Thursday, November 11, 2010

Copyright and the Internet: The Beat Goes On

This past Monday, I shared with you the story of Monica (also known by the Twitter hashtag #buthonestlymonica) and her remarkable story of how the internet waged war on the small publication which violated her copyright and printed an article she wrote without compensating her or even asking her permission to do so. It's been an interesting story and one that I, as a writer and photographer, have been following with great curiosity.

In my post, I linked to the blog of the estimable Mr. John Scalzi, the author who was at least part of the reason that the story exploded on the internet in the first place. (Mr. Scalzi was also, by the by, the reason that my readership exploded; he very graciously posted a return link to my post, which as of this writing has been read more times than all my other posts combined. Thank you kindly, sir.) As he reported in another recent blog entry, there has finally been an official response to the mayhem by Cooks Source, the two-bit magazine which pulled the infringement stunt.

They've apologized...well. Sort of.

It's hard to take them very seriously. As many others have stated, their so-called apology comes across more like "I'm sorry you got mad" than "I'm sorry because I did something wrong." Ms. Griggs, or whoever she got to post the thing for her, shuffles blame around like a street magician shuffling plastic cups so you can't find the red ball. The implication is given that Monica was properly credited for her work and was therefore okay with its use; the implication is also given that the poor widdle magazine was not to blame, but was rather the victim of unscrupulous writers who evilly submitted pieces that they had stolen from other sources.

No, really, go read the thing and try not to get a headache from the double talk. EDITED QUITE A BIT LATER: Sorry -- the website has been taken down. If I can find an archived screenshot, I will link to that.

I'm just hanging around to see if Cooks Source survives the firestorm of cease and desist letters. According to a recent broadcast on NPR, they should already have received at least one -- from NPR itself. Meanwhile, however, perusing the comments on Mr. Scalzi's blog has brought to light a similar situation.

To use the new expression that's all the rage online, someone else was recently griggsed by an unrepentant editor.

Suzanne McMinn is the owner of a website called Chickens in the Road, a cute look at country living. Recently, Ms. McMinn posted an adorable photo of some goats. A lovely photo which she herself took in May 2008. A lovely photo which has been reproduced, without her consent and without recompense, in something called the Dairy Goat Journal.

Understandably, Ms. McMinn was a little upset. So she contacted Dave Belanger, the head of Countryside Publications, which is the parent company that owns Dairy Goat Journal. (Man, is it tempting to have fun with that title, which I originally read and posted as Daily Goat Journal. Did you get your daily goat?) Mr. Belanger refused to admit that it was Ms. McMinn's photograph and, when she stated her terms, he hung up on her.

I'll be watching Ms. McMinn's story for a resolution, and hoping for the best. It would be interesting to see hers go as viral as Monica's did, and watch the internet get up in arms about copyright infringement all over again. Certainly Ms. McMinn is no less deserving of defense than Monica was. The thing is, though, here are two examples in less than the space of a week. How many more similiar incidents have gone unnoticed? How many times does this have to happen?

It's really annoying that in the modern world, with new media being what it is and the many opportunities it provides for creative people to share their visions with everyone else, we still have to watch out for sharks like Mr. Belanger and Ms. Griggs. I guess it's a good thing we also still have lawyers.

UPDATE ON MS. MCMINN'S CASE: I'm pleased to report that as of a very short while ago, Ms. McMinn received a call from Mr. Belanger. He apologized for both the theft and his rudeness, and will be paying her $2100 for the use of her stolen photograph. Ms. Griggs could learn a thing or two, here, especially about how to apologize. I'm very happy to see that her case was resolved satisfactorily; I wish all such cases would have happy endings like that.


  1. Hey, man. Goats are serious business.

    (...Also, sadly, it's Dairy Goat, not Daily Goat :( Sad. I want a daily goat.)

  2. Oops. Fixed, thanks! I shouldn't blog when I'm this tired, but I didn't know if I'd get a chance tomorrow.

  3. This was a very well-written post. Kudos, Laura.


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