How Cooks Source Magazine Learned That Reputation Is A Scarce Good… As Reddit Applies The Social Mores Of Justice

from the reputation-is-a-scarce-good dept

One of the key points we’ve made over the years is that reputation is a scarce good, and doing something bad can be quite costly. In fact, in showing how social mores can often be much more effective than copyright laws in dealing with actions where someone is “wronged” by having their work copied in ways that appear to be unfair, we’ve suggested that social costs are a much more effective means of punishing those who do wrong.

As an example, check out this story, first sent in by slacker525600, but also submitted many more times, about how Cooks Source Magazine copied one woman’s blog post and published it as an article, without asking her permission or letting her even know about it. They did put her name on it, but she only found out after a friend spotted it and told her about it. Where the story takes a bizarre twist is after emailing with the editor of the magazine, Judith Griggs, asked the original author, Monica, what she wanted. Monica suggested a public apology (on Facebook) and a modest $130 donation to Columbia’s journalism school. That’s when Griggs responded like this:

“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!”

That response not only shows a rather confused understanding of copyright law, but also suggests someone who’s kinda sorta heard arguments about why copying can be beneficial, and jumbled them all together in her head. Now, we’ve spent plenty of time over the years showing how content creators can be better off allowing their works to be copied, but even so, Grigg’s response appears totally tone deaf to what Monica’s actual concerns were. But here’s where social mores and reputational value take over. Monica’s story made it onto Reddit and it got picked up by tons of others, leading the Facebook page of Cooks Source to be filled with angry comments from people supporting Monica.

And, just like that, Cooks Source (and Judith Griggs’) reputation gets knocked down quite a bit. Reputation is a scarce good, and doing things that people don’t approve of can come back to bite you.

There are a few other interesting lessons out of this. First is that, contrary to what some people claim, you don’t have to be a “big name” to make these things work for you. People have a sense of when someone has been genuinely wronged, and they step up. So, Monica was able to get attention for this, despite not being “famous” in the conventional sense. Second, contrary to the claims that the various “online mobs” that hang out in places like Reddit “just want everything for free,” various online communities have always shown a willingness to stand up against situations where they feel someone was genuinely wronged. And that should give you an idea of what they really think of various situations where some record label complains about file sharing. It’s a totally different situation, and people react accordingly.

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Comments on “How Cooks Source Magazine Learned That Reputation Is A Scarce Good… As Reddit Applies The Social Mores Of Justice”

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55 Comments
Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Just to add another reason this woman is a moron...

“Yes Monica, I have been doing this for 3 decades, having been an editor at The Voice, Housitonic Home and Connecticut Woman Magazine….We put some time into rewrites, you should compensate me! I never charge young writers for advice or rewriting poorly written pieces….”

Er, big deal, woman. You’ve been in the editing business for 30 years, so you should know that reading/editing fees by either agent or publisher go against every credible standard in the literary profession. For instance, to be a member of the AAR (for representatives), you must affirm that you will never charge reading/editing fees for writers. Publishers groups have that same standard.

Which is one more indication that this horrible woman appears to think that she’s better than everyone else for some reason, and she can rattle off what big shit she is and others will cower.

Just be glad it was Reddit and not 4chan, princess….

greenbird (profile) says:

Advertisers pulling out

Ummm…this didn’t just harm their reputation, it pretty much demolished it. Someone published a list of Cook’s Source’s advertisers and they’re getting bombarded. Some have already stated they’re pulling their ads and I’m guessing all will eventually. At least one small business that had ads there said they were pulling the ads despite having prepaid for several months and were going to have to eat the cost.

This has been picked up on Consumerist and Slashdot. They better pray the goons at 4Chan don’t pick up on it.

Robert Ring (profile) says:

I read Mike’s article quickly, so he may have mentioned it, but another lesson here is that copyright laws are unnecessary. Regardless of whether CS’s actions were legal (and they clearly weren’t), they got hammered extremely hard by the community. That is their punishment, and it will definitely be felt financially, as opposed to being sued in a court of law. (And the original author’s compensation, as Mike did say, is the publicity.)

bob says:

Re: Re:

Why are they unnecessary? Let’s wait several months to see the results of the dust-up from the Internet flash mob. Did PirateBay or ISOHunt shut down after public shaming? Why should Cooks Source? As long as the readership continues to subscribe– and why would they care about some fuss on a blog– Cooks Source can keep on lifting content where ever and whenever they feel like it.

Now if someone sues, that’s a different question. But as we’ve seen from Jammie Thomas and others, the legal system can drag things out for years. Cooks Source can keep on publishing, even if a lawsuit is filed.

TeeParty Millionare Winner says:

Let's set this woman into office!

We need more damned determined thinkers like this woman to set our policy and agenda!

On that note, I was talking with Charles the other day about digging holes to China, and he had a very interesting thought…. International waters begin 12 miles OFF of the coast.

So if we can dig a hole DOWN to China for more effective trade, technically, it seems it would be US land only for the last 12 miles. Think of how fast we could deliver Chinese goods if it was subject to taxation 12 miles from anywhere in the US.

Let’s make this happen! TeePartiers Unite!

RockHound says:

Re: Re: Let's set this woman into office!

Technically, that would be solid, not liquid rock in the mantle. It just deforms like a liquid over geological timescales. And there are no giant voids filled with diamonds, like The Core tried to make us believe. After that you get into liquid metal, and then to a giant solid ball of mostly iron.

Anonymoose (profile) says:

It gets better....

Looks like the initial attention has snowballed to reveal at least 14 additional instances of ‘copy without permission’ at the pub, including recipes lifted from Food Network, and additional writings (and photos) by other authors who haven’t ever heard of the magazine..

So there’s a pattern of behavior, cementing the loss of reputation.

(ref: http://www.edrants.com/the-cooks-source-scandal-how-a-magazine-profits-on-theft/ )

Anonymous Coward says:

waah, cry cry , they published my post and put my name on it, so I want an apology and demand you give money to 3rd party, uninvolved people.

bleed much??

she sounds like she feels “entitled”, this blog does the same, post and link to other things, written, going on other places, etc…

her response was perfectly acceptable, giving how Monica reacted to it

do you seek for, and get permission to talk about every single post you do here?? really doubt it

crying about plagiarizing?? they put your name on it, that isn’t plagiarizing, seems like this twit just really wants more attention, now I just think Monica’s an attention grabbing wh#re

DougN (profile) says:

Re: Is that you Mrs. Griggs??

You seem to forget… what is often done here is minor quotes and links, not a wholesale lifting of an article. And what is worse, Monica’s site has a copyright notice posted on it.

Now… in all honesty, I must admit, I personally know Monica. But given where all they are finding articles lifted from (major household names like Martha Stewart, Food Network, etc.), I would be very surprised if either the magazine or the career of the editor will survive what could have easily been avoided.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re:

copyright is granted, when you fix it, not when you request it, so this site “lifts” copy righted material to have something to talk about, no different

Uh, no, extremely different, and either you’re unfamiliar with the basics of copyright law, or you’re being willfully misleading. I will, occasionally, quote parts of an article — with a link to the original, and I provide additional commentary around it, making it fair use.

I have not, and never would, simply copy an entire article from another site, not indicate the originating source, and do so without permission and no additional commentary.

Suzanne Lainson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

I have not, and never would, simply copy an entire article from another site, not indicate the originating source, and do so without permission and no additional commentary.

Would this also apply to things like lyrics, sheet music, and poems? Let’s say I have a site that posts lyrics to songs. Let’s say copyright is gone. Do you think that I should ask for permission from all songwriters before posting lyrics and not to post if they don’t give permission? I’m curious in what situations do you advocate always obtaining permission and not using content if permission is not granted?

If the creator cannot be found or contacted, should I avoid using his/her lyrics? To what extent should I try to obtain permission and at what point should I give up? And if I use the lyrics and then the songwriter objects, should I just take down the lyrics? What is the protocol?

I’d like to see more guidelines about when permission should be obtained and how that might be accomplished.

SLK8ne says:

Flatlining

“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!”

Really??? What? Did all the copyright laws get rescinded in somewhere? Was that hidden somewhere in the health car bill and nobody told us?

The statement I quoted brainless comments I’ve ever heard. And it’s hard for me to understand why anyone is defending this person.

The whole web is public domain????? Geez, how ignorant can you get?

But, the good news is that this should give hope to all the unemployed out there. You can have a complete dearth of decency and common sense and still be a magazine editor.

matt says:

Grammar and sentence structure

I’m surprised that no one pointed out how the Cooks Source editor absolutely butchered the English language in her reply to the blogger. Her reply had all of the hallmarks of truly bad writing – comma splices, poor sentence structure, sentence fragments, ALL CAPS, and excessive use of exclamation points.

This one really gets me: “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.”

Suzanne Lainson (profile) says:

I'm confused.

Some people have advocated that everything digital automatically enter into the public domain or at least be sharable. They decry “permission culture.” And in this case the author was given credit, so it wasn’t like she didn’t get credit. So isn’t this the future? Seems like the main thing the editor did wrong was to assume public domain exists where it doesn’t. But what if we eliminate copyright? As long as the creator is acknowledged, isn’t this what we want to have happen?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: I'm confused.

The outrage has nothing to do with WHAT happened, but WHY it happened.

If the magazine editor had simply apologized, and acted like she was in the wrong, then this wouldn’t have been an issue. However, she did this, then acted entitled to it (insultingly so).

Likewise, when Jammie Thomas gets smacked around by the court, basically everyone will say that she’s a complete idiot. We’re outraged that she’s being sent into a lifetime of debt, not that she was punished for breaking existing laws (even those of us who want said laws abolished).

It basically comes down to: If you act like an idiot, don’t expect sympathy.

Brian Walsh says:

And now the Food Network is investing

From Time magazine:

“As for Cooks Source, they may soon have far more than one angry blogger – and her legions of fans – to worry about. The Food Network is now reportedly investigating numerous recipes that ran in Cooks Source, all identical to Food Network content.”

http://newsfeed.time.com/2010/11/05/exclusive-cooks-source-writer-marvels-at-the-nerd-rage-keeps-waiting-for-that-apology/

Linda says:

I'm Confused

About ten years ago, I was trying to build a relationship with an editor of a technology magazine by submitting Microsoft Office tips. The tips were sent out in weekly emails and posted on the magazine’s website. I wanted to submit articles to them (and get paid!). The editor had sent me several emails complimenting me on the tips.

Then I got a strange one from him. He asked me if I had submitted the tips anywhere else. I hadn’t and asked him why. Turned out someone had copied everything off his site, including my tips and posted it on another site. My name was on the site, credited for the tips.

At the time I had about five tips in submission to tech magazine, but apparently I was officially on their bad list because of the copying. Not only did they not use any of the tips–where previously they had taken every single one of them–they never even contacted me again.

All because someone copied my work and gave me credit.

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