as American as …. stealing apple pie

Thought this would be an interesting example for teaching students – and magazine editors, apparently – the perils of copying from the Internet.   The web, as we know, is not public domain, and copyright laws apply.  The editor of Cooks Source magazine, after a self-proclaimed 30 years of magazine work, thought otherwise, and now a small part of the Internet has erupted in support of Monica Gaudio and others who had their work lifted.  Gaudio found a blog entry she had written on 14th and 16th century apple pie recipes reprinted as an article – without her permission, knowledge, or payment – in the magazine.

See here (for original post) and here.

Recipes have been a tricky area for intellectual property law, as they are frequently reprinted (with permissions), changed by new users, and evolve through time and trial/error.

But what is so outrageous about this story was the editor’s response to Gaudio, filled with blatant arrogance, after Gaudio requested a public apology (in the magazine and on CS’s Facebook page) and a small donation to the Columbia School of Journalism ($130, or 10 cents a word, what she would have been paid for the article), apparently to teach others about copyright law:

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 (sic) 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!”

It turns out the Monica Gaudio, who is an individual blogger and not an IP lawyer, was not the only one to find their work in Cooks Source. She merely lit the fire. Among others, Paula Deen (who does have lawyers and the Food Network to back her), NPR, Weight Watchers, and other sites have unknowingly ‘contributed’ to CS. What happens next will probably be a story about resources (who can legally challenge this, and who can’t), framed by hopefully-increased knowledge about what counts as copyrighted work in the public domain.

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