ETA: Note: Apparently, *I* have not learned the lesson that the plural of “lesson” is “lessons” – and there was an apostrophe up in that title. All fixed! Color me embarrassed – which if memory serves is a rather sickly shade of puce.
Here’s a not-in-any-particular-order list of lessons learned from the Cook’s Source copyright idiot-a-thon of last week.
1. Do not piss off the internet, especially when now, unlike a few years ago, mainstream news media will have no problems with citing Live Journal as a source.
2. Don’t steal. I mean, is that really a hard one? It’s in the Bible, the Torah, the Qur’an, and on the internet, which, coincidentally is NOT PUBLIC DOMAIN.
Yet today alone, two more instances of print publications using images and content without permission or attribution have come to my attention. Now, I went to Northwestern University for a quarter, and knew a few Medill journalism students. They got Fs on assignments if they spelled a source’s name wrong. Yet somehow there’s people working in journalism and media who don’t even worry about spelling source names because they don’t use them – and seem to believe that stuff on the internet is not free for the taking. From BoingBoing’s account of photographer D.K. Langford, who states his photograph was used without permission for the Texas vehicle inspection sticker, to romance author Suzanne McMinn, whose photograph was used without permission or attribution by Daily Goat Journal.
Is this rocket science, this whole “Internets are not for Stealing” thing? I’m utterly befuddled, and outraged.
3. If you have a Facebook page, and people post on it while you refrain from moderating, that’s not hacking.
Cook’s Source, you keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means. You were perhaps looking for a different word here:
We have cancelled our Facebook page on Thursday, November 4th, 2010 at 6:00PM. It has since been since been hacked by unknown parties and now someone else unknown to us has control of it. Their inclusion of Cooks Source issues and photos is used without our knowledge or consent. Please know that none of the statements made by either Cooks Source or Judith Griggs were made by either our staff or her.
Cooks Source will not be on Facebook again at any time in the future: hacking is too prevalent and apparently too easily performed by disreputable people.
All those people who were posting on your wall were doing what people on Facebook do, albeit with some rancor. But that’s not hacking. That’s called slacking, and that’s what YOU were doing. Slacking is when you don’t pay attention to what is going on with your social media, and when you refrain from responding to a few thousand posts a day. It can bite you mightily on the ass.
4. Suck it up and acknowledge wrong doing when you fuck up. Do that first.
As far as apologies go, actually apologizing in paragraph 5 about the issue at hand is all sorts of uncooked lame. When you are that far into the world of You Fucked Up, whining about people being mean to you on Facebook and about how it’s hard to find the phone numbers for Facebook headquarters is NOT going to get you any credit. Nor does saying that you’ve been abused earn you any sympathy. And lastly, hiding behind the “small farms and small businesses” who have been hurt by your actions in stealing content without permission just makes you extra more douchey with a side of reduced balsamic dickbag. You’re deflecting attention from your own wrongdoing.
Cook’s Source’s “statement” doesn’t address the issues that other people discovered in their magazine content, or about the use of copyright sources without attribution except to say they can’t vouch for all the writers they’ve used in the past. The part about editor Judith Griggs saying Monica Gaudio should pay them for edits made to Gaudio’s article? No mention of that part, either. In fact, Griggs isn’t even mentioned in their statement, despite her actions being the kindling that lit the flame war.
5. Social costs are much easier for the average person to leverage than a civil suit.
Someone can probably bring a suit against Cook’s Source for copyright infringement- in fact, if all the sources discovered on Facebook are feeling so inclined, there’s probably several dozen someones who sue for copyright infringement. But have you seen the criminal justice system time line? ETA: The civil court is even slower, as RedHeadedGirl pointed out. It’s not like Law & Order (DUN DUN) where the crime, investigation, and court case get wrapped up within 50 minutes. Justice is slow.
But Twitter is fast. And it’s amazing how fast it has become – and how much damage it can do. The social and public costs are high in situations like these, and often the only tool people have at their disposal to explain how angry and offended they are is public discussion and social currency. As I said on Twitter, social costs can be higher than legal costs – and it’s terribly easy to overdraw on social currency.
6. If You do not manage your own social media space, Someone Else will do it for you.
The Online Journalism Blog entry about what Griggs and Cook’s Source should have done is a gold mine of information if you’re wondering why you should bother with Facebook and Twitter and all that annoying social media stuff.
If you don’t have a presence online, someone else will create a fake one to attack you with.
A passive presence isn’t enough – be active.
Paul Bradshaw’s article was also updated after the “Statement” was posted on the Cook’s Source website, and his perspective matches mine: “The statement doesn’t help, however, partly because it doesn’t address the key issues raised by critics about where it gets content and images from, partly because its sense of priorities doesn’t match those of its audience (the apology comes quite late in the statement), and partly because it is internally inconsistent.”
If nothing else, this is the most important lesson of this entire event: If You do not manage your online presence effectively, Someone Else will do so for you, and not in a way you might prefer.
This is not a new phenomenon. Case in point: Linda Howard. Her domain has long been owned by someone who lists all her books – but directs the links to a site that buys and sells silver. As of this moment, I cannot find an official Linda Howard website online. As Kassia Krozser and Kirk Biglione pointed out as part of their presentation at Tools of Change last year, this does not help Howard in the least. In a vacuum, as Bradshaw pointed out, you can sell books, or someone else can use your name to sell silver. You can speak for yourself, or allow someone to speak for you, outside of your control.
Regardless of how you feel about social media like Twitter and Facebook, or about the internet in general, it’s not going anywhere. If you don’t manage your own name and your own presence, someone else will.
This will likely be a case study in What Not to Do for anyone teaching public relations, social media, marketing, or publicity. It’s also a very accessible lesson, albeit a messy one.