If you were under a rock the last few days, you missed the excitement about Cooks Source, an online and print magazine busted for stealing recipes and taken down by bloggers, online news stories, Twitterers, Facebook posters, and hackers.
It started when blogger Monica Gaudio learned that a piece on apples she wrote for Gode Cokery appeared in Cooks Source magazine with her byline. She contacted editor Judith Griggs in a pointed email. Here’s where the editor made a fatal mistake (aside from stealing the recipe in the first place): She wrote an arrogant, insulting, condescending reply (scroll down to read it).
Lesson No. 1: If you’re a jerk editor who’s going to say something you’ll regret, do it over the phone.
Gaudio, outraged, told the story on her blog November 3, and printed Griggs’ outrageous comments, which include such gems as “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!”
Lesson No. 2: If you’re already in trouble for stealing a blogger’s work (and stupid enough to include her byline), do not compound it by pissing her off.
Gaudio’s friend Nick Mamatas picked up the story, and then it spread like a lit joint at a high school dance party. I got emails and tweets from people who had seen the story in Boing Boing, the UK Guardian, National Public Radio and many other online publications and blogs. On Friday I leapt onto Twitter and did some spreading of my own, which led Shauna James Ahern to discover the magazine had stolen her recipe for a gluten-free oatmeal cookie.
Lesson No. 3. Controversy and outrage creates an instant online response.
Since then, even more posts and news stories have appeared, and the mob is getting crazy. Cook’s Source said someone hacked its website. No content survives. To get a sense of what was there, see this post from Edward Champion, which includes a comment from Elise Bauer, who said Cook’s Source had stolen her recipes too. Later, someone made a Google Doc spreadsheet of some of the stolen recipes, including those from the Food Network.
Some of this is funny, but some of it is mean-spirited and out of control. Someone on Cooks Source’s Facebook page was offering money for naked photos of Griggs. Strangers are making random comments such as, “Cooks Source hates it when Ricky Bobby prays to the tiny Jesus.” (What?) In the Discussion tab, someone named all the people who worked for the publication, including the illustrator and the paste-up person. Someone else bragged about harassing its advertisers and printed a complete list.
Lesson 4: Online, total strangers get into the action and form a mob mentality. It’s scary.
And finally, the main lesson, which should have been obvious all along:
Lesson 5: Stealing recipes is wrong, and the power of the Internet is awesome.
If Griggs didn’t get that before, she certainly gets it now. Way more than necessary.
For more on this subject, see
- Elise Bauer’s excellent post about protecting yourself from copyright theft
- What the US Copyright Office says about recipes