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.

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161 Comments

  1. I saw a reference to this situation on Facebook this afternoon and am glad to read the additional details you’ve posted here. Seems to me like all those who have been wronged could somehow come together (as a class action?) and sue the crap outta Cooks Source.

    Nice additional research!

  2. Nice reporting, Ed. This stuff happens more than we like to think and, as Ms Gaudio points out, the direct and opportunity of costs of litigation for the copyright holder are so much higher than the remedy sought that there’s little consequence to the offending party.

    You would think that a public shaming would be a reasonably effective deterrent but some, including (apparently) Ms Griggs, are difficult to embarrass. Bad behavior shouldn’t go unpunished.

  3. That’s a huge amount of research you’ve done into this story… and so quickly – makes for fascinating further reading.

    I read about this story through Facebook this evening. I hope that the international media attention now will help the author of the article get her apology, her charity donation and some financial reward herself, especially since she asked for so very little.

  4. Some NPR articles have been lifted as well as Martha Stewart, Paula Deen, and NPR. Does that elevate it to class action status?

  5. Great reporting Ed. Well done. If the majority of this magazine is stolen they should be forced out of business. I agree with Ed that this type of activity happens more than we think.

  6. Excellent article. Invaluable research and screencaps.

    Add Disney to the list of those plagiarized. You can NOT choose a worse copyright holder to tangle with.

    The facebook comment:

    Jayson Elliot says:
    http://www.facebook.com/pages/Cooks-Source-Magazine/196994196748#!/photo.php?fbid=246833801748&set=a.246825371748.137954.196994196748&pid=3294326&id=196994196748

    Stolen from Donna Smith at the Disney-owned site Recipes Today:

    http://www.recipestoday.com/articles/wedding-planning/wedding-food-trends-4269/

  7. Informative piece, quickly and well put-together.

    Does anyone have any idea at this point how big the staff at the magazine is? What culpability would they share with Griggs?

  8. I’ve been following this story all day. I’m just appalled. As a teacher, I spend hours each semester working with students on how to properly cite sources, respect copyright, and follow fair use practices. To have someone employed in publishing say “the web is considered ‘public domain'” is very frustrating. I think I will be using this as an example in my class. I promise to respect everyone’s copyright, too!

  9. Way to do a thoughtful and researched story about a fast-moving situation, instead of just doing a quick synopsis of events like the major news outlets! This is without a doubt the best article I’ve seen about this debacle.

  10. Bob – If you go to the FB page and look at screen caps of the magazine, they list the ‘staff’ on one page. Looks like Judith, a handful of “writers” who may or may not be real, and an “illustrator”.

    I say ‘may or may not be real’ because one of the writers’ names appeared as the author of a stolen WebMD article. People are getting semantic in some forums about whether Cooks Source committed plagiarism or just infringed on copyright. The WebMD article being attributed to one of the Cooks Source “writers” is definitely an instance where it was full-on plagiarism.

  11. You have done a tremendous amount of professional inquiry in less than 20 hours! How on Earth did you find out so much!? Thank you so much for the hard work – watching everything transpire has been mind-numbing and you’ve made incredible sense out of it.

    I too wonder if some class action is possible – as for the Internet response, Facebook Flaming, site crashing, Twitter account hijacking, a Google bomb campaign; for all I know Griggs is no longer the only person using her SSN. This issue is violently dear to those publishing on the Internet.

    Thanks again!

  12. This is an excellent piece of journalism. I’m very impressed that you were able to get all this information this fast.

    Way to go and Thanks!

  13. Thank you for this. I’ve added a link to this *outstanding* article from my blog and FaceBook page.

    Griggs has spit in the face of every reputable editor in the industry. It’s too bad she got away with it for so long.

    No more.

  14. Lovely post, but I disagree with you on one point.

    The avalanche has started, it is too late for the pebbles to vote – paying $130 and printing a pair of apologies won’t stop this. It’ll get one person off their back, and maybe a little more than that, but the sheer level of nicking stuff that’s been shown here means that it’ll carry on with or without Monica Gaudio’s continued involvement.

  15. Great article. I don’t think this issue would bother me as much if Ms. Griggs was simply ignorant of how copyright works. However, when she essentially laughed in the face of everyone who called her on her major faux pas, my pity went right down the toilet.

  16. I’ve been watching the progress of this all day, and thanks for a really good summary.
    It would seem that the copyright laws are set up in a way that means individual writers and content publishers can NEVER get retribution or results. I’ve had so many of my images and articles from my blog reprinted online by those trying to profit (usually article spammers trying to create more links back to their for-profit sites), and there isn’t a thing I can do about other than send nasty emails.
    The law needs to catch up with the internet. It’s baffling that people like this editor honestly believe they are acting in good faith, and frustrating that they get away with it.

  17. Thank you for this article. I’ve been working with many others to compile a list of duplicate articles in Cooks (sic) Source. We have a Google Doc here, http://bit.ly/dDoxxP, with 35 instances found so far.

    Several of these were discovered by you thanks for writing such a strong article and please feel free to use the data in that spreadsheet for more of the same.

  18. Excellent work! Ms. Gaudio may not want to pursue federal court, but I’ll bet some of the other copyright holders will. This will serve as a great example for those teaching copyright, the Web, public domain, and the power (good or ill) of social media.

  19. Excellent research, though the results are unsurprising. This morning, when I read Nick Mamatas’ piece, my immediate thought was “How many other articles has she plagiarized?” That’s the thing about casual plagiarists — they never do it just once. Plagiarism is a long-term habit.

    What does astonish me is her claim that she’s worked in the industry for three decades. How can she know so little about copyright? But if that really is her letter, she’s not just wrong; she’s pig-ignorant, and confident about it. I think she must have spent a good many of those thirty years in the company of people who are humbly grateful to be published at all.

  20. While this magazine is clearly in the wrong in many cases, my understanding is that a recipe, as a list of ingredients, is not copyrightable. So, when they lifted the scan from the 1942 recipe book and reprinted it, that was scummy, but not a copyvio.

  21. Hi, someone IMed me this story, and then i went and read a litany of snarky comments posted to the Cooks Source magazine facebook page, and i read the comments above about how invaluable all this is to bring justice to Cooks Source. Then i paused and I thought, hmm… yesterday the federal reserve a private bank, in conspiracy with the Treasury department announced it would channel roughly $800B MORE to the Wall St banks in an effort to keep them from facing their real losses, a decision which seriously damages the value of every dollar every person has in a bank account. (the US dollar is down 15% the past month! – if you started with 100 in your bank account last month its now worth 85). Additionally this money sent to Wall St is owed now by US the tax payers. On top of that, on top of all that this money mostly finds its way into commodities, driving up the cost of oil etc which is going to hit the grocery store prices in a few months. And most nobody says a peep, and certainly no facebook firestorm.

    Meanwhile hundreds of people obviously spent hours railing away at Ms.Griggs over some two-bit recipes, probably worth a few hundred bucks in their grand total.

    “This will serve as a great example for those teaching copyright, the Web, public domain, and the power (good or ill) of social media.”

    Indeed it is a great example; social media is completely wasted on the petty and ignorant.

  22. Some NPR articles have been lifted as well as Martha Stewart….

    Oy. She stole from Martha Stewart?!

    May God have mercy on her soul.

  23. 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.

  24. Sorry to hear about this. I had a similar situation and I learned how your copyright is worthless unless you have the money to enforce it. I did also find a case of someone going to federal court without a lawyer, and winning. It’s sad that someone would make a living by stealing the work of others but stealing is nothing new so I’m not surprised. Since there is an ongoing pattern to this it may actually be fraud and that’s a criminal offense. May be a good idea to check with a lawyer of DA.

  25. Thanks for the good reporting, and some extra advice/food for thought to all readers: completely destroying the reputation of people and outlets like this is probably the most effective way to deal with them. A few months ago I as in the same situation as Mrs Gaudio:

    I found a magazine copy something I did, in the most unprofessional way: integrally, technically very badly (cut-n-paste removing all links, thereby producing useless text), without attribution. When I asked to replace the copy with an excerpt and link to the source, they went in panic and just tore down the whole copy. You can read all details at When traditional media want copyright for themselves, but violate others’ copyright

    Hope this helps.
    Marco

  26. My guess would be that Cooks Source is Judith Griggs, and that none of the content is original.

  27. This is just one of those things that makes internet sources unreliable. Some issues concerns copyright of pictures. Moreover, a solid internet law or standard should be established now to prevent such incidents to happen again.

  28. The cookbook writer Richard Olney (after being repeatedly plagiarized) went to court over this issue some years back. The court apparently decided that the list of ingredients was not subject to copyright, but the description of what you then did to them, being an example of your “voice” as a writer, was.

  29. I am really disappointed that no one here seems to understand copyright. This is basic stuff if you are a writer or publisher. See: http://www.copyright.gov/laws/

    Copyright attaches to an original work from the moment of creation. For example, this message you are reading is now copyrighted. It does not have to be registered or display any symbol or notice to that effect. Doing that is simply an extra-legal gesture.

    The infringed writer has some powerful – wait until you see how powerful – remedies. There is a Federal Law called the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act). it was put on the books to protect the major record labels amd film studios. But it has turned out to be easy for an individual writer to stop any infringer in their tracks.

    All you ned do is file a “take down notice” together with a “complying notice of infringement” with whoever hosts the web site. If they fail to remove the offending article “expeditiously” (the word used in the law, that hosting company can be fined $250,000 and a two yeat jail term for each offense. The notice has strict rules but here’s one of many web site hostig companies that spellls out the law http://buildinghosting.com/legal/.

    As for her rights and financial interests, she should file a copyright registration by following the instructions at http://www.copyright.gov/help/faq/faq-register.html. A writer can register everything he or she has ever written with one application for $35. 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.

    No, I am not a lawyer but I have been writing on the Internet since early 1994. (www.travelthenet.com).

  30. Artists, bloggers, photographers etc, should probably work together like this more often. It’s a far more useful deterrent than the remote possibility that someone will spend the money to register, pay for attorneys, send those Cease & Desist letters, then spend months if not years awaiting the decision of some judge to hopefully make someone like Griggs stop using someone else’s work and maybe get some small payoff that might not even cover the expenses, never mind the lost time/wages spent on something like this. This was far more practical and a lot more satistfying and alot less in legal fees.

    Whatever ad revenue Ms. Griggs received, I doubt that it make up for the exposure she’s received the last day or so and she’ll probably be under some rather intense scrutiny for a while.

  31. I have had tons of articles and recipes reused without permission or payment over the years, often by large publications that for various reasons even my book publishers have not wanted to take on. It is really, really tough financially to spend the time and money (sometime lots of it), to test recipes till they are sound and very tasty, then have them lifted and used for free, occasionally even in completing cookbooks. Recently, I was questioned by a blogger who had noticed that a really good, somewhat unusual recipe in one of my books was strikingly similiar to one in a competing work. I immediately clarified that I was in fact the creator, but the problem of how I can bear the expense of creating original material when it gets ripped off and used by a competitor remains. Unfortunately, copyright law doesn’t really protect recipes either–the “borrower” can change the recipe proportions/ingredients slightly , fiddle with the instructions a bit, and probably avoid a judgment even if the creator could afford to go to court. I don’t see a good end to this in sight…..

  32. Ed, you are now on my rss feed and added you to the ad-block whitelist. Thank you for all of the hard work.

  33. When will people learn that they cannot steal someone’s intellectual property — ever! I hope they get nailed and that is one magazine for sure that I will never buy or even have in my house.

    As an author who has been plagiarized quite a few times, I certainly am sympathetic with all of the writers involved here.

    Great article, Edward!

  34. I hope Cooks [sic] Source sends a complaint to you for using scans of their magazine without permission.

    Not because you’re in the wrong in any way (the scans are perfect examples of Fair Use), but because the irony would be just delicious.

  35. OK, there’s no defending this woman, and hopefully the message will reach others who plagiarize. But does anyone else think the response — the carpetbombing on Facebook and all over the blogosphere, calling all her advertisers and distributors, burying her with e-mails and phone calls, etc. — is more than a bit out of proportion?

    We’re talking about a tiny publication (circulation appears to be well under 20,000) in a mostly rural area. The idea that she has profited handsomely from her willful ignorance is laughable.

    The hate and vitriol and the glee people are taking in piling on is pretty unseemly.

  36. Unfortunately, copyright law doesn’t really protect recipes either–the “borrower” can change the recipe proportions/ingredients slightly , fiddle with the instructions a bit, and probably avoid a judgment even if the creator could afford to go to court. I don’t see a good end to this in sight…..

    Nancy, unfortunately for recipe-creators such as yourself, recipes are not subject to copyright protection at all — even against exact copying. Recipes, and the broader class of procedures and methods, run afoul of the idea/expression distinction in copyright: you cannot claim ownership of an idea, but you can claim ownership of a particular expression of an idea. Recipes run into a problem where the idea (a process for creating a particular delicious result) can only be expressed in one way (this is called “merger”) — using a specific list of ingredients and set of instructions. In such a case, no copyright protection is available (the Copyright Office has more information here). As unfair as it may seem, copyright law’s purpose is to protect novel forms of expression, and not necessarily to protect your hard work.

    I think this is in part why cookbooks tend to follow recipes with essays discussing the recipe itself. While the recipes they use are not protectable expression, discussions of the recipes are.

  37. The hate and vitriol and the glee people are taking in piling on is pretty unseemly.

    I see it as a direct response to the condescension that the Cooks Source editor, Judith Griggs. People hate that. And there’s a lot more people who side with Ms. Gaudio. They all want to express their displeasure with her conduct. It may be unfortunate for Ms. Griggs (but hilarious for all observers) that she didn’t learn her lesson sooner and in smaller instances.

  38. @Bigyaz: Dude, do I ever agree. As a writer, I find the story horrifying (especially Judith’s email!), but the response to this may be the most frightening thing I’ve ever seen on the internet.

    Considering the majority of the people attacking her are people that were in no way harmed or are in no way associated with any of this … this response is overwhelmingly inappropriate and out of control.

    This is why the law exists. To handle people that steal. I’m beginning to wonder if many of this people are really, genuinely upset (and if so, why are they upset to such an incredible level over something that in no way affects them) or if they just like being part of a mob attacking a “villain”.

    People need to calm down and let the damaged parties handle this. I think Monica, as the original person who began it, needs to step forward and tell people to calm down. This is not the way this process should be handled. Not at all.

  39. Facebookers – instead of leaving snarky comments, please report the Crooks’ Source page to FB authorities. The magazine is a criminal organization and Facebook will need to shut them down.

  40. Mr. Champion,
    This is the kind of in-depth, investigative journalism that we no longer see in newspapers and new casts.

    On the “Mainstream news about Cooks Source plagarism” on the Cooks Source Facebook page, I was checking out this story as written by the Washington Post, LA Times, The Guardian (UK) and others and I have to say, your telling of the story was the most complete that I have read.

    Thank you for your work and as the above poster Jason Richardson wrote: “you are now on my rss feed and added you to the ad-block whitelis”

  41. …but the response to this may be the most frightening thing I’ve ever seen on the internet.

    Then you haven’t been on the Internet long 🙂 Did you miss the furor over Marie Claire’s fatty article? And of course there was Christine O’Donnell and Scott Baio. Most of the time, Internet mobs target more public figures because they are, well, public. Cooks Source drew such wide attention because Neil Gaiman noticed it.

    People do love to hate a villain, and Judith Griggs set herself up as the perfect villain. Is the backlash out of proportion? Yes. But really, the worst thing that can happen is the magazine is forced to close and Judith Griggs loses her job. People are more entertained than angry over this. Only those of us in the publishing world are truly upset, because stealing content is personal to us. Everyone else is having a rollicking good time.

    Don’t worry. This will blow over in a week and then due process will reassert itself.

  42. @That Guy:

    This is the “most frightening thing” you’ve ever seen on the internet? You’ve got to be kidding me. I’ve seen the Cooks Source FB page (actually, pages and pages, by this point) – for the most part, people are posting one-liners like:

    “Cooks Source was an informant on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction”

    “cooks source started the great chicago fire in 1871 by soaking a koala bear in ether and throwing it onto a pile of fertilizer”

    “Cooks Source is going to steal every joke we post.”

    These sorts of comments simply don’t warrant the use of adjectives such as “frightening,” “overwhelmingly inappropriate” and “out of control.” You want to see frightening? Go Google “Kathy Sierra” – now that’s frightening.

    Cooks Source needs to acknowledge the situation and offer a gracious, sincere apology. Instead, Griggs is doubling down, engaging in sockpuppetry and otherwise prolonging the agony. It’s the mag’s responsibility – not Monica’s – to bring this to a more dignified end.

  43. @Angela

    I’ll speak in general here, rather than just for this specific situation … but Internet Mob Mentality is frightening. Whether it’s this, the “fatty” article, the old “Motrin Mom” ad/youtube debacle, or anything that gets people this worked up.

    There are proper ways and proper channels to handle these types of issues. Internet Mob Mentality never does anything positive and it just makes people look insane.

    People need to calm down and ask themselves if they’re really seeking justice or if they just like fueling the fire … and if they’re just fueling the fire, then they need to be honest with themselves about it.

    This situation in particular is a tough one. Not only are these people attacking Judith and Cooks Source, but they’re flooding advertisers with calls, emails, etc. How do they think it in any way benefits organizations that are so small they’re advertising in Cooks Source Magazine to flood them this way?

    Anyone who thinks these small businesses aren’t being hurt by these champions of intellectual property rights are deceiving themselves.

    There are people that are genuinely being hurt by Cooks Source. Some of them are very large and have legal teams. These are the people that should be handling this issue.

    Not internet vigilantes.

    I don’t think this backlash is entertaining. I think it’s disgusting. Because it’s happening for reasons that have nothing to do with actual justice by people that weren’t involved.

  44. Thanks for following up on this.

    BTW, Angela you wrote: “But really, the worst thing that can happen is the magazine is forced to close and Judith Griggs loses her job.”

    Here’s the thing, I think that Judith Griggs IS the magazine. The more I read about this, and based on the limited “staff” listed in the screen captures shown online, the more this sounds like a one (maybe two or three at most) woman operation out of a basement somewhere.

    So far, it seems nearly none of the content was original. I envision a person or two surfing the internet, putting copy into a publisher application, securing the advertisers (it’s a free magazine, after all) and dropping it off at several locations around New England on a semi-regular basis.

    It’s a great work from home gig if you can get it, I guess. I don’t know how the plagiarism went undetected for so long however. Beyond the legal mess Judith Griggs has gotten herself into, her reputation locally is shot. My folks live in a small town and there’s a magazine like this there – the “publisher/editor” received money for advertising from friends, restaurant and business owners alike. And they also received permission to distribute from those same friends, business owners, etc. Can you imagine how being harassed because of Judith’s stupidity has changed these relationships?

    There’s no real “business” to take down, it looks like to me. But one woman has seriously ruined her own life, both personal and financial, through stupidity, hubris and willful ignorance. The funny thing is I’m not even sure she realizes it. If her flippant FB response is any indication, I kind of get the feeling she’s laughing in a kitchen with her cat saying, “Some of those crazy people on the Internet are being silly again!” The weight of this probably won’t all hit her until the cease-and-desist letters and the court summons show up in that PO Box she’s rented.

  45. The editor is receiving so much hostility because, instead of actually doing research herself to make sure she was in the right in her actions to use the article, she retorted by saying the author should compensate her instead. Had Judith shown some due diligence and done a quick concerning copyright law and the internet should would have come across the DMCA and realized she was completely in error.

    Unfortunately, it appears she did not do this and insists works that appear online are in the public domain (she has probably seen this on blogs that take images and write a blurb about how it is “assumed the pictures are PD” and ran with it) and later claimed the author needed to compensate her for editing it. Regardless of the fact that the edit compensation part is laughable, but why would Judith think she should be compensated because she edited an article she took without permission so that it would fit her publication? You edited the content to fit your needs not the author’s. As such all associated costs are your sole responsibility!

    The out cry from the general public will eventually die however, writers will continue to press the issue because copyright infringement affects all writers because each new incident where the thief gets away with it unchallenged, sparks another to try their hand at it. After a while all web content is in jeopardy.

  46. @Angela – Not a writer. Not having a rollicking good time. I’m outraged because a) someone’s personal work was unapologetic-ally stolen & presented to the public as original; and b) because the *principles* of honesty, fairness, & propriety seem to be all but extinct among print media houses nowadays. I’d be willing to bet that – however subconsciously – I’m not the only one who hears the same notes of dishonorable journalism in this story that have lead so many of us to begin to trust in bloggers and their blogs (like Champion & others) more and more while rejecting more “traditional” publications less and less.

  47. In regards to the people questioning the ‘mob mentality’ and the vitriol by people that should have no interest and ‘haven’t been wronged’, I think there are many in that crowd (myself included) that want to make an example of this situation and the editor.

    I imagine as well that it is probably a one or two person operation. I am a fan of a similar magazine about pets that circulates in our area. I know the person that runs the magazine. She’s a girl that started it up right out of college after being unable to find a job. The magazine is free and subsides on advertising revenue. I am assuming that this Cooks Source magazine is a similar operation.

    I don’t think anyone but the very ignorant are assuming that the Cooks Source editor is sitting on top of a giant of an institution. But, the original author was not (and amazingly, is still not) asking for a large sum of compensation for this. She has a lot of integrity to stick to her demand of an apology and $130 donation after being insulted the way Judith did in her reply email.

    With that said, I think that many freelance, amateur, and/or professional writers, like myself, really want an example made here so that it is perfectly clear that people cannot get away with plagiarizing other’s work, especially not for profit (even if it isn’t a large amount).

    This Judith remains quite flippant and unapollogetic over the entire ordeal, and I can only assume that it is her cavalier attitude towards all of this that the ‘mob’ wants to make damn sure that in the future, people will think long and hard before they decide to try to get away with stealing other’s hard work.

    But, admittedly, it would be nice if this could have a more robust effect on how people see intellectual property rights as a whole and maybe think twice before they do things such as illegally downloading music and the like…

  48. @Elly & Zach:

    Your responses are exactly my point. Why does anyone who wasn’t wronged by this feel it’s *their* responsibility to make an example of this person and this magazine?

    How is this anyone’s business that isn’t one of the writers, the magazine, the lawyers or the advertisers?

    Yes, what Judith did is beyond concept. But I stand by my point. The mob mentality of people feeling they are justified to handle this the way they are is *frightening*.

    I am a freelance writer. I’d be beyond pissed if someone took my work and then handled it the way Judith did. But I could never justify the way that everyone is acting here.

    This isn’t about justice … or wanting Monica to get a real apology. It’s about people taking things way too far because they’re on the internet and they can do it and get away with it.

  49. Personally I find the response uplifting. In less than two days a random group of people organized to defend the works of a small content creator. Doing research to further expose this magazine and contacting news organizations to spread this story.

    While there certainly are some angry posts, I’ve seen those that might go too far (such as posting her home address) get reigned in by the masses. While we all enjoy the LoLz, most people posting to the FB page are looking to be seen as an intelligent crowd angered out of real moral issues and hubris, with a few thousand internet Memes to pass the time.

  50. @Cat I believe you’re right. According to one sock puppet on the Facebook account, it was a one person operation. There’s also evidence that Judith Griggs was fired from her job last year and turned to the Internet to make money. The same sock puppet also mocked commenters who said Ms. Griggs would be sued by saying they couldn’t get blood from a turnip. I feel a bit bad for her situation, but not enough to condone her actions.

    @branchesPSP Glad to hear some non-writers feel outraged too. Most of the comments directed at Cooks Source on Facebook involve “I’m hear (sic) for the lulz.” I think they missed the point.

    @That Guy I agree that Internet mobs get out of control. I’ve been on the receiving end of one, and it wasn’t much fun. However, if you let it bother you too much, you end up either becoming a pinata yourself at the hands of the mob or leading your own mob against the mob. I used to be an active participant in political blogs, and I learned my lessons the hard way.

    As individuals, the best thing we can do is not join the mob. I’ve let the writer who is at the center of the mess let her know I support her. Some of the saner people on Facebook are starting a fundraiser for the small business advertisers to help them offset losses and inconvenience. Do what you can and ride it out. The 4Chan and /b/ crowds do it for fun. You can’t stop them with logic. Luckily, they have short attention spans. This would be over if Ms. Griggs would stop stoking the fire. But logic doesn’t seem to stop her either.

    Be positive. Do no evil. If you see something that bothers you, try to offset it by doing something good. Never engage, debate, or argue. Internet rules to live by 😉

  51. The response to plagiarism cannot be overdone. Freedom of the press is our first amendment right; our Constitution clearly protects copyright. Judith Griggs and her thieving “publication” should be shut down forthwith, and she should be blacklisted from any future job in publishing. It may not be worthwhile to prosecute her, as I doubt that she or Cooks Source has substantial assets. But she/it certainly should be publicized as a fraud and a thief.

  52. @ That Guy

    Some people just don’t respond unless they’re ham-fisted upside the head. This situation itself is proof! If Judith had issued a real apollogy and at least attempted to offer a legitimate compromise or solution, it would have ended there. Instead, she became smarmy and condescending, obviously not getting the point.

    Is it my personal business whether or not Judith and the blogger sort this out? No. But it IS my business when things like this go from being the outlier to being the norm. If more and more people/businesses get away with more and more dishonesty, it eventually becomes the norm, and suddenly you find yourself with YOUR hard work pillaged. Dang. Maybe then it would make sense as to why people wanted to stand up to this sort of thing en masse before it got out of hand.

    How about this. I know it’s hyperbolic, but bear with me… Should I let a mugger run off down the street with a woman’s purse? Heck, the tough gal even managed to trip him up a little bit. But it barely slowed him down, and now he’s blowing raspberries at her and flipping her the bird as he scampers down the sidewalk. But, still… It’s not MY purse. What do I care? Until the next guy realizes that nobody did anything about the LAST mugger. He sees it as an easy getaway. Well, crap. Now this new mugger has MY wallet, and ain’t nobody doing anything to help me out.

    Leave it to the police, you say. We have laws in place to punish these people, you say. Well, the cops know that the chances of catching this guy are slim. He’s not Public Enemy Number 1. Odds are, he’ll get away. So will the next guy. And the next.

    But, if that mugger made it 3 paces before getting collectively clotheslined by Brock Lesnar, Terry Tate, and Chuck Norris, he’s damn sure going to think twice before he does it again. And when the story starts hitting the media that a bad ass superteam is out spear tackling muggers, his mugger buddies might give it a second thought before they try to get away with a same (or similar) crime.

    We have copyright laws and the like in place, along with a court system to sort these things out. But, when it is over a matter like this, our blogger doesn’t have the scratch to take Judith to court even if she wanted to. Maybe a public humiliation is going to serve as a fair warning to other potential violators and it can be avoided before it even happens again to somebody else. In the end, it IS a personal matter to me. And if you create anything yourself, it should be a personal matter to you, as well.

  53. Very well written article on this — I think the reason this situation resonates so much, is that many of us are individual creators (writers, artists, and the like), who have had our work stolen and used without even a basic request, and then we feel powerless (without an expensive lawyer, or endless time to fight) to do anything about it. It’s the story of the underdog wronged, the person who took their own time to create something special, while someone else profited (however meagerly — and it is a mistake to think of profit just in terms of dollars earned) off of your efforts. Plus, it is a story of hubris, the kind of pride that makes a person respond to someone pointing out their error with ego and disdain. One can only hope that one learns a lesson, swallowing one’s pride after the fall.

  54. Intellectual property is still property, I find it incredibly sad when someone who is in charge of a publication actually thinks it OK to use copy written material. It makes me think of the movie Shattered Glass. You cant just get away with this stuff if you profit even in the slightest from stolen or incorrect work. Please don’t get me wrong i think the advertisers needed to be notified but not handled the same way as the magazine. I can tell you from experience 10 cents a word is a common rate for that size of a publication and the author of the article was being more than generous by giving the editor an opportunity to correct the situation. The flagrant disregard for copyright’s on this many occasions is a cause for people to stand up against it in hopes to end the theft.

  55. I just wanted to say I’m tired of all these people claiming “how much music do you have downloaded?” and the like. Not everybody does and I’m tired of that being thrown out; it equates to just because we have a computer we all must do something ‘bad’ and therefore have no right to complain because we’re no better.

    Also, somewhere I read someone (either here or at the MSN article) complaining about why do we care about this when there are so many bigger problems in the world? Well, honestly to me it is like the saying “One death is a tragedy, many is a statistic.” It’s sad but true. Someone said we should be worrying about the economy and the value of a dollar – what’s happening on Wall Street.

    You know, we all know, we all hear about it every day. There are some things we can do, but much we can’t. However this, this is not about the ‘many’ statistic, this is the ‘one.’ We can do something we can reach out and find support as a whole, both writers, non-writers, students, and those who are tired of people acting with smug attitudes about their wrong-doings and blatant victim blaming.

    We can come together and support places like 2nd Street Bakery who has emerged from this as what we all want small business to be – ethical and caring. Not all of us (outside of voting and a few other things) can do a darn thing about the national economy, but we can help the economy of ‘one.’

  56. Wow, this gets more pathetic by the hour. Cooks Source, a “criminal organization”. Really? Ms.Griggs “deserves it”, good to “make an example” of her, likened to a mugger. A mugger? are you kidding? And people think Tea Party members are batty. At least they seem to be interesting in things that actually effect their lives in substantive ways. This is a two bit magazine; total loss of value for the writers plagiarized is probably somewhere between 5 and 6 dollars each, since’s cooks source value add is the aggregate of otherwise mundane writing.

    What i think this reflects is: 1. the kids from /b/ who truly are in it just for the lolz and i actually bear them no grudge. they don’t really care, they certainly don’t buy into the fake self-righteousness on display 2. sanctimonious middle class sudo-professionals who feel rather dis-empowered in their lives and are happy to have an easy target where they can really make a stand for “justice”. Really lame, i really wish people could learn to organize around things that actually matter. It bums me out that seemingly educated people are so easily distracted by and obsessed with the most meaningless tripe.

  57. That Judith Griggs and Cooks Source are brazen and brainless thieves is self-evident. If there is a “piling on” taking place on the web right now it’s entirely of their own instigation. I feel not an ounce of sympathy for someone whose entire business model seems to be built on a foundation of larceny.

    If this is, indeed, a one-woman operation, I still don’t have any sympathy. I’ve been out of work, too — desperately so — and never resorted to stealing from someone else to generate income.

    Beyond the trainwreck-gawking Facebook crowd, I haven’t seen the kind of false or misplaced anger that some here have accused us of. I’m a creator of intellectual property, too. I am therefore an interested party in this discussion, for when a shameless thief is smacked down hard — and perhaps sees her business destroyed — it may deter the next one, who was thinking about misappropriating my work.

  58. I first saw a copy of Cooks Source (The lack of apostrophe still bugs me!) on a bookshop shelf some time last year. Paging through, I was rather taken back to see numerous images and articles copied verbatim from other sources – both online and traditional “print”. At the time, I assumed the publication was some sort of one-source collection of articles/images gathered from other magazines, much in the fashion of Utne Magazine. It never occurred to me that the editors were truly stealing material from other sources. If you take a moment to go back and re-read (or read for the first time) the magazine, you will note the vast majority of articles are written under Judith Gregg’s byline. However, you will also note, if you do even rudimentary checking, the vast majority of these articles have been lifted in whole from other sources. The question becomes not how did this happen once, but rather, how did this continue for so long without exposure?

  59. You might consider a class action suit. Consult with a lawyer that handles class action suits. Every article will be brought into question and the lawyer go after the magazines assets.

  60. @ That Guy

    A quick peek at the mob action on Facebook will also show, that in addition to urging advertisers to abandon Cooks Source, many people all calling for (and others are responding) donations, positive publicity, etc. to help those advertisers who are pulling out of the magazine (some incurring financial loss by doing so). The mob isn’t just about pointing and laughing and mocking (and yes, some of the insults, and the attempts to publish Ms Griggs home phone/address) are out of hand, and many people posting on the page have objected to posts that are just nasty, childish behavior. Ridicule is acceptable, and to be expected given Ms. Griggs cavalier, condescending and willfully stupid attitude. But a vast portion of the posts on the group are to document and record/report the overwhelming theft of articles and images that this woman is guilty of, many from small operations that would have no way of knowing about it otherwise.D

  61. I’m glad that so many are behind Monica. With legal expenses being what they are, the biggest impact we can all make is to keep this in the spotlight until there is some sort of resolution. The more people read about it, the more people are educated about copyright issues. Judith’s behaviour is so blatantly unacceptable, I’m still shocked days later. Thanks for the article.

  62. Integrity Fairy: The tally of six involves proved copyright violations, meaning that I have confirmed with the copyright holders that Cooks Source did not obtain permission to reprint the article.

  63. Thanks for putting this all together in one place, Ed.
    I’m a little amused at all the outrage directed towards the outrage. Cooks seems to have been doing this to so many people for a very long time. I think a few (hundred? thousand?) disparaging comments on the internet are a small price to pay for such criminal behavior. And I think it’s completely appropriate for a bunch of people on the internet to band together for such a cause.

  64. While I appreciate the concern expressed here about ‘piling on’ and overdoing things, the rather pious invocation of ‘the law’ as a corrective seems a trifle foolish. I think a good deal of the ‘over-reaction’ comes from people who have seen too much of this arrogant disdain for the law go completely ignored, let alone unpunished. Look at some of the comments above. Perhaps one of the big boys would have slapped this silly woman down, but perhaps not. When there is relatively little to gain, there may well be a temptation to simply have the thief stop stealing only from particular sources, leaving the smaller writers still having their work stolen and used for gain.
    The odds are that some, maybe many, of the individuals in the mob think nothing of doing exactly the same thing they are attacking Griggs for. So? In this case, sanctimonious hypocrisy may be producing a generally ‘good’ result for the wider writing community. If nothing else, it may drive a useful point home to those Veruca Salts among us, that bad eggs may come to bad ends (at least on the Internet).

  65. I am a certificated teacher librarian with a masters in library science and am National Board Certified in library media.

    This is what I do. I teach students the research process, how to properly cite what they find and the laws regarding plagiarism and copyright.

    That is, that is what I used to do.

    Because of budget cuts, I’m now teaching elementary music using my other credential.

    So there will be a lot more Griggses in the future as I’m not sure who is going to be teaching the youth of today about copyright, plagiarism, research and citations.

    How do you stop it? You can cease to publish on the internet. Or you can educate, educate, educate.

    I hope Ms. Griggs has learned her lesson.

  66. She’s just lucky that 4chan didn’t catch on to it

  67. @That Guy:

    Are you sure you’re not Judith Griggs, or one of her friends, family or other hangers on? You just seem to be putting an awful lot of effort into denigrating those that feel strongly enough to make their opinions felt in relation to the blatant theft of other people’s intellectual property. I don’t have to be the owner of the intellectual property in question to be annoyed on their behalf.

    I guess the only positive out of this entire debacle is that I’ve discovered a few new food blogs to follow, and I am grateful to those that invest their time and effort to share these with me for free. I know if I ran a food magazine, I’d happily contact the authors of these articles and arrange to pay for them.

    Judith has crapped in her own nest, and I’m sure as heck not going to lend her my pooper scooper to clean it up – she’d probably try selling it back to me without cleaning it first, and then try telling me that her poop on my pooper scooper adds value!

    As for this being the “most frightening thing you’ve ever seen on the internet” … just wait until /b/ gets their hands on this.

  68. @ Will

    What part of “I know this is a bit hyperbolic, but bear with me” don’t you understand?

    The ‘mugger’ story is an analogy taken to the extreme. I wasn’t calling her a mugger. I was hoping that I could put it in terms that even someone like you could understand.

    “How else can I say it? I don’t speak no other languages!”
    -Bubba Sparks (Figured I had better attribute the quote, not Cooks Source it…)

  69. I thought the Downfall would be bringing out a rather tired meme, but it was actually very good.

    As a writer I’ve written for both publication and for free distribution online (and when I’ve done so I’ve stated clearly people are free to share it but marked myself as the original author). Didn’t take too long before I saw someone had put it on their website and taken the time to remove the tiny little copyright notice and written by from the corner of each page.

    In this case however it appears someones entire business model is stealing other peoples work, pasting it into a magazine, and selling advertising space. Costs would be minimal, and I can see how it could be a one person operation.

    The thing is she could have just gone with a business model where she paid authors a nominal fee and a writing credit they could put on their CV and she would have been golden.

  70. As an artist I am very cognizant of copyright law and have made the effort to educate myself regarding it. @Davis, while you are correct about a list of ingredients not being subject to copyright, the instructions that follow that list regarding how to put them together, is. Regardless, many of the articles Judith has stolen are NOT simply lists of ingredients meaning they became copyrighted the moment they were put into a physical format- whether on a computer, paper or blog.

    The interesting thing is, in many years of using photos taken by others (which are also copyrighted) I have always sought the permission of the photographer to use their work and have yet to be turned down or even charged for the privilege. I always give credit even when I am not asked to do so. All Judith had to do was ask for permission to reproduce the article and I am pretty darned sure she would have received it, gratis. Instead she goes on the defensive and becomes snarky and insulting.

    It’s like catching someone trespassing on your property. When you tell them they are trespassing the response is generally “well there were no signs posted.” When I have encountered this response my next question is: “well, did you think YOU owned this property?” Gee, if the trespasser doesn’t own it and KNOWS he or she doesn’t, who the hell did they think DID?

    One other point: ignorance of the law (and Judith claimed that, with “3 decades” of experience in publishing she KNOWS the law) is no excuse for breaking the law.

    ONLY because of her attitude do I hope her crappy little magazine goes belly up and I hope her reputation as a plagiarist, thief and all-around bitch follows her for the rest of her life. It’s called “justice.”

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