Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Cooks Source gets its just desserts

When I blogged today on Dr. Freelance about "would a magazine editor steal my story idea?", I had no idea that it would be the day that Cooks Source editor Judith Griggs announced the magazine's demise, precipitated by their stealing a freelancer's story in its entirety. (Certainly a magnitude greater than idea-filching.) If you haven't been privy to the scuttlebutt, the background can be found here.

Heaven knows I'm just piling on by even writing about this, but I'd be remiss if I didn't add my one overriding thought: As businesspeople, freelancers deal in intellectual property, and that's a lot harder to defend than installing an alarm system or pulling out your shotgun on a home intruder. It's nebulous. People don't understand it, or choose to ignore it. We live in a time when music and video file-sharing is considered A-OK by a good percentage of the population. Copy and paste is part of getting through an average person's day, and apparently part of an occasional publishing person's day — one who should have known better.

I won't shed a tear for Ms. Griggs, who seems focused on enumerating excuses rather than repenting. I can't say if the punishment, the loss of everything she's worked for, fits the crime.

But perhaps, just perhaps, freelancers owe her a debt of gratitude while they're enjoying a steaming bowl of schadenfreude. If Judith Griggs has served a purpose, let's hope it will be as a deterrent — to make other folks think twice about stealing intellectual property.

Gawker snarks.
TechCrunch says "Congrats, Self-Righteous Internet Mob. You Killed a Magazine."

Monday, November 1, 2010

Mean handshakes, toddler criminals and watching your own tail

I'm the innocent bystander
Somehow I got stuck
Between the rock and the hard place
And I'm down on my luck

—Warren Zevon, "Lawyers, Guns and Money"

On back-to-back days this week, I came across articles with the following headlines:

4-Year-Old Can Be Sued, Judge Rules in Bike Case
Candidate Files Criminal Complaint Over Firm Handshake

Then, last night, a 5-year-old girl dressed as a lion for Halloween told my wife, "My mom says that you shouldn't have candles in your pumpkin, because my tail is flammable."

To which my wife replied, "You're going to have to watch your own tail."

Indeed. I really wish that people would watch their own tails.

What kind of society do we live in that can sue a toddler for negligence on a bike, in which a politician can gripe over a grip-and-grin, or in which a kindergartener is allowed to scold an adult for having a votive candle burning inside a gourd?

Now, in the case of the elderly woman who got hit by the runaway cyclist and broke her hip — yes, it sucks. If you're a political candidate, and you get kung-fu gripped, sorry, that's part of the territory. If you're out on Halloween night and you're in a flammable outfit, by all means, please stay away from open flames.

Stuff happens. Sometimes awful stuff. No one should expect to be entitled to a risk-free life, and there is no way to legislate or adjudicate every single bad thing that occurs. According to a book by Harvey A. Silverglate that's next on my reading list, the average person commits Three Felonies a Day without even knowing it. Every year, more laws and more byzantine rules about every aspect of our lives go into the books...and our ability to take personal responsibility and manage happenstance seems to erode.

And, as a result, I suspect that the young lady in the lion suit has a promising career ahead of her as a personal-injury lawyer. Or if she works on her grip strength, maybe even a politician.