Friday, November 5, 2010

The Whole Cook Source Flap

I am going to give my 2 cents on this whole Cook Source thing. If you don't know what I am talking about, you can read more here and here. I am sure a few folks are going to take umbrage with my stance, but that is bound to happen.

So a magazine found a blog post, liked it, printed it while giving credit to the author. The author hears about it, and gets pissed? She wants printed apologies and a donation made, because she got published? What am I missing here? Who wouldn't want their stuff to be published while being credited? Isn't that one of the main tenants of blogging, to be linked to?

Sure, the response from the editor was one of the dumbest things ever written and she handled it tremendously bad. However, I am just floored that this person is pissed off. True, the internet is not public domain. However, every college paper in the world has citations. And all those students didn't contact the author to make sure they can use it. And every blog post (ok, not every one) has someone else linking back to it, and they didn't ask first before linking.

So what is the rub here?


Lisa Junker said...

Hi Matt-

I think there are some pretty significant differences between the examples you cite and what happened with Cooks Source, at least in my mind. In college papers, you might quote a few lines from a source and cite them, but that's not the same as copying an entire article and putting it into your paper (and you aren't selling advertising or subscriptions to your college papers and profiting thereby). And when you link to something online, you're directing readers back to the original author and his/her work, not copying the entire work and posting it in your own blog. Linking to something isn't the same as republishing it.

It also comes down to is copyright law: It's illegal to republish someone's work without their permission. And aside from the legal issue, I'd say it's a moral issue as well: It's just not right for me to take something of yours without asking you, even if I give you credit for it. If I went into your kitchen and took a bunch of ingredients without asking, giving you credit for the ingredients later wouldn't make it OK.

Travis A. said...

in a word, money. When a professional appropriates someone else's work without permission and SELLS IT, its a problem. When that "professional" then gets arrogant and condescending about using someone else's intellectual property to make a profit, it causes cooks source.

Matt Baehr said...

I am with you both. Money was the big thing that made this a problem. I agree with that. And Travis, you are right. This whole thing could have been avoided by taking a different tact.

wes Trochlil said...

I'm with Lisa. The issue here is ownership of intellectual property. I write an awful lot (on my blog, my newsletter, for ASAE, etc.) and I too would be pissed if someone lifted my info verbatim, even if they gave me credit. It's simple common courtesy to ask permission.

Plus, the publication is making money on SOMEONE ELSE's work. That sounds like larceny to me.


Wes Trochlil
Effective Database Management, LLC

Author of "Put Your Data to Work: 52 Tips and Techniques for Effectively Managing Your Database," published by ASAE and available here:

Joe said...

As others have said here, it's about the right to compensation. Copyright law in its most simple terms says that the originator of a work gets any and all positive benefits that result from that work, and anyone else who wants to capitalize on it must compensate the originator in some way. ASAE pays me to write things that association professionals will find useful or thought-provoking. Radio stations and iTunes pay royalties to recording artists so they can air music that people will want to listen to. And so on.

The internet has made things more complicated, but the basic principles remain the same. Cooks Source sells advertising, and it can only do that because enough readers enjoy its content that advertisers will pay to reach that audience. (It may also charge for subscriptions; I haven't checked.) The authors in that magazine who create the content that the magazine builds itself on must be compensated in some way, because their work is being used to make money for someone else. So they can either be paid with money, or they can be paid with exposure.

But even in the latter case, notifying the author and requesting permission is necessary.

Here's a fanciful scenario: If Harvard Business Review wanted to republish something I wrote, there's a pretty good chance I'd let them do it for free, because the exposure I'd get in that publication would be valuable to me as a writer. But HBR has to notify me to make sure that's the case, because it's also possible that I don't give a hoot about HBR's audience and that exposure to its audience is of no value to me. I might just want some cash. HBR has to ask my permission in order to allow me the chance to consider the benefits I'm due for my work.

Maggie McGary said...

OMG I am floored by the Editor's response!!! Wow. I think if you look up "balls" in the dictionary, her response might just be in there. Again: WOW.

But I digress...I agree with everyone else that it's basically stealing. Actually, not basically--it is stealing. It's one thing to link to another blog post from a blog; that at least sends traffic to the other blog; this is stealing something that someone else wrote and selling it.

It's one thing to ask to run something for free; it's another to just do it...THEN be bitchy about it.

valery said...

A blogger that wants to be published uses a copyleft or Creative Commons licence on their websites. I usually do.

If no such agreement is displayed, then a work is supposed to be copyrighted, i.e. you need to ask nicely to use it, even if you offer no money.

However the core of the PR disatser here is not copyright : it is simply the amateur and arrogant way the editor has answered.

Peter Campbell said...

So, say you write a cute blog entry about the fun game that you and your six year old kid played in the bath last night. And that entry is picked up and republished, with full attribution, on the North American Man Boy Love Association's (NAMBLA) web site. It's the web, right? You're published! Why should you complain that a potential employers web search on your name now reveals that you are a correspondent for NAMBLA, by this logic?

There are less extreme examples, too, such as artists and photographers who want to show samples of their work online but can't afford to just give that work away. There have been numerous cases of Fortune 500 companies stealing copyrighted images in order to promote their products. Is that really all good for the artist in question, for some mega-corp to profit off of their work without compensating them? Will they have legitimate buyers for their work when it's already associated with the megacorp's imaging?

The truth is that everyone should have the legal ability to determine where there original, copyrighted work is and isn't published. The fact that the internet makes it easy to steal doesn't make it right. Publishing content in a completely different context that the author has no say in is not the same thing as linking back to materials in their original context.

All that said, I publish my blog and most of my work under a cc share-alike license, I don't make a living from my blogging, and my motivation is to share knowledge, so that suits me. But I am glad that I have the right to publish other works under more restrictive licences.