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."


  1. Good riddance. They stole a lot more than one person's story.

  2. "Mobs are a part of reality on the Internet." From the Tech Crunch Post. Note that credit is given! Exactly right. George Bush has also conveniently "Borrowed" others words and called them his own in his memoir. If you're gonna "borrow" thought, in this case especially, Judith should have at least stick some quotes around it. Damned Internet. It's a blessing and yet brings out the crappiness in us.

  3. @Anon, Edward Champion enumerates them here. I suspect there's more to come.

    @adchick, thanks for commenting. I have to think that someone calling themselves an editor would have been smarter than that. (But I thunk wrong.) And you're right that the blessing/crappiness scale is part of the 'net.

    Been busy and hadn't heard about the plagiarism accusation in Bush's book, but a quick search led me to this article, which seemed pretty even-handed about it: Plagiarism Today In addition to an article about the Cooks Source issue, the blogger has a whole section title "Stop Internet Plagiarism."

  4. Jake, your even-handedness and restraint are always impressive: witness the last two paragraphs of your post especially, and your caution about piling on when allegations are thinly disguised mud-slinging.

    And I'm really digging that "steaming bowl of schadenfreude"-- what a great phrase! (better hide it before it's stolen!) I've had a few bowls of same over the years, and alas, it's always a tasty treat!

  5. As always, Mark, you're far too kind! Thanks :)

  6. Being thankful to Ms Griggs for serving as an example to others who may have considered doing similar things is like being thankful to Charlie Manson for teaching us all about being careful who out kids are hanging out with.

    She was wrong, and stubbornly so - if she could not see value in the works and efforts of those who she stole from, she deserved to lose the lot.

  7. Anon@9:11, thanks for commenting. Please don't mistake my post for praise or defense of Griggs's actions. I am glad she got exposed. Clearly, she was wrong in doing what she did, and badly botched her apology. In return, she learned that Hell hath no fury like the freelance community scorned.

    We may need to disagree, however, on comparing a serial murderer with an apparently serial plagiarist at a poorly edited magazine that no one had heard of until a few weeks ago. And I stand by my statement that it's all to the good if this maelstrom serves as a deterrent to those who might steal others' work in the future.