It was the cry of plagiarism heard ’round the web world on Thursday – the tale of a writer who says she found her work repurposed in a magazine without her permission and who, when she demanded compensation, was allegedly mocked via e-mail by an editor who informed the scribe that all things web were “public domain.” The Internet roared. And that’s when NewsFeed decided to give this gal a call.
Reached via phone on a Pennsylvania highway late Thursday afternoon, it was clear that Monica Gaudio was still processing her overnight launch to Internet fame.
Gaudio says it all started innocently enough. A friend had informed her that an article she had written for a website had appeared in a magazine with her byline attached. Knowing nothing about this use of her work, she immediately set out to ascertain whether she had any legal right to complain. It was later, when portions of the ensuing e-mail exchange went public, that she quite accidentally emerged as a voice for the legions of underpaid, overworked bloggers who often see their work stolen or misappropriated.
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Gaudio appealed to the magazine, Cooks Source, via e-mail. It was this line from an alleged response that got the viral blood boiling: “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…We put some time into rewrites, you should compensate me!” (read more of the e-mail chain, and then an expert’s take on what exactly “public domain” means, and how Cooks Source has it wrong)
“Nerd Rage, man,” she told NewsFeed, less than 12 hours after the story erupted, still searching for an explanation as to why web readers were so riled up.
“Think of it like the Internet has rules, just like anything else in your life…. The Internet says we have to abide by these rules or else there’s mass hysteria, and things don’t work. What this woman did was she broke the rules. She broke the rules of the Internet basically, and the Internet got pissed off.”
The writer, who revealed she has no intention of being a professional journalist, claims her now-famous apple pie piece originated in 2005. As a member of a medieval era appreciation society, she set out – along with several friends – to recreate several recipes from that time period, and to write about their experiences. After seeing her work on page 10 of the October 2010 issue of Cooks Source Magazine, she says she angrily issued a demand to the editor, Judith Griggs: Issue an apology both in print and on the web, and make a $130 donation to the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.
Why Columbia? “It was the first journalism school that came up when I did a search,” she says.
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But rather than receive an apology, Gaudio says that a lengthy back and forth with the publication ensued, building up to the now-infamous message that allegedly acknowledged the copying of the article, and challenged Gaudio to pay Griggs for the value of her editing.
“I didn’t ask for a half-hearted e-mail apology,” Gaudio says, reflecting on the e-mail chain. “I asked for her to do something for what she did to me… Instead, what I got was the e-mail that’s been quoted around the world. It starts with, ‘But honestly Monica!’ which is the best Twitter hashtag. I love the Internet right now.”
In the 24 hours since the majority of the world first learned about the existence of Cooks Source Magazine, that hashtag has now gone further than Gaudio could have ever imagined – as has the Facebook uproar, as Gaudio fans have taken to the Cooks Source Facebook wall, lambasting the publication.
But she says she didn’t ask for any of this. At the outset, Gaudio says she expected maybe 10 or 20 people to read her blog post about the incident. In an ideal situation, perhaps someone could have pointed her in the direction of a lawyer who could have offered an expert opinion on the matter. But the viral outcry of support that followed her post has only served to affirm the injustice: “I wanted someone else to say, ‘You’re not crazy. This is not okay. This is wrong.’ That’s why I posted,” she said.
Gaudio said Thursday that she had heard reports of Griggs writing some form of an apology on the magazine’s Facebook page. And indeed, someone posting under the name Judith Griggs posted: “I did apologise to Monica via email, but apparently it wasnt enough for her. To all of you, thank you for your interest in Cooks Source and Again, to Monica, I am sorry — my bad! You did find a way to get your ‘pound of flesh…’ we used to have 110 ‘friends,’ we now have 1,870… wow!…Best to all, Judith.”
Romenesko reported that the response was legitimate. Even so, NewsFeed seriously doubts it will satisfy the writer who feels wronged. Gaudio says having her story read and discussed is important, but she is not going to back down until her three demands are satisfied.
As for Cooks Source, they may soon have far more than one angry blogger – and her online army of fans – to worry about. The Food Network is now reportedly investigating numerous recipes that ran in Cooks Source, all identical to Food Network content.
NewsFeed has no way of knowing how this will all shake out. But here’s betting that if Food Network feels wronged, they are going to demand a little more than an apology and $130.
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