Lessons Learned from Cook’s Source

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.



The Link-O-Lator

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    Inez Kelley says:

    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.

    Uhm…. Goose? Gander?  How’s that shoe feel now that it is on YOUR foot?

  2. 2
    Barb says:

    Man O’ Man…..are they really that stupid???  I’ve been reading your posts regarding Judith Griggs with sense of disbelieve.  Maybe they should hire someone who can buy a clue!!  Do they really understand how stupid they sound with the comment you posted above??  Unbelievable…..I’m going to continue working for myself….I couldn’t work for a moron like Judith Griggs or the majority of the managers out there!  I’d been fired for using the word “moron” too many times!

    Thank you for your monitoring of this story!  I’ll continue to follow along with you!

  3. 3
    Maryann says:

    I did read somewhere (at work right now and can’t find the source) that there were a few responses on the Facebook page posted under Griggs’ name that were along the lines of “Get over it already” and “Thanks for all the free publicity”. I believe that’s what the We Wuz Hacked! statement is about, not that I necessarily believe them.

  4. 4
    Laurel says:

    The sweetest thing is that I don’t have to feel sorry for her. I always do, even for the worst people. It’s a character flaw.

    In this instance, though, the piling on really isn’t because of the casual lifting of other people’s work. It’s because when she was called on it and asked for a very minimal, reasonable gesture of reconciliation she attacked and insulted the wronged party. I doubt anyone would know about the sloppy practices of Cooks Source if she had just done the right thing at ANY step, not just the initial “Don’t steal” step.

    And the epic fail continues with this lame “apology” about all the people being hurt by the backlash. Against her THEFT.

    In an effort to reach out to Ms. Griggs, here is the model you should use when you are busted. Even if you aren’t really sorry:

    !. I’m so very sorry.
    2. I was so very wrong.
    3. I so very much will not do it again, ever.
    4. I’m so very sorry.

    And finally, leave out any and all veiled accusations that the defenders of the wronged are pitchfork wielding villagers on an indiscriminate rampage.

  5. 5
    Missy Ann says:

    True that. For over 10 years my husband and I have owned our full names as domains & our son’s. We don’t do anything with them, we’re not famous or notorious nor do we want to be – but if the day ever comes, we do at the very least own our names on the internet.

    Now if only I had been smart enough to hop the Twitter train. I missed grabbing that one early, and I’m still kicking myself because I thought about doing it…

  6. 6

    One thing:  Bringing suit doesn’t involve the criminal justice system.  It’s in the civil system, which is still slow (in some cases, slower), but it is separate. 

    That doesn’t stop the DA from filing charges, but honestly it probably won’t happen.

  7. 7
    SB Sarah says:

    Sorry – brain fart on that. I actually knew that one. My bad – will fix.

  8. 8
    Ken Houghton says:

    Anyone considering a civil suit, or in a position to consider one, should work from the RIAA/Wisconsin precedent and ask for $25,000-75,000 per piece.

    Does take it out of small-claims court, but the number of deep-pocketed corporations whose copy rights were infringed by Cook’s Source is >1, so just join the party.

  9. 9

    Redheadedgirl, Legal Eagle. 


  10. 10
    Shannyn says:

    Linda Howard doesn’t have a web site because over the years, she’s had a couple of different stalkers. She spoke at a class I took and mentioned it as the reason she doesn’t have an on-line presence.

  11. 11
    Liz says:

    i still can’t believe how stupid people can be.  i just took the GRE this morning, and before the writing section there was a warning about plagiarism.  this is the second time that i took the GRE, and I don’t remember this warning being there before.  I wonder if this has become a problem with that section in the two years since I took it last—either that or people are paying more attention to it now than they did in the past.

  12. 12
    Kimberly R. says:

    I have a question for anyone that knows the answer. Where does the line get drawn between quoting someone in a blog entry (as Sarah does above with Paul Bradshaw) and lifting someone’s entire blog entry, if that person also lists the author’s name, thereby giving credit? I am not in any way saying that Sarah is plagiarizing or stealing Mr. Bradshaw’s words. Nor am I saying that Cook’s Source was right with that they did. I just don’t know the dividing line. I assume Sarah doesn’t contact everyone she quotes in this blog. I do know that she tries to put their words in a separate box and always credits them. So where does the line get drawn? It is so easy to copy and paste on the internet and I can see how someone would think its ok as long as they list the author. Is it ok to use some of an article but not the whole thing? Its been awhile since I’ve taken a literature class and I just don’t remember the finer details.

  13. 13
    jo bourne says:

    See Stanford University’s page on Fair Use.


  14. 14
    Karenmc says:

    @Kimberly R -links are used all the time to point to someone else’s blog. I don’t know where the line is, but I’d think that after a paragraph or two in quotes with credit, a link is more economical, time and space-wise. Any experts care to tell us the best way to handle a long, long quote?

    money67: yes, I’ll work until I’m 67 to get my full SS money.

  15. 15
    Nan says:

    Just thought I’d share some good news to come out of all of this: http://www.boingboing.net/2010/11/08/turn-lemon-bars-into.html

    I have to say Grigg’s initial communication was so ridiculously over the top that I suspected a hoax of some kind but it seems not—and the “defense” that is really just whining about their FB account being hacked is insanely lame. There is definitely something about the Internet that gives some people the idea that everything they find there is free for the taking but I hope cases like this will help change that notion.

  16. 16
    megalith says:

    Hey, Sarah: Just wondering if you really want to give that stupid silver website coverage by linking to it directly. I guess they won’t get any *business* from the exposure, but still…

    What struck me about the apology when I read it this morning was the section outlining the actions “they” (I suspect it’s a one-woman shop even if the letter uses “we” and mentions a staff) plan to take in the future to avoid repeating the problem. The process of vetting contributors outlined in the letter seems like one any reasonable publication would *already* be taking. If she has 30 years of experience, WTF was she doing to vet articles before this kerfuffle? Oh, that’s right. She was checking to make sure she disguised her stealing by “editing” them, by flipping photos and updating medieval English.

    The only “hacker” involved here is Griggs. And the term is correctly pronounced HACK, as in “Griggs is a hack.”

  17. 17
    Nan says:

    And you know what else? If Cooks Source goes out of business well—that’s the consequence not only of their lifting people’s stuff without compensation but their judgment in hiring someone who 1) does that and 2) responds in such an offensive, inaccurate and idiotic manner. It may be kind of a harsh consequence … but I actually don’t have a problem with it (and I grew up in and still have many family members in western Mass., the area they are claiming to be providing such service). I think when you act like a complete bonehead, you don’t deserve to keep going. Now if only that also applied to Wall Street …

  18. 18
    Bridget says:

    ‘Disreputable people’ are ruining their facebook page, eh? I wonder how they define disreputable – people who steal, maybe? And then lie about it? This is sounding mighty familiar…

  19. 19
    Katie says:

    Their official statement about their Facebook page made me laugh very hard indeed.  If they had no control over it, how were they able to delete it?  And this devious person somehow posted their recipes and images there without permission?  Oh yes, because that’s what hackers do.


    Their Damage Control Department is failing rather hard.

    (I hope Akismet doesn’t accuse me of being spam again today… 🙁 )

  20. 20
    Midknyt says:

    Nothing says we’re really sorry like whining for a couple paragraphs and then apologizing half assed.  I really liked how after they said they (finally) paid what was requested, they pointed out that it should be noted they did at least credit her in the original article.

    I also got the impression that the entire apology was written by Ms. Griggs.  It has the same random quote usage (“clip-art” and the parts of it being called a ‘magazine’ because it doesn’t have ‘news’, though why those only get the singular quote is beyond me) and a similar voice of not really being apologetic.  The above mentioned noting that they did originally credit her seems like just a better worded version of the hey, you should be lucky we gave you any credit and didn’t steal it outright schpeal that was in the email.

    The other big clue that makes me think it’s Griggs’ work?  If they bothered to edit the thing, they did a horrible job.  Some examples (emphasis mine):
    There’s repeated words:
    “It has since been since been hacked by unknown parties”

    Random incorrect punctuation choices:
    “However: Cooks Source can not vouch for all the writers”

    Excessive and inappropriate comma usage:
    “Small business owners are being bombarded with hate mail, and distasteful messages”

    And all sorts of little things that make me think they (Griggs?) didn’t bother to read over it or can’t edit to save their lives:
    “Cooks Source’s is a small”

    But then again, I guess we knew that.

  21. 21
    orangehands says:

    Kimberly R.: I was basically taught the rule of three: three or more words should be quoted, three or more sentences should have their own quote box, and three paragraphs means you need to stop fucking copying the person’s work. Always say who you are quoting from, and since it’s not exactly hard to do, you should really link to the original article if you take or paraphrase more than a sentence.

    There are, of course, exceptions. (Like rebuttal pieces, which usually copy a paragraph over, criticize it, copy the next paragraph, criticize that one, and so on until the piece ends. And during college I had to write some dissertation-like papers that had to include at times pages of quoted material as “proofs”.) But I find the rule of three to fit pretty good in most situations.

  22. 22
    Susan says:

    People plagiarize on the GRE?  Wow.  Don’t they know there’s software to check for that?

    Oh, and Karenmc, if you’re under say 55, my guess is you’ll probably never see a dime of US Social Security, or receive Medicare coverage.  Unfortunately, We the People have allowed Congress to mismanage the programs. And the consequence will be that at some point, there will be a cutoff, and we won’t be retiring.  Sorry, this is one of my obsessions.

  23. 23
  24. 24
    Liz says:

    @Susan, the message on the GRE states that they use specialized tools to know if someone has plagiarized.  it never would have occurred to me that anyone is stupid enough to plagiarize on the GRE, but I guess some people were.

    one of my friends posted a link on her fb page yesterday about 200 college kids in Florida that were caught cheating on a business midterm.  my favorite part of the story is that one kid that was interviewed claimed that “everyone cheats” and that this has been blown out of proportion.

    College Cheaters

  25. 25
    orangehands says:

    Wait, how do you cheat at the GRE? I mean, I get how you cheat, little pieces of paper, etc, but what exactly is your cheat sheet? A list of vocab terms? A pre-written essay for a question you haven’t gotten yet?

    I mean, I suppose it could be like the SATs when they try to get the answer sheet in advance, or bounce answers off with other people taking the test…

    Cheating on standardized tests just seems ridiculous.

  26. 26
    SusannaG says:

    The GRE was paper-and-pencil when I took it dog’s years ago, but I think it’s now switched over to a computerized test.

    Still don’t know how they’d plagiarize on it!

  27. 27
    Liz says:

    @susannag, it is computer-based now, which allows it to tell you your grade immediately and to adapt to each person’s skill level.

    @orangehands, when you go in to take the test they make you pull out your pockets to make sure there isn’t anything in there.  I even had to lock up my money before being allowed it.  you also aren’t allowed to wear a watch or carry any electronic equipment, such as a cell phone, beeper, or a calculator.  the company supplies you with scratch paper and pencils, and they watch to make sure that you don’t write on it until you actually start the test.

    i don’t know how someone can plagiarize on it since you don’t know what the essays are going to be about beforehand.

  28. 28
    Deb says:

    One of the oddest things about this entire episode is the amount of coverage I’ve read that provides the facts of the case but then concludes with something along the lines of “well, yes, Griggs and Cooks Source were in the wrong and got what was coming to them, but what if this had all been a big misunderstanding and the power of the internet had been used in the same way?”  There seems to be some anxiety about the swiftness of the response; as if the people who exposed Griggs should be second-guessing themselves.  As John Lennon once sang, “Most peculiar, Mama.”

  29. 29

    Stuff like this still amazes me.  I guess it shouldn’t by now.  But I’m always taken by surprise when I hear of things of this nature.

    Nice to see justice done though.  Karma’s a bitch.

  30. 30
    stuckonstupid says:

    Some one needs to hook Judith there up with Kanye West.  They can open a school together.  I can see the comercial now:
    Announcer: Did you horribly offend someone and are clearly in the wrong?  Well come on down to the Griggs/West school of how not to apologize!

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