Friday, November 5, 2010

A Copyright Cautionary Tale

How would you feel if an article you wrote was republished without your knowledge or consent?

That happened to Monica Gaudio, who found out from a friend that her cooking article had appeared in Cooks Source magazine. I'm going to be hampered in my writing, as the site "" has just become (as I'm writing this) impossible to access, but other sources state the magazine claimed between 17,000 and 28,000 readers.

This publication, from what I recall (since I can no longer fact-check the site), is distributed for free in paper form in certain stores throughout New England, and in a free electronic form through a Facebook page (which I've also linked, though it may go down as well).

Thinking there was some simple mix-up, the author sent off an email inquiring how the magazine had acquired her article.

But there was no mix-up. The magazine had simply swiped the article off the Internet.

After an email exchange, the editor of the magazine asked the author what she wanted in return for the use of the already published article. Monica asked for "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."

The magazine's editor, Judith Griggs, replied, in part, with 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!

In a rather amazing Internet response, the magazine's advertisers have been contacted about the copyright violation, lawyers have offered pro bono representation to the author, and the magazine has been scathingly launched into an infamy previously unknown.

With this flurry of new attention, it begins to look like the publication may have done this sort of "lifting" before. Commenters on the Facebook page have noted that articles, or parts of articles, appear to have been taken from Paula Deen, Martha Stewart, Food Network, NPR, WebMD, and more. And people angry about the rude and ignorant response by Ms. Griggs were quick to report these alleged transgressions to those sites. It will be interesting to watch how the rest of this story unfolds.

So, my college campus friends: Does this happen "a lot ... on college campuses"? I don't want to give too much credit to the editor's poor excuses, but it did make me think about copyright education at the college level. Sure, students know they'll get in trouble for plagiarizing, but do we do enough to inform students that when an instructor shares an article as a handout in class, it is under special copyright rules? Do we do enough to inform instructors that the limitations in sharing copyrighted information in an online course greatly differ from the generous face to face teaching allowances? Are students leaving school with the impression that it is professionally sound to use a whole article without getting the copyright holder's permission, as long as they keep the author's name on it? Sound off in the comments below!

Read more:

Cooks Source debacle:

Teaching and Copyright:

Monday, November 1, 2010

Learning about Internet Security and Privacy

As more and more "learning" ventures out into the online world, it is becoming more and more important for instructors and students to understand the issues of security and privacy on the world wide web.

Many instructors don't think twice about asking their students to sign up up for online services, even when that means giving out personal information. Students will give out more information than necessary to create the accounts. Creating savvy internet users, both instructors and students, will help assure the safety of all involved.

One place to start educating oneself about online dangers would be a free e-book available for download from Microsoft. Own Your Space -- Keep Yourself and Your Stuff Safe Online was edited by Linda McCarthy, the former Senior Director of Internet Safety at Symantec (the computer security software company which sells Norton Anti-Virus, among other products). While aimed at t(w)eens and their parents, the 16(+) chapter e-book has lots of historical and practical information about threats in the online world useful to novices of all ages, and is full of general information about how to avoid those threats.

You can check it out and download the whole book, or individual chapters, by clicking here.

Have you found a particular site or book especially enlightening regarding internet privacy and security? Share your helpful links and suggestions below!

Also note that October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month. For more about campus-wide efforts and information go to