Cooks Source Magazine Forced To Close, Following Facebook Backlash

It looks like Cooks Source is closing down as a result of the recent copyright saga and Facebook backlash - and apparently the editor hasn't learned a thing!

It looks like Cooks Source is closing down as a result of the recent copyright saga and Facebook backlash – and apparently the editor hasn’t learned a thing! I can’t believe this woman is for real.

Boston.com reports that the Cooks Source website had an unsigned note that said in part:

“The bad news is that this is probably the final straw for Cooks Source. We have never been a great money-maker even with all the good we do for businesses. Having a black mark wont [sic] help … and now, our black mark will become our shroud. … This will end us.”

Unsigned or not, it seems likely to me that Cooks Source editor Judith Griggs was the author of this statement, given that she has previously said the publication has a staff of two – herself and her daughter. The www.cookssource.com URL is now defunct – it directs you to Intuit.com, a web hosting company, instead. The Consumerist has extracted a large chunk of it and I have quoted selectively below.

The saga started when a food blogger, Monica Gaudio, realized that her article on apple pie had been stolen and republished in Cooks Source, a regional magazine in New England, without permission or payment. When she contacted editor Judith Griggs, she was insulted and told that the article was public domain because it was online. The resulting backlash on the internet, including on the Cooks Source Facebook page (which Griggs erroneously claims was “hacked”), and the subsequent withdrawal of support from advertisers seems to have been what closed the magazine down.

Some commentary has sided with the magazine, now that it has closed. Sarah Lacy of TechCrunch wrote a post under the title “Congrats, Self-Righteous Internet Mob. You Killed a Magazine” in which she argues that Griggs acted like a “jerk” but did not deserve to lose her livelihood. She also says that only two people know what happened.

I completely disagree with both points. I can feel human empathy for someone who has lost their livelihood, while also understanding that it was entirely deserved. A magazine that makes its living from reprinting stolen material does not deserve to be in business. This was not a one-off mistake, judging by the extensive spreadsheet of material that Cooks Source has apparently stolen from other publications. If the magazine folds it will be because advertisers, once alerted to the problem, have decided to pull their money out. That’s the free market at work and in this case, the outcome is just.

On the second point, it’s simply not the case that only two people know what happened. True, the vast majority of people sending emails or making comments on the Cooks Source Facebook wall are going off second-hand accounts. But there are ample amounts of primary evidence available to anyone, even just in the form of time stamps on blog posts and Facebook comments. As a journalist, I’ve taken additional steps at verification – getting hold of copies of the original emails between Gaudio and Griggs and attempting (unsuccessfully) to contact Griggs. I don’t have sufficient evidence to prove anything “beyond reasonable doubt” but this is a civil matter and if it ever came to court, the standard of proof would be “on the balance of probabilities”. That I could personally prove and so could anyone else who cared to look. Certainly I’ve been able to prove it to my own satisfaction and hopefully my readers.

In being forced to close the magazine, I expected Griggs to have learned a few things that she can later use in her business life. Sadly, she comes across as self-justifying and delusional as ever, only now she is clearly feeling very sorry for herself as well.

In part her statement said:

“Its [sic] sad really. The problem is that I have been so overworked and stretched that when this woman… contacted me, I was on deadline and traveling at the rate of 200 mile [sic] a day for that week (over 900 in total for that week), which I actually told her, along with a few other ‘nice’ things, which she hasnt written about.

“I was stupid to even answer her that night, her email to me was antagonistic and just plain rude and I was exhausted. But I got suckered in and responded. She doesnt [sic] say that she was rude, she doesnt [sic] say that I agreed (and did) to pay her. It was my plan to contact her after deadline and have a good discussion about it….”

As I mentioned, I have seen the full text of the emails that Gaudio and Griggs exchanged before publication of Gaudio’s post. The reason Gaudio has published extracts rather than the full text is because it would be wrong for Gaudio to infringe Griggs’ copyright when she’s in the middle of defending her own. (Even an email has inherent copyright). I don’t have permission to reprint them in full either but I can tell you the gist.

I believe Gaudio’s extracts of Griggs’ emails are accurate and representative, that Gaudio’s emails were in no way rude, and that there are some falsehoods in Griggs’ statements about timing. No, Griggs did not agree to pay her. Yes, Griggs did say she had been traveling but so what? Gaudio gave her plenty of time. The pair first exchanged emails on Thursday October 28 and Gaudio did not publish her post until Wednesday November 3.

In her Thursday October 28 reply, Griggs asked: “Aparently [sic], with your article on line, publicly posted, you didnt [sic] want it used? Can you give me some idea of what you would like?” Gaudio replied that she would like an immediate apology, printed both on Facebook and in the next issue, and $130 to be donated the Columbia School of Journalism in lieu of payment. She added, “I am somewhat confused that I have to explain copyright to a magazine editor” and clarified that the article was copyright and there were no fair use provisions that would allow her to reprint the entire thing.

Perhaps this is the email that Griggs found “antagonistic and just plain rude”? I did not find it so. It was certainly direct and it probably stung because it was part of Griggs’ job to understand copyright law and clearly she didn’t. It was sent six days before Gaudio’s blog post, not the day before as Griggs claims. Nor did Griggs “get suckered in” and reply in haste – in fact she did not reply at all until five days later when Gaudio followed up the matter.

There was radio silence for several days, then Gaudio sent a polite follow-up email on November 2. I’m certain this cannot be the “antagonistic and just plain rude” email in question as it merely said:

“I would really like to speak to you regarding this problem and how you plan on resolving it. I have not heard from you since last Thursday. If you would please get back in touch with me, I would appreciate it.”

Griggs sent an email replying saying that she was on deadline. That evening, Gaudio left a voice mail message at the Cooks Source office, reiterating her demands that she get a public apology and that the magazine make a donation. Gaudio says she did not curse or make accusations in the voice mail, just politely and firmly restated her demands.

That was when Gaudio sent the infamous “But honestly, Monica” email. That has been widely quoted but I can’t help but share one final tidbit where Griggs signs off:

“There, now. I have gone on enough. Thank you for allowing us to use your (improved) article. the only piece of advice I have to offer is that I would watch your email content, it was very offensive, what you sent.”

As Gaudio said in her original post, “At this point, I am mad as hell. It is now the principle of the thing — and I also can not quite believe that my copyright was violated — and then I was informed that I should *pay them* for editing it for me!” Still, Gaudio waited a full day for Cooks Source to rectify the situation before she published her post. Griggs really can’t claim she didn’t have enough time – yet, unbelievably, she does.

The unsigned statement about the closure of Cooks Source goes on to say:

“I should add that this email exchange took place the day before she wrote her article for the world. After she (likely) received my email, she called the home office phone at 10PM, I didnt [sic] answer that late, was in bed as I was traveling again the next day (left at 7AM the next morning) to Connecticut, and didnt [sic] get back to her. This is not an uncommon practice with anyone, to not respond to a phone call for a day or two, it happens to me from other businesses, all the time. I came home that day from being in Connecticut to find hundreds of phone messages and emails telling me I sucked and was a dirtbag… and much MUCH worse.

I really wish she had given me a chance to respond to her before blasting me. She really never gave me a chance…”

I don’t condone people sending offensive emails or leaving threatening voice mail messages, if that is what happened – and I can well believe that it was. However, I believe Gaudio cannot be faulted for either the timing or content of her post. Griggs sent her final “but honestly, Monica” email on the evening of November 2 and Gaudio published her blog post late at night on November 3. The correspondence had been going for almost a week before that. It’s true that routine business calls can sometimes wait a day or two, however a copyright infringement is a serious matter – not routine at all! A good editor or publisher would understand that this is the sort of matter that needs to be made a priority. Also, any sensible business person would not send such an offensive email and then leave it more than 24 hours to try to put things right.

Griggs’ statement then attempts to justify her actions – and in doing so, reveals that she still does not understand copyright.

“But one night when working yet another 12 hour day late into the night, I was short one article… Instead of picking up one of the multitude of books sent to me and typing it, I got lazy and went to the www and “found” something. Bleary-eyed I didnt notice it was copy written and reordered some of it. I did keep the author’s name on it rather than outright “stealing” it, and it was my intention to contact the author, but I simply forgot, between proofreading, deliveries, exhaustion.”

There is so much wrong with this, it’s hard to know where to start. Firstly, Griggs seems to imply that it’s okay for her to retype content from a book. This is not true – books are copyright and they were probably sent to her for review purposes, not to pilfer material. Secondly, she says she “didn’t notice it was copy written”. (By the way, it’s copyright not copywrite so that would make the adjective “copyrighted” or “protected by copyright” or just simply, “copyright”). I assume that she’s talking about the fact that in the US, you can explicitly register copyright. However, copyright is also inherent in what you write from the moment of creation. Gaudio’s article on Gode Cookery had a clear copyright notice at the bottom but it would have still been protected by copyright without that. Griggs says “I did keep the author’s name on it rather than outright ‘stealing’ it” – this is true, which is why it’s a case of copyright infringement rather than plagiarism as so many have erroneously reported. It’s still theft.

But honestly, Judith that’s not the way it – copyright, business and life – works. You had every opportunity to make things right. The only person you have to blame is yourself.