The Cooks Source Scandal: How a Magazine Profits on Theft

On the last Thursday of October, Jeff Berry sent an email to his friend, Monica Gaudio. Berry informed Gaudio that an article called “As American as Apple Pie — Isn’t!” had been published in Cooks Source Magazine.

“Is this you?” asked Berry. “Is this your article? And how did you get it published? Because I’m trying to break into any market that I can.”

Gaudio, who identified herself to me over the phone as “an amateur medieval enthusiast,” went home last Thursday and discovered that an article she had written on Gode Cookery, which contained a clear copyright notice at the bottom of the webpage, had been reprinted on Page 10 in Cooks Source‘s October 2010 issue.

“They used the website that I had,” said Gaudio. “I own the domain name. Jim Matterer owns most of the content. However, that article is mine.”

The first thing Gaudio did was call the number listed at the Cooks Source website. An hour or two later, Judith Griggs — editor of Cooks Source — called Gaudio back. Gaudio missed the call. Griggs told Gaudio to contact her by email. This was the best way to get in touch with her. Gaudio emailed Griggs, pointing out that Griggs had published her article.

“Well, it was on the Internet,” replied Griggs by email. “Didn’t you want it published?”

Gaudio wondered how to respond to the email. Initially, she thought that Griggs was a new copy editor who was perhaps a bit nervous on the job. But she began to wonder if Griggs was something more sinister. Perhaps a database collecting her private information. When it became apparent that Griggs was actually running the show, Gaudio grew dismayed.

“I couldn’t believe I was explaining copyright to a magazine editor,” said Gaudio. “This is not fair use.”

In that first email, Griggs asked Gaudio what she wanted to do about this. Gaudio replied that she wanted three things: an apology on Facebook, an apology in the magazine, and a $130 donation (ten cents a word for the 1,300 words that Griggs had published without Gaudio’s permission) to the Columbia School of Journalism. She decided upon CSJ because the famed New York school was considered to be an excellent one for journalism and because it was easy to make an online donation.

Griggs replied by email to Gaudio’s request last Thursday, pointing out that the Cooks Source staff was very busy and was trying to publish an issue.

Gaudio sent additional emails to Griggs. She figured Griggs and her staff were leaving for the Halloween weekend.

Then, on Election Day, Gaudio received Griggs’s response. Gaudio’s Livejournal entry, chronicling her story, kickstarted a massive Internet awareness campaign that, as of Thursday afternoon, had counted writers Neil Gaiman and John Scalzi among the supporters. When I spoke with Gaudio early Thursday afternoon, she told me that she was afraid to look at her email.

My phone calls to Judith Griggs were not returned. But in Griggs’s email to Gaudio, partially excerpted on Gaudio’s Livejournal, Griggs suggested that Gaudio should compensate her for the time she put into rewrites.

“It was ‘my bad’ indeed,” wrote Griggs in her email, “and, as the magazine is put together in long sessions, tired eyes and minds somethings forget to do these things.” Griggs also insisted that Gaudio’s article was “in bad need of editing.”

But a Thursday investigation revealed that not only is Cooks Source in the practice of stealing articles and publishing material without permission, but the magazine often pilfers the images which accompany the content. Such was the case with two entries stolen from the website, Simply Recipes. In Cooks Source‘s July 2010 issue, the Simply Recipes entry on tandoori chicken was taken wholesale from the website, with the photo merely flipped over in print. (On the same page, a sidebar item on garam masala recycles text from the Wikipedia entry.)

I spoke with one publisher by telephone, who asked to remain unnamed for this piece, about a book excerpt that had run in a recent Cooks Source issue. The publisher later informed me that it hadn’t worked with Cooks Source before and that the magazine had never sought permission to use the excerpt.

On July 6, 2009, the website Behind The Curtain published an essay on a raspberry fritters recipe that she found in a 1942 cookbook. Not only did Cooks Source print the majority of the essay on Page 21 of its July 2010 issue, but three photos taken by Kathy Zadrozny had also been reproduced. This occurred despite the fact that Zadrozny’s About page contained an explicit copyright notice in relation to her images.

“I haven’t seen any reproduction of my articles anywhere nor have I heard of Cooks Source,” said Zadrozny by email.

The July 2010 issue also reproduced at least seven recipes from The Food Network. Shawn White of The Food Network’s Licensing Department did not return my calls, but I alerted him to the recipes in my voicemails to him. The Cooks Source issue contained the following Food Network recipes: Chicken Chopped Mediterranean Salad with Feta Vinaigrette (page 10), Blackberry Lemonade (page 10), Mixed Berry Soup with Gelato (renamed Mixed Berry Soup) (page 11), Fresh Mozzarella BLT with Pesto (page 11), the Best Burger Ever (reprinted as “Alton Brown’s Best Burger”) (pages 12-13), Napa Valley Basil-Smoked Burgers (page 13), and the Feta Sun-Dried Tomato Stuffed Prosciutto Burger (republished as “Jairs Burger”) (page 13).

On Thursday afternoon, I was informed by nutrition consultant Dana Angelo White that the legal department was looking into a Cooks Source article on page 24 taken from two of White’s pieces written for The Food Network’s Healthy Eats blog: “What Does ‘Natural’ Mean?” and “9 ‘Healthy’ Foods to Skip.”

On page 12 of the July issue, Cooks Source also reproduced this hamburger history article. The original website has a clear copyright notice from Linda Stradley at the top, but Stradley hadn’t returned my email to confirm that the article had been used without her permission.

For every reproduction that I found, I made efforts to contact the original copyright holder. And the above examples demonstrate unequivocally that nearly the entirety of Cooks Source‘s material has been taken from other sources and that, in at least four instances, Cooks Source did not obtain the necessary permission to reproduce the material. The onus is now on Cooks Source to produce the appropriate paperwork to demonstrate that it secured the release. But since Judith Griggs is uninterested in returning telephone calls, since she has demonstrated a lack of concern for copyright, and not a single writer, publisher, or organization has come forward with proof positive that Griggs has played by the rules, one can conclude from the presented evidence that Cooks Source is a magazine that profits on theft.

While big companies like Scripps (which owns The Food Network) have generous coffers with which to resolve legal matters, enthusiastic amateurs like Monica Gaudio don’t have that luxury.

“My understanding — and again I am a lay person — is that a copyright has to be litigated in federal court,” said Gaudio. “Federal court costs a lot of money. Hundreds, if not thousands of dollars. So will I litigate? Possibly. It’s so small.”

Gaudio told me that it’s “unfair” for her to spend so much money to defend her copyrighted material. Yet despite all the Internet attention and Griggs’s recalcitrance, she hasn’t adjusted her demands. She simply wants Cooks Source to make two apologies (in print and on Facebook) and donate the $130 to the Columbia School of Journalism. She’s played by the rules. She’s filled out the form on Facebook. All this would just be over if Cooks Source would own up and apologize. But according to Cooks Source‘s message machine, last contacted at 4:00 PM on Thursday, the staff is just too busy to talk.

11/4/10 LATE PM UPDATE: First of all, thanks to Neil Gaiman and many others for the overwhelming traffic that this story has received (and with great apologies for the bumpy server). In the interest of tying up some loose ends, I’ve heard back from Elise Bauer, of Simply Recipes. She had this to say by email:

For the record, Cooks Source has used my copyright protected content without my permission. The copyright notice has been on every page of my site for 7 years.

I’m astonished by the flagrant plagiarism and copyright infringement. I’m also dumbfounded by the Cooks Source publisher’s response to complaints that have been made about the use of other bloggers works without permission. This person honestly believes that everything on the Internet is public domain.

So that gives us five definitive cases instead of four.

I have also heard back from the head of a publishing imprint who was very interested in speaking with me on the phone. I’m going to touch base with this individual tomorrow morning and report back any additional news pertinent to this story, if warranted.

11/5/10 LATE PM UPDATE: In the comments, Linda Stradley left this message:

I’ve just read your article, The Cooks Source Scandal: How a Magazine Profits on Theft, and was very surprised at reading my name.

I also was never contacted to ask permission to use my copyrighted article on the “Hamburgers – History and Legends of Hamburgers.”

That brings the tally up to six.


  1. I’m angry. Does this particular instance personally affect ME? No. But I am a writer, and this reminded me to run an internet search on some of MY published pieces, and I found that a sleazy commercial outfit plagiarized pieces of at least one of my articles in order to sell stuff. Somewhat fortunately, I guess, I had sold all rights to that article and the copyright holder has lawyers. If I retained the copyright, all I could do would be to send a “stop stealing my writing” email and possibly get one of the writers’ unions on my side.

    I’m angry because plagiarism and content theft for financial gain are rife, because the internet is full of “writers” and companies which routinely use the words of others for their own financial gain, and often compound this with plagiarism.

    If those people look at what happened to Griggs and realize it could happen to them, maybe they’ll stop stealing the work of people like Gaudio and me. Obviously basic ethics weren’t doing it for them.

    So no, I don’t have any sympathy whatsoever for Griggs, especially since her reply to Gaudio’s extremely polite email was incredibly rude, insulting, condescending, and unprofessional.

    You might be surprised at how many of us in the “dogpile” are also creators of intellectual property who have had or may have our work plagiarized and/or stolen to be used for someone else’s financial gain.

    (Piracy–sharing someone’s attributed work without authorization, but not necessarily for financial gain–is a slightly different thing. I personally am not at all bothered if someone scans one of my articles for a friend, or emails it. I’m mildly irritated if they reproduce an entire article with attribution on their website without asking first. But that doesn’t infuriate me as much as plagiarism or using my work for their financial gain, or in a way I do not approve of.)

  2. I am not sure that the comment on recipes and copyright issues is true. My understanding is that you have to change at least one ingredient. There are also instances where signature recipes such as the Caesar Salad cry out for some attribution.

    Articles, however, are the intellectual property of the creator. However, as with any other violation of your rights, the law is only as good as your willingness to sue.
    In this case, Because of the internet, this is now very public and the magazine cannot ignore it. I can’t believe that Griggs actually copped to this and blamed being tired. If you are printing an article that was not submitted for the issue- you got it somewhere. Tired has nothing to do with it. An apology would have been cheaper for the magazine. What’s a few apologies and $130 compared to the loss of your reputation and your advertisers.

  3. Anytime you see this sort of ‘magazine’, you can be sure they are ripping off somebody! Normally, these are restricted to car dealers or real estate and are 100% advertising, but in order to have ‘content’, you have to have journalists/writers which free mags never have. This woman (there is probably only 1 or two that work there) sell a false value to advertisers, and then steal the content hoping no-one would find out. It is a magazine of pure profit apart from the publishing/distribution costs. I have to wonder at the gullibility of the advertisers in this publication, and also, any stores that allow that magazine to be displayed.
    I bet these advertisers could sue the owner of Cooks Source (if it is even a Co.), as I would imagine they were lied to as well.

  4. So I have a naive question then that maybe you can answer.
    I have a blog where I chronicle recipes I would like to try as well as old favorites. It started as my own personal online cookbook, but as friends asked for access, I made it public.
    I link to the original sources and include the recipe on my blog, along with any tweaks I made along the way (or plan to make if it’s one I haven’t made yet).
    Is this piracy even though I’m linking back to my sources as reference?

  5. @Betsy

    It would be the right thing to do, to contact the original posters of the recipes and ask if they minded that you were going to post it. But according to US copyright law you cannot copyright a “list of ingredients”

    From the US copyright page which i linked.

    “How do I protect my recipe?
    A mere listing of ingredients is not protected under copyright law. However, where a recipe or formula is accompanied by substantial literary expression in the form of an explanation or directions, or when there is a collection of recipes as in a cookbook, there may be a basis for copyright protection. Note that if you have secret ingredients to a recipe that you do not wish to be revealed, you should not submit your recipe for registration, because applications and deposit copies are public records. See FL 122, Recipes. “

  6. @Betsy

    No, you are acknowledging the original authors copyright, and recipes themselves can’t be copyrighted and you aren’t making a profit on it. The person in this case was stealing whole articles and pictures, attaching their name and pretending it was their work, and making a profit on it.

    To be absolutely 100% beyond reproach you could email the original authors saying you’ve tried their recipe, linked their page and written about it on your blog. Should they get offended the most you would have to do is remove the recipe, leave a link to their site and have your comments/variations there, as you wouldn’t then be reproducing anything at all.

    I think you are on pretty firm ground as is now though.

  7. Great research done, and quickly, too; I’ve mentioned folks should read your story here (and hotlinked to it) for details on just who/what got ripped off. It appears that the recipe/text/photo package was a popular target of Cook’s Source. Which is no wonder, since as those of us who produce these can tell you they are quite expensive (food, more food, photo props) as well as just time consuming to do. This got me thinking about how I can protect them from those who don’t want to bother doing any of work. Discovered there are several really effective, free, easy-to-use plagiarism software tools (I’ve posted ’em)–& I’ve decided I’m going to routinely run them to see if my stuff has been “borrowed.” Maybe if everybody with IP on the Web to protect did the same, it would make it a little less tempting to steal.

  8. @Betsy – as I understand it, Elise Bauer’s excellent summation of David Lebovitz’s “Recipe Attribution” article is bang-on correct for how to deal with having a recipe blog that doesn’t tread on other people’s copyright toes.

    You can see many excellent examples of “how to do it right” online – for example, at The Pioneer Woman (aka the blog of Ree Drummond). As well as posting her own recipes, she also likes to try out recipes from friends, from other cooking blogs, and ones that her readers have posted to the Tasty Kitchen recipe database portion of her site. When she does, she always makes sure to attribute and link back to the original recipe, and then her write-up is about her experience of making that particular recipe, with the recipe re-written in the format she uses for posting her own recipes, and usually using her own photographs of the process (with her own purple alien hand clearly visible at some point *snickers*). So it’s a clear case of “this is my experience of trying out a recipe created by someone else” as opposed to “this is me making one of my own recipes”.

    It never hurts to check particular online sources to see if they have a clearly posted policy on sharing/dissemination of their recipes, or if unsure to email the site owner; the worst that happens is you’ll be told “no, you can’t repost my recipe”, and judging by the majority of the cooking-related blogs I’ve read to date, most food bloggers are tinkled pink when others use, write about, and link back to their recipes. The real dividing line really only tends to come when someone either tries to claim your recipe as their own, or tries to profit in some way from it without prior permission. In the case of the Cooks Source (sic) debacle, we have someone who not only did the latter, but had the supreme bad taste to gloat about it.

  9. Just a word of caution: Whether you make money off your publication (online or in print) is not the issue that will decide copyright infringement. Your not making a profit only works toward settling what sort of punishment may be levied. Infringing is infringing and a court will rule against anyone who improperly lifts materials.

    Permission is the key. Sometimes you can get it for free, or for acknowledgment, but sometimes the creator wants money. Sometimes, lots of money. You can choose to either pay or not republish.

    There are exceptions to copyright protection, like ‘fair use’, but note that they are exceptions to copyright law. Fair use does not include wholesale copying of someone else’s work unaltered. Even accidental lifting can be expense–see George Harrison (of the Beatles) and the trouble he had with his ‘My Sweet Lord’ inadvertently lifting the riffs of the Chiffon’s ‘He’s So Fine’.

    Take a little time to educate yourself about what the exceptions are, like fair use, or parody, or transformation. You can do your bit to reduce worldwide grief.

  10. My wife is a dance instructor and discovered one day that someone on Cafe Press was using a picture of her on items they were selling. Thankfully Cafe Press was quick to deal with the issue. I’d hate to think how much legal wrangling this is going to take. Maybe all the amateur copyright holders will get lucky and one of the big dogs will make it a class action suit.

  11. Shouldn’t be surprised to find out that people still don’t take copyright serious or respect other peoples work…but still amazed anyway…thanks for shearing!

  12. Griggs response about needing to edit Gaudio’s work shows her extreme lack of professionalism as an editor. To steal someone’s work and then say she should have charged them for editing is illogical.

    Even if a writer has sold an article to an editor, legitimate professional editors don’t charge for editing or rewriting. Run away with your work in hand from any editors or agents who want to charge you for editing. If you need to grow as a writer, find an editor who will mentor you to encourage that growth, don’t pay for editing.

    For those would-be and amateur writers out there, there are a number of associations that can offer advice or have alerts about copyright issues or issues with publishers and agents, including who has gotten in trouble for stealing work, not paying writers, or deceptive practices.

    Here’s a couple:

    – National Writers Union

    – Science Fiction Writers of America’s Writers Beware (focuses on fiction and not just the SF genre)

    You can find more resources at Ralan’s Webstravaganza, one of the online market places for speculative fiction writers, at (Click Beware.)

    In the interest of transparency, I’ll ad that I’m not a member of either NWU or SFWA, though I have friends who belong to both. Ralan and I have mutual acquaintances; however, I have used his web site for about 10 years (six years before making his acquaintanceship).

    The Society of Professional Journalists may have some information on copyright, but that it not the group’s main focus. (I am an SPJ member.)

  13. I have a lot of sympathy for these writers. My content (from the website above) gets ripped off on a pretty regular basis. For example, the directions for making a sling without sewing were reproduced on a site selling kits for no-sew slings. No attribution, no mention of copyright, etc. I called the guy on it and explained how that’s wrong. He wrote back, threatening *me* with laywers, claiming that by inviting people to link to my pages, I was releasing the content to the public domain! Then he removed the content (yay!) and tried to make me feel bad by saying I was loosing hundreds of hits per day from his site (not sure how, since he didn’t link to me). The ignorance and nerve of some people is just unreal. I suppose I have the last laugh; I’m still in business, while he folded a few months later.

  14. In the UK, it’s possible to deal with these claims through a simple legal procedure called the Small Claims Court; you issue the magazine with an invoice for the amount you deem fit (specify a punitive but reasonable amount, like twice your standard fee) and give them the 30 days on the invoice terms to pay it, then send in the paperwork to claim in court (which you can do online). Usually the notification plus publicity will have reputable publisher paying up quickly, but the court procedure is simple. If they don’t pay, you can also request a winding up order for their company. It’s not foolproof but it’s all fairly simple. Is there a similar US process?

  15. As a newly published writer (non-fiction) this matter does have some concern for me. I publish blogs about my new book, and am fine if people make references to it; in fact, I would love that. However, I would expect attribution as being only fair. I believe that when someone publishes on the Internet, that quotes, references, backlinks, and so forth are ordinary and expected.

    However, that stops when no references are made, and the now-perpetrator has profited off the articles, casting them off as his or her own.

    My original point of view was to worry about my book getting into the hands of China where, as I understand it, “all bets are off” in terms of their rules and laws. In other words, someone in China can publish my book and any of my material as their own, and profit from it, without any recourse by myself.

    Now, I see that I am forced to check my own backyard as well, on a periodic basis, and run plagiarism checks on my own work.

    All I can say is “oy vey,” or for the younger crowd “OMG!”

  16. Here’s a revelant question: Is Cook’s Source staffed by anyone more than Judith Griggs herself? On Nov. 14 there finally was an interview with her in the Daily Hampshire Gazette and she very much implies that it’s just her (and her adult daughter who helps with the distribution, which she does herself). Cook’s Source is *not* a Conde Nast publication. It’s like a little newsletter put together by a 59-year-old woman.

    I’m not saying this wasn’t a self-inflicted wound. In fact if anything — if Cook’s Source is JUST HERELF — Judith Griggs has been actually continuing to hurt herself by constantly using a “we” (even in her final apology post). I suspect people wouldn’t have gotten so angry, nor would there be a continuing level of anger if they realized this publication is just one person’s little rag. There’s probably no “there” there. It’s a sad woman who doesn’t understand the internet who wrote one of the world’s meanest emails.

  17. shame on you……mr.big fancy magazine…..stealing from hard working people!I hope they join forces and sue you for everything you got!!!!!

  18. Wow. Just – wow. I think Griggs is making up the whole “Internet mob” thing, myself – it’s the last domain of pity for those that have screwed the pooch, as she has.

    I really think anyone that has purchased that magazine in the past, needs to get their money back. It’s really looking like her magazine has specialized in nothing but copy and paste, and got away with it for way too long.

  19. There are several sellers on eBay that are selling things like t-shirts using my favourite band’s name. I sent messages to these sellers asking if they have the band’s permission to use their name and have not heard one response saying yes or no. I’m considering reporting them to eBay as this is not some nationally known band and it angers me to no end that someone might be profiting off of using their name and deceiving loyal fans who think they are getting authentic band merch. I should probably see if the guys in the band (who I do actually know) are aware that the band’s name is being used like that. Until I found this article, I didn’t realize how widespread such a problem was.

  20. I just found one of my articles in a magazine. They took it from exinearticles but they did not display a hot link and they actually printed it in their magazine. I was given credit by name but for someone to print your work without permission can cause the article to not be accepted or compensation reduced because it has been published previously. Anyway I am not going to name the pub right now as I want to see how they handle it as it is sure to be an oversight on their part on how they can use the article but I have received one unprofessional response from them.

  21. Plagiarism isn’t Judith’s only crime. In February 2010, she solicited Berkshire Grown, a nonprofit group, for participants in her so-called Chef/Source Collaboration dinner to be held in the Fall of 2010. As a maple syrup producer, I signed up for this event, paid the $50 registration fee, enthusiastic about the opportunity to have our maple syrup used by a chef at this event. Come late November, I never heard anything more about the event and contacted Judith about the event. She informed me that there were not enough registrants and offered to have my farm featured in her magazine. I asked for my $50 refund instead, stating that no one should have to pay money to have an article written about them. She replied that she didn’t have the money to pay me back. When I tried to reach her again via email, her email address was disconnected. If she were not a crook, she would have canceled the event and refunded registrants their money. I am appalled that she still has a magazine (or does she?). This woman needs to go to jail.

  22. I stopped buying the magazine, even stopped reading it in the Library. I turn off the CBS when they bring out a cook’s rep for a segment. They are all crooks and Griggs really they her employer a lot of damage.

  23. […] Neat things get shared over the internet with a lightning fast rate, but I very rarely see any text or links accompanying them that credit the creator.  It’s mostly artwork and comics, but it happens with other media as well.  Tumblr and Facebook seem to be the biggest culprits with this, but it’s a pretty sad and longstanding tradition on the internet.  What gives?  Do we undervalue entertainment that much now? Or is it a part of the myth that if it’s on the internet, copyright laws don’t apply? […]

  24. Tony Durso said: “I would expect attribution as being only fair. I believe that when someone publishes on the Internet, that quotes, references, backlinks, and so forth are ordinary and expected. However, that stops when no references are made, and the now-perpetrator has profited off the articles, casting them off as his or her own.”
    I agree. In fact, when quoting someone on a blog or in a forum, I will take as much as I need, even up to tge entirety of the comment or post, clearly citing the original author as you can see above. Content from another site is different matter, though. When quoting from elsewhere on the web, I will copy and paste no more than a few paragraphs, the size of the original article dictating how much I take, before crediting the author of the original piece and linking back to it.
    @ Sarah: What you’re talking about isn’t a copyright issue because names cannot be copyrighted. Having said that, though, a trademark lawyer would be interested in any case where use of a name is unlicensed. And no, a name doesn’t have to registered to be a trademark in the U.S. according to the Lanham Act.
    Source: Have Android, will Google.

  25. Craig said: “While it is perfectly clear that Griggs is entirely in the wrong here, what she did is not theft. It is plagiarism, it is also copyright infringement, but neither of those things constitute theft.”
    Quoted for truth.

  26. jerseyjoe said: “The point of registration is that you must have a registration in order to sue – and many lawyers will be eager to take a case if the work is registered because that law gives them the right to recover all their own fees and costs.”
    Actually, that’s untrue. Works don’t have to be registered at the U.S. Copyright Office in order for infringers to be sued, and actual damages are recoverable on unregistered works. This is because copyright automatically attaches to works the moment the save button is clicked, and has done so since 1989. The real point of registration is that the costs of the case can be recovered from the defendants by the plaintiff if they win, as you have stated, and punitive damages can also be claimed for.
    Disclaimer: IANAL, but I have done a lot of research into copyright via Google.

  27. […] Neat things get shared over the internet with a lightning fast rate, but I very rarely see any text or links accompanying them that credit the creator.  It’s mostly artwork and comics, but it happens with other media as well.  Tumblr and Facebook seem to be the biggest culprits with this, but it’s a pretty sad and longstanding tradition on the internet.  What gives?  Do we undervalue entertainment that much now? Or is it a part of the myth that if it’s on the internet, copyright laws don’t apply? […]

  28. […] state of the law seems to allow it. Nevertheless, I am a little sensitive on that, as the issue is somewhat controversial. Drawing a line between listing ingredients (fine) and exactly how the mix and cook them (maybe not […]

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