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While enjoying my obligatory “I’m not working tonight because it is Thursday and that means I don’t have to get up and do anything immediately in the morning” beer I ran across a pretty fascinating story that highlights intellectual property, plagiarism, and blog-based justice.  Apparently Cook’s Source Magazine – a small independent publication out of Sunderland MA that publishes recipes, cooking tips, etc. – lifted a recipe published in 2005 on godecookery.com by cooking blogger Monica Guadio called “A Tale of Two Tarts.”  When Monica contacted the publication executive editor Judith Griggs replied thusly:

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!

Wow.  Anyhow, after weighing her options, Monica shared her story on her blog.  What followed was pretty remarkable.  Though the intranets might not necessarily respect the commodity form of intellectual property, they apparently still respect intellectual property.  Here are a run-down of the results:

The Cook’s Source Facebook page is brimming with activity.  The wall is a collective stoning of the infringer (including calls for litigation).  The discussion board forum has produced at least 50 more instances of plagiarism by the Cook’s Source replete with links to their original sources (which include Martha Stewart, NPR, Weight Watchers, and Food Network).  Eventually the internet justice squad DDoS’ed the Cook’s Source webhost causing Intuit traffic to be offline for several hours.  All of this occurred within 24 hours of the original blog post by Ms. Guadio.

So what do we learn from this situation?  As I mentioned before, despite intellectual property in the commodity form being something of a gray area for many internet users (not all for sure), intellectual property in the form of independent authorial creation that contributes to the accrual of social capital is non-negotiable.  Apparently this is even more so the case if we are talking about a textual product.

What becomes of Ms. Griggs and her publication remains to be seen; however, with big time news outlets like the Washington Post and The Guardian covering the story (in their blogging sections anyway) it is likely this isn’t the last we’ll hear of this saga.    Moral of the story: give credit.  Plagiarists beware: the intranets are watching you.

Update:

Here‘s a detailed analysis of some instances of the plagiarism.

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