Copyright, the Internet and an unfortunate mistake by Ms. Judith Griggs

There was a veritable fiasco on the internet yesterday.  A huge social faux-pas was perpetrated by Judith Griggs, editor of Cooks Source magazine. Apparently, she took someone’s blog post from their personal website and published it without consent or acknowledgement, although they did graciously leave her name as the author.  The author writes about this here, detailing what happened.

Thinking this was simply an oversight, she contacted the editor of Cooks Source to ask what had happened.  Eventually, she asked for a written apology and $130 (or $0.10 per word of the article) be donated to the Columbia School of Journalism.  The response was not only condescending and mean, but just plain ignorant.  The editor, claiming 30 years of editing experience, says that “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.”

There is so much wrong with the response, but let’s just focus on the thought process this editor has, the delusion she is suffering from.  “The web is considered public domain.”

One the one hand, yes.  Things posted on the web tend to take on a life of their own, you cannot control how the public reacts to what you post online.  Some people find themselves unwittingly becoming overnight YouTube sensations for a dumb video posted primarily for a couple of friends to see.  You never know who or what is going to become the next big meme.  It could be you, but if you’re hoping on YouTube providing you with your fifteen minutes of fame, you’ve got a lot of competition.

But, copyright is inherent.  If I have created something, then I own it, don’t I?  And don’t people realize that?  Even if it is posted on the internet.  You can’t just take someone else’s work and use it in any way you want.  In here response Ms. Griggs tries to justify what she did by using the age-old excuse, ‘Everybody’s doing it’.  In talking about ‘lifting’ things from the internet, she wrote “It happens a lot, clearly more than you are aware of, especially on college campuses, and the workplace.”  As if that somehow excuses it?  Well, lying, stealing, cheating happens a lot, more than you probably realize. Mass murder and genocide happens a lot, I’m just going with the flow.

The internet has changed a lot of things, but mostly it has changed how we think.  It is so easy to copy something off of the internet.  And with so many things on the internet it can be easy to get away with it.  People hardly notice.  But that doesn’t make it right.  But, when things are easy we tend to do them anyway. We’re lazy like that.


3 thoughts on “Copyright, the Internet and an unfortunate mistake by Ms. Judith Griggs

  1. Wonderful post, Teeps.
    I’ve read a few responses to this, and some have claimed that this particular journalist has stolen many things, including ripping off an NPR broadcast almost word for word, or some such claim. While I think the internet community is rightly outraged, I’d love some discussion of particulars in what’s legal and what’s not.

    I would be cool if you gave us a link to show us some sources that talk about copyright– like the some Federal source or something? I don’t really know this stuff or where to look. Or maybe someone else reading this has an awareness of legal logistics?

  2. “Copyright protection subsists, in accordance with this title, in original works of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression, now known or later developed, from which they can be perceived, reproduced, or otherwise communicated, either directly or with the aid of a machine or device.”

    In other words, if it has been creating in some tangible form, it is protected.

    U.S. Copyright Office

    Granted, if you haven’t registered it, you may have no claim unless you have good proof that you were the originator.

    I almost laughed at her justification beyond what you put:

    “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.”


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