Copyright Uproar

Monica Gaudio, an aspiring food writer, recently found her article about apple pie lifted from her privately-owned domain and published in a Cooks Source, a print magazine. She assumed that a clerical mistake had been made and contacted the magazine. To her surprise, she received a curt reply from the editor which claimed that rather than meeting the writer’s requests—an apology on Facebook and in print and a $130 donation to the Columbia School of Journalism—the writer should be grateful for the exposure and editing and should in fact pay the magazine.

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!

The backlash on Facebook has been enormous, with thousands of angry individuals bombarding the magazine’s page with messages of outrage and support for writers’ rights. Griggs’ failure to apologize, condescending tone, and editorial blunders in her email all helped exacerbate anger at misappropriation of the article, creating a memorable PR debacle. In the way of a storm of Twitter and Facebook protest, the story has received extensive coverage on the Web and in print.

What fascinates me about this story is the editor’s expectations that the entire internet is “public domain.” Of course, most everyone in the publishing industry should understand copyright, but I wonder how much of the general population shares this belief. The thought is frightening.