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Cooks Source Magazine, Copyright Infringement, and The Power Of Social Media

By November 4, 2010

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Wow! Sometimes an event happens that just makes you say "wow." A story began circulating the Internet in earnest this morning. It seems that a writer named Monica Gaudio was told by a friend that her article, "A Tale of Two Tarts," had been printed in a small magazine called "Cooks Source" (yes, there really is no ' in the name as they print it). Ms. Gaudio assumed it was an error and contacted the editor. What she was told when she requested an extremely reasonable 10 cents a word for the article be donated to the Columbia School of Journalism set off what can only be called an Internet firestorm.

According to Ms. Gaudio (no one seems to be able to reach anyone at Cooks Source since this story broke), she received an email from Cooks Source that said:

"Yes Monica, I have been doing this for 3 decades, having been an editor at The Voice, Housitonic Home and Connecticut Woman Magazine. I do know about copyright laws. It was "my bad" indeed, and, as the magazine is put together in long sessions, tired eyes and minds somethings forget to do these things.
But honestly Monica, the web is considered "public domain" and you should be happy we just didn't "lift" your whole article and put someone else's name on it! It happens a lot, clearly more than you are aware of, especially on college campuses, and the workplace. If you took offence and are unhappy, I am sorry, but you as a professional should know that the article we used written by you was in very bad need of editing, and is much better now than was originally. Now it will work well for your portfolio. For that reason, I have a bit of a difficult time with your requests for monetary gain, albeit for such a fine (and very wealthy!) institution. We put some time into rewrites, you should compensate me! I never charge young writers for advice or rewriting poorly written pieces, and have many who write for me... ALWAYS for free!"

Not only does Cooks Source misspell their own title and spout the most insane statement about "public domain" I have ever heard, they attempt to shame Ms. Gaudio for daring to expect payment for her own work. Then, to top it all off Cooks Source suggests Ms. Gaudio should pay them for editing her work (which by the way is another point of contention as Cooks Source apparently thinks quoted arcane terms are misspellings).

Now, what does this all have to do with photography? A LOT. Shortly after this response from Cooks Source started circulating the internet the collective forces of the world began bombarding the Facebook page of Cooks Source and have begun putting together a list of all the other articles Cooks Source has apparently copied without permission. This list includes a large number of photographs. Apparently, Cooks Source used whatever photos it found on the internet as freely as it copied articles.

Most of us don't have the luxury of the entire Internet coming to our aide when our work has been taken without permission but I have to admit, I'm enjoying watching the fire today.

Review the REAL truth of copyright on the 'Net

Find out about licensing your photos


November 4, 2010 at 7:22 pm
(1) lesley says:

You have to wonder how people rise to positions of responsibility for content without someone checking that they fully understand both plagiarism and copyright.

Hopefully this internet storm will inform other equally obtuse authors and editors that simply adding in a name or a back link doesn’t give them the right to publish something without permission.

If more people battle back, perhaps intellectual property and copyright will eventually become better understood. Good for Monica Gaudio!

November 4, 2010 at 11:23 pm
(2) Sandi says:

I also read what you said, Liz, about it being wise to watermark every photo on the internet to protect it and therefore I try to do that even on sites that request it is better if you do not. I don’t know if that really helps, if someone is really knowledgable in Photoshop and knows how to remove that watermark. But I listened to you and learned how to do that. I do know someone who suggested “getting some photos off of Flikr” to use for a teaching assignment here. Is that right to do?

November 4, 2010 at 11:51 pm
(3) Nancy says:

Liz, thanks for pointing out how important it is to respect copyright laws. I hope this amazing outpouring of support and assistance for Ms. Gaudio does two things – highlight the actual copyright law and how it applies to publishing, writing and photography, and demonstrate to unscrupulous publishers and bloggers that writers aren’t afraid to stick up for their own.

Sandi, some photos on Flickr are okay to use if they are licensed for Creative Commons use, provided you properly attribute them and also display the Creative Commons license information for each image. Most Flickr photos are not so licensed and may not be used. To find photos that you can use, you’ll need to do an advanced search and check the box that says, “Only search within Creative Commons-licensed content” and, if applicable, the two boxes below it. It’s a time-consuming process.

November 5, 2010 at 1:28 am
(4) Sandi says:

Thank you so much for your response and information about the licensing on Flickr as well as for any photo on any site. I was uncomfortable with that statement and not really too familiar with Flickr. Now I know they meant it for special licensed photos I am sure.

Thanks again, I learn so much on this site.

November 5, 2010 at 5:37 am
(5) Kyle says:

When you put text up on the web (and I put up a lot, both on About as a Guide and elsewhere) there’s not much you can do to make it unliftable — after all, the text has to go up or it’s of no use to anyone.

With photos the situation is slightly different. While it’s not easy to make an image unliftable (people can and do lift images watermark and all), what you can do is limit the usefulness of the image you put up, by setting the resolution to 72 DPI, screen resolution, and sizing the image to the size you want. I never post anything that’s more than 500 pixels on a side, because that’s quite big enough for a screen view, and if I want the image to be smaller, say 200 pixels max for a blog post, I size it smaller before uploading it.

A thief can only do so much with images of these sizes, and certainly cannot print them in magazines or books. What gets me is people who post mosterous images resized though the html image tag to fit on the web page — the things take forever to load even with a fast connection, and practically invite theft.


November 5, 2010 at 8:45 am
(6) LizMasoner says:

Hi Sandi,

As Nancy said, Flikr allows users to set the usage requirements for each photo. This is actually due to user backlash because at one point Flikr automatically stamped all photos with the Creative Commons ok to share rights. Unfortunately, many people still believe that anything on Flikr is ok to use.

In response to this I’ve added a couple of articles in relation to copyright on Flikr that I think will help.

Where to find copyrights on Flikr

What do Creative Commons licenses mean?

November 5, 2010 at 10:35 pm
(7) Sandi says:

Hi Liz,

Thank you for the information on the licenses, good to keep and to know. I am glad Flikr has those choices for the photos.

Thank you, Kyle, for suggesting photo sizes and dpi where applicable, that makes sense also.

Appreciate the wonderful information and help available here, great site and people.

November 6, 2010 at 4:32 pm
(8) Rosario Sapienza says:

Any of us who are concerned about copyright infringement regarding our photography can do periodic checks through http://www.tinyeye.com and follow their suggestions about how do deal with any such unauthorized use.

November 6, 2010 at 9:04 pm
(9) Photography Guide says:

TinEye is a good free source but they do not find a huge number of illegally copied photos currently. They are expanding their database of searched sites and hopefully they will be more comprehensive in the future.

November 7, 2010 at 3:59 am
(10) Linda S. says:

I don’t know if you noticed, but Griggs also published articles lifted directly from different parts of About.com as well. On FB there is an extensive discussion going on including scrutinizing every article put out by Cooks Source. They even have a Google doc going so they can keep track of all the lifted content. Last I looked, it was at least 150 and they’ve only looked at issues from this year….

November 8, 2010 at 10:05 am
(11) Chris says:

It looks like they may be hosted via Verio.net. I wonder if what’s going on is in violation of their agreement with their host provider and can be shut down?

November 8, 2010 at 10:18 am
(12) Photography Guide says:

They are hosted by a different provider. There has already been one denial of service attack on the host that shut the site down for a few hours (I am not naming the host because of this). The host has not yet advised if they will be taking the site down or not. The vast majority of copyrighted materials were posted via the Facebook page while the “website” is just a couple of static information pages pointing to Facebook. Because of this they may not qualify for the “website” to be removed.

November 9, 2010 at 7:16 am
(13) geru says:

I’m a member of several photography forums where the great majority of posters are amateur photographers.

There isn’t a week that goes by where an amateur photographer doesn’t find photographs being used without permission.

The problem isn’t exclusive to the mom and pop operations. Big (actually huge) corporations have no qualms about lifting a photograph, even if it is watermarked.

The latest at one forum is a very well known auto magazine that lifted clearly watermarked photos taken at an auto show by an amateur. The guy reads the magazine and was shocked to see his photos in the latest edition. They had his watermark removed/cloned out and were attributed to the magazines photographer.

When the amateur contacted the magazine he was basically told he’d have to prove copyright infringement in court. In other words the magazine told him to go pound sand. At last post he has contacted a lawyer and is now seeking not only recognition but also a monetary judgment.

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