Driveby.

Apparently everything started when Jeff Berry noticed that one of Monica Gaudio’s articles had been picked up by Cooks Source Magazine. Jeff, an aspiring writer, asked how she’d gotten it published – he wanted all the help he could get. Monica was puzzled. She hadn’t submitted anything to Cooks Source. But she checked the October issue, and there on page 10 was an article she’d written on Gode Cookery titled A Tale Of Two Tarts. Apparently when Monica contacted the magazine, an editor who identified herself as Judith Griggs, attempted to claim that anything posted to the Internet was Public Domain, and that she didn’t need to pay for anything she used.

All of this information is from Edward Champion’s website, Edward interviewed Monica about the situation, after seeing her LiveJournal posting.

Now this is where it gets fun. The Internet is the fastest, most efficient method of communications we have ever had. When and if something catches the attention of a lot of people, well, things happen. And contrary to the stated opinions of certain CRIA lobbyists, the cast majority of people on the internet understand and respect copyright, and don’t like to see people getting ripped off.

So far the effects have been:

Monica’s inbox has apparently gone radioactive. Not that people are mad at her, but getting thousands of messages of support can be just as overwhelming.

Twitter has gone insane. I’ve been watching the #CooksSource hashtag, and the comments are at least 95% in Monica’s favor. Judith Griggs now has a place in popular mythology with the Grinch that Stole Christmas.

A whole huge bunch of people decided to complain on Cooks Source Facebook page. Some of the complaints are amusing. Some are scatological. Almost every post is a complaint about the actions of Cooks Source.

Another bunch of people decided to complain on the Cooks Source FB Discussion page, with article titles like:

Mainstream news about Cooks Source plagarism – post links here
How to Plagarize:
Wikipedia Article
Better hope she doesn’t draw the attention of Encyclopedia Dramatica
There was a webpage that listed many more copyright infringements they found.
List of Cooks Source article sources. Please add more.
Villain Name Suggestions
The Anti-Cooks Source FB Page
Great article on everything plagiarized!
Editor position available? Hire me!
Aspiring plagiarist
The Entire Cooks Source website is very obviously “Public Domain”!

I’ve included the link on the top one only, as it’s the most important. The original tweet I saw from @neilhimself went out about 7:00 PM Eastern, I didn’t get to the Facebook page until about midnight, and the mainstream media had already picked up on the scandal – heck it was a day old, antique in Internet time.

Cooks Source announced that their FaceBook page had been hacked, and that they were starting a new one. Apparently they don’t understand how the Facebook ‘Like’ button works. Seriously. Here’s what they posted when they started their new Facebook page:

Cooks Source Mag Apologies for the issues on the old page. Unfortunately there’s nothing we can do about hackers!

Their problem isn’t ‘Hackers’, it’s an upset general public. They don’t seem to understand this, and every attempt on they’ve made on their new Facebook page has only made things worse.

Unfortunately for Cooks Source, things have hit critical mass. As Mike Masnick has pointed out many times in the past, and once more yesterday, Reputation is a Scarce Good.

Cooks Source has so totally ruined their reputation, that the magazine is unlikely to survive. There are people approaching the advertisers, asking them to put their advertising money elsewhere. There are people telling their friends not to buy it.

And it’s not just people. The media is involved now. National Public Radio covered it, getting one point wrong – Cooks Source claimed that Monica’s original article was badly in need of editing, and that they edited it. Guess what. They lied. The article in the magazine is identical in wording to the original post by Monica.

Salon covered the story in more detail, possibly because they waited. They had information on other victim’s of Cooks Source, including Weight Watchers, Food Network, Martha Stewart, Sunset and, get this, NPR, which had covered the scandal earlier. And others. Lots of others.

Kathy Gill put up a long posting at Storify, with lots of other interesting details, and fascinating links. Thanks Kathy. You included so many good links, that I spent a good chunk of the morning reading them šŸ™‚

Meanwhile Cooks Source is still attempting to spin. This Facebook post give you a good idea of how bad they are at it:

Cooks Source Mag For those that have asked POLITELY, no we will not be stopping the magazine, and yes we will be taking further action against anyone caught hacking. Jack Ogden from Cheltenham UK has volunteered to help us catch these hackers. Thanks to you for your help Jack

I got curious, and yes, there is a Jack Ogden who lives in Cheltenham, in the United Kingdom. Unfortunately he appears to have to computer or legal skills, and therefore wouldn’t be much use to Cooks Source. I have a suspicion that this is another Cooks Source invention, and that the Jack Ogden I found just happened to be unlucky enough to have the right name, and live in the right place. And no, I won’t post my research methods. Since the person I found doesn’t seem to have anything to do with the professions that would be useful to Cooks Source right now, he, and his family, do not deserve to be bothered.

Meanwhile, Cooks Source is still playing damage control. As noted in one of the articles above, they’ve been systematically removing information. Things like contact details. Copies of the magazine (that they had earlier posted themselves). Now they have a right to do this. But it looks bad. The damage control is causing more damage, because people are documenting everything that Cooks Source is doing.

Being mentioned in the LA Times is a great way to get free advertising isn’t it? Or the Washington Post? The Guardian in the UK? BoingBoing is making fun of it all.

Yes, this post is an elaborate mess. But this is a fast moving, constantly evolving story. And it will continue to be, long after Cooks Source files for bankruptcy protection.

The moral of this story? Don’t plagiarize and boast about it.

Regards

Wayne Borean

Friday November 5, 2010

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