Susan Slaughter

Copyrights and Apple Pie

In Everything, Little SAS Book Series, Publishing, SAS on November 15, 2010 at 1:28 pm

Like all writers (and artists, musicians, software developers, and other creators of content) I am concerned about the problem of copyright infringement. (Here is my previous post about this.)  So I was interested to find out that while I was at the Western Users of SAS Software conference, there was a veritable brouhaha about this issue.

In case you missed it, here is what happened:  A blogger named Monica Gaudio discovered that a post she had written about the history of apple pie had been published by a for-profit magazine named Cooks Source.  (Here is the original blog.)  Cooks Source gave Gaudio credit but didn’t pay her a cent or even inform her that they had used her work.  Gaudio asked Cooks Source to apologize and make a $130 donation to the Columbia School of Journalism.  Cooks Source refused to apologize or make the donation, and even suggested that Gaudio should pay them for editing her work.  When people heard about this, they began to wonder about the source of Cooks Source’s other content.  Using the Web, they quickly found that Cooks Source had lifted articles from Martha Stewart, the Food Network, Weight Watchers, and even NPR.  (Here is the story on NPR.)

Cooks Source claimed that anything on the Web is public domain and therefore free for them to use without compensating (or even crediting) the creators of that work.  This is simply not true.  Virtually nothing written in the last 20 years is public domain.  (Here is an interview with a legal expert on NPR.)

Cook’s Source has now apologized. (Here is their web site.)  However, they have also changed their story and now claim that publishing Gaudio’s article was an “oversight.”   Illogically, they also claim that they are the real victims here.

I, for one, am just happy to see the attention this issue has generated.

Note: The image in this blog was used by permission of the USDA Agricultural Research Service.

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