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Cooks Source: Now For Something Completely Different

Update: Cooks Source issued a statement. It needed a little cleaning up, so I did: Cooks Source Statement: Slightly Corrected (10.9.10)

If you care about food, writing, law, scandal, chicanery, hypocrisy and/or Internet drama — which may define my readers, by the way — you have no doubt heard about Cooks Source, but just in case you are none of the above, welcome and a summation:

The tl;dr version of this post: My 2005 Ice Dragon entry, called "A Tale of Two Tarts" was apparently printed without my knowledge or permission in a magazine and I am apparently the victim of copyright infringement.
             from Illadore's House o Crack - Copyright Infringement and Me

There is, of course, more.

It is the kind of 'more' from which grand Internet dramas are made: Clueless editor, arrogant responses, google reveals the magazine seems to be built on lifted content, class action suits are suggested (after someone finds Martha Stewart, NPR, and Disney amongst the victims; it's corporate money they want to use for lawyers)...and the pile-on begins.

We are now at less than 20 hours and there are dozens of posts, a Facebook pileon, thousands of tweets, fake twitter and Facebook accounts, the Cooks Source site has been up and down and there's just a whole lot of poo being flung around by the flying monkeys. It's only going to get messier - there's apparently a Travel Source magazine which seems to also be full of infringing material (check for your stuff here).

Illadore's article has the full story, which has now been rehashed all over the Internet, it is well worth the read it if you are interested in what is going on.

I want to talk about what is not...

Plagiarism

The author of the original piece found out because a friend saw her name on the article. This makes the offense copyright infringement, not plagiarism. Geeky distinction but it matters. Copyright infringement has specific legal remedies, starting with the ability to have infringing content removed from publication and including significant monetary compensation for registered works; plagiarism, not so much. (The US government has a handy what to do if I think my registered content is being infringed page. Nowhere does it say "unleash the flying monkeys" though maybe it should now.)

Unique

The content that Cooks Source appropriated seems to have been a mix of articles and recipes, with the former having much more legal protection than the latter. Recipes do have some protection, however, and that's what I see stomped on daily. To vastly oversimplify, ingredient lists aren't protected, the rest probably is. (see copyright.gov for nuance.) It's easy to change a few ingredients, rewrite the copy with your very own keystrokes, and attribute your sources clearly.

This does not mean that you should, as I saw someone do today, delete a few lines so that steps become a paragraph and call it 'adapted,' not even 'barely adapted'. (I'd link but then the flying monkeys would show up here and I get enough of them as it is.) I know I need to go through my recipes and make the attributions bold and somewhere easy to find; I think I will call out the specific adaptations in each recipe where that's reasonable—which may mean "mostly in the future"—and see what else I can do to clarify which bits of recipes are mine or not. (I'm curious as to how others are handling distinguishing such things on their sites, please share in comments.)

Rape

Yeah, I know. This is obvious and why the hell am I even saying it? Well, I am not saying it, I am quoting it, see: "It's writers' rape."  For the love of all that is holy, and much that is not, No, it is not like rape. Not even writers' rape, whatever that might be. Not a tiny bit. No, no, no...

The comparison to rape is a common construct in emotional arguments and this post was apparently exactly that: "Let's just talk about the emotional implications of it all." So yeah, I get it, you were being all overamped rhetorical and it rolled off your fingertips so damned easy. I know, really I do...but you know what? You are wrong.

Not just this one you, though yes I am calling out this one use. Let me make this simple:

If you have ever compared an act that did not involve an assault, the threat of severe physical violence, possible long-term physical damage, and/or serious emotional trauma to rape you were wrong. I only hope that you never discover first-hand just how wrong you were.

To take this back to the slightly lighter side, when I read the 'writer's rape' bit out loud, the other person in the room said, "But nobody has ever gotten an STD from copyright infringement..."  (this is what I live with; see why I am so warped? See also: Things That Are Not Like Rape: Copyright Infringement)

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