prof. e.

Mass Communication, [multi]media, methodology and much, much more!

Online Recipes, Public Domain, and Internet Vigilantes

Posted by prof e on November 14, 2010

Last week we talked about Dog S*!t Girl and the Chinese crush video…two early examples of the effectiveness of Human Flesh Search Engines for uncovering and punishing misbehavior, both off- and on-line. Wikipedia even has a page on Internet Vigilantism that discusses the phenomenon and references the two examples above and several additional examples.

Now it appears that a new virtual firestorm has overtaken the internet…or at least the corner of the net that is populated by food bloggers and online magazine publishers. According to an article in the Los Angles Times, a food blogger by the name of Monica Gaudio had one of her articles lifted and reprinted by the food magazine Cooks SourceCooks Source is published in print, as well as on Facebook. But don’t go looking for their Facebook page or website because both have been removed after hackers and netizens have come to the aid of Gaudio by blasting Cooks Source (and its managing editor Judith Griggs) for not only misappropriating an online article and using it without permission, but because of the clueless (and rude) email response that Griggs sent to Gaudio after Gaudio asked for both an apology and that a $130 donation be made to Columbia School of Journalism in lieu of payment. According to Gaudio’s blog, this is the email that she received from Griggs at Cooks Source:

“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!”

Well, it appears that the online “spanking” may have been well deserved if the facts of the case are as they have been presented. In any case it will be a lesson for any future online publisher who is tempted to “borrow” someone else’s work without permission.

There are several big ideas here that should be noted: 1) copyright is copyright, both in print and online, 2) information travels at the speed of light on the internet, and the viral potential of social media is an amazing thing to behold, and 3) vigilantism is no substitute for the judicial system. The attack on Cooks Source and Griggs may be deserved…but do we really want angry mobs delivering their version of justice before all the facts have been reviewed?

Additional sources for your consideration:


10 Responses to “Online Recipes, Public Domain, and Internet Vigilantes”

  1. Chelsea Brigham said

    I think it is interesting how this situation of “Internet Vigilantism” was handled by Cooks Source. It is a rather harsh response, but is also sloppy, and unedited. In the response Griggs at Cook Source says “tired eyes and minds somethings forget to do these things” instead of sometimes. This typo including several others exposes the true lack of sincerity in the apology to Gaudio. I think this has to do with her rather drastic request for a donation and an apology. It also is an example of how often the work of others is taken and used in another source of media by another person, company, etc. The internet is visible to everyone, and even with copyright addresses and claims, copy and pasting or poor paraphrasing is more common than ever.

  2. Amanda Donnell said

    At first glance, I was confused about what was going on between Monica Gaudio and Cook Source editor Judith Griggs. However, once I read it a second time and went to Gaudio’s blog site, I feel as though Griggs was out of place for her response. Not only was Gaudio’s work taken without her knowledge or perimssion, but most importantly it was taken from a copyrighted site. For Griggs to act as though she is better than Gaudio and that she is doing her a favor and should be the one getting paid is very insulting. If she is so great then why couldn’t she make her own article instead of copying Gaudio’s? And why would she ask Gaudio what she wants in return for the article and go off once money is brought up? Actions have consequences and Griggs should have considered them before taking someone else’s work. Also, just because the web is viral and constantly expanding, doesn’t mean there aren’t any laws involved. Luckily for Gaudio, internet vigilantism is becomming more popular and without it, she may have never found out in the first place. The web can be helpful but its not exactly the safest or most secure place to post things.

  3. sebersole said

    Here’s another article that summarizes the events and subsequent fallout:

  4. Amy Delaney said

    The broken trust of Monica Gaudio by Cook Source and Judith Griggs was, on the whole, entirely unacceptable due to the fact that copyrights in any fashion are binding. The apology by Griggs was entirely insincere to Gaudio by stating it was almost HER fault her work was taken out of context, implying all work upon the internet is open for copyright infringment and plagarism. This ignorance, and assumption that Gaudio merely wanted money to give to an already wealthy source, was entirely inappropriate for the situation. Vigilantism on the internet is a terrifying aspect where mobs of people can electronically target someone, especially when not all the facts are known. I think the people should have let Gaudio and Griggs handle this in a judicial court room.

  5. Alex Timmons said

    Hey, Dr E. Very interesting topic. Judith Griggs probably set her career back 10 years for that smug email response. This example might be similar in nature to court battles now shaping legal precedents in the judicial system for online copyright infringement. I remember a few days ago seeing something online about a mother who was recently found guilty and held to the court assessed fine of some $1 million for illegal downloading (music). I didn’t pay much attention, but I noted that this occurrence might signify an emerging trend for aggressive prosecution of such matters. I think it’s certain we’ll see more and more successful prosecutions of this sort, and Griggs, potentially and rather stupidly opened the door in her case. We’ll see if any lawyers walk through. I’m on the fence regarding the elements of vigilantism and kangaroo courts, however. I think Griggs should face a level of public scrutiny for her acts, and she should be fired for sure. But the ability for individuals with a sinister agenda to harass and harangue ordinary citizens for weird reasons is becoming more prevalent. You probably heard of Andrew Shirvell, the Michigan assistant attorney general who was fired and also banned from a college campus because he started a vigilante campaign against a gay student. This whack job, Shirvell, decided to target this college kid for allegedly pursuing a “radical homosexual agenda.” At first, his boss at the AG’s office excused Shirvell’s behavior as free speech, but was later forced to fire the nut-bag after it was shown that Shirvell lied and used office resources to pursue his target.

    Aside from that, It’s likely we’ll see some sort of fine/penalty structure attached to internet usage and behavior in the future — much the same way a person can be ticketed/cited for speeding or not wearing a seat belt. But what a nightmare to imagine the impact on the net as we know it today, not to mention the constitutionality of such legislation. Look for media law textbooks to grow much larger in the next 10 years.

  6. Athena Avalos said

    I think in the wake of panic, Judith Griggs confused the “public domain” with the concept of “fair use” in her response to Monica Gaudio. By trying to defend her position, Griggs tried to use the same standard that a student quoting text from other works in research papers would use. The student use described is the concept of “fair use.” This is completely controversial. As I have just read in the Media & Culture text, it is a highly questionable matter to quote an entire article with a link and attribution to a blog, kind of similar to this situation, only Gaudio’s blog was the one to be “lifted.”
    A work, however, does not become “public domain” until after the alloted copyrighted time. This creates copyright infringement issues as seen in this situation. Then again, the “public domain” is meant to give others incentive to create derivative works and not replicas of copyrighted works, so Griggs is still incorrect in the way she percieves the “public domain.”
    It is also possible that Griggs had a perception that publishing on the internet is not official publishing. By the way she refers to “public domain” in her response, she seems to think that anything on the internet is freely accessable. This is not unlike what many others think about the internet. If you ask someone for a quick definition of the internet, they would probably say something like “it gives you easier and faster access to whatever you need.” In a way, “easier” has become “easier to steal.” Take for instance, piracy of music. It is heard of time and time again, and it is more difficult to steal music from an actual store on disc. I think that this could be another reason that Griggs sounded so harsh in her response. She, just like many others, took a wrong approach on the correct uses of the internet.

  7. Austin Begay said

    this raised an interesting subject beside that of copyright infringement, but also that of internet vigilantism. Recently wiki leaks published some intelligence documents regarding US diplomatic cables. Before the leak, a hacker by the name jester was doing his own form of internet “patriotism”, by tying to disable the sites servies, the same hacker also was said to have been attacking jihadist sites as well. although not along the same lines of vigilantism as is with the article, but none the less a work of internet vigiliantism, the question is, can this vigilantism also do as much harm as it can good?

  8. Beau Martin said

    I thought the article was very interesting. I agree with Chelsea Brigham at the top of the page, when she talks about the sloppy un-edited and harsh response by Cooks Source. I would definitely expect more professionalism here. I just think it is crazy how this happened, like it was no big deal. It is a big deal, and Monica Gaudio has the right to be very upset! In today’s day and age it is so easy to steal other people’s work online, and I wonder if this problem will ever be solved. I definitely enjoyed reading this article.

  9. Alex Miller said

    I think the article was extremely informative. Some of the things that happened to Monica Gaudio had every right for her response. No one should have to hold in what they want when they’ve been so painfully upset. I also agree that the internet is becoming an increasingly popular source of media, allowing for food bloggers and others like the article stated. The article was definately enjoyable and I once again agree that Gaudio’s response was appropriate.

  10. Amanda Norris said

    Online Vigilantieism is, I think, a really cool idea, on paper. I mean it’s good to know that people can be motivated enough by a viral video to seek justice and do the right thing. It’s kind of comforting to know that that’s what people are capable of. However mob mentality can be a scary thing. You don’t always have your wits with you whike youre in a huge group with the same idea. I work at a theater and one of our projecters broke the night of a huge premier, needless to say the audience was not happy. By the end of the dreadful thirty minutes people were behaving in ways I know they wouldn’t approve of the next day. I don’t think it’s a really good enviornment to act in and make really important descions. So I guess there’s a good and a bad side to it.

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