Friday, November 5, 2010

The tale of Judith Griggs

I find loads of interesting things on Twitter, which is mostly why I use it these days. This morning I read about a magazine editor lifting a blogger's post and printing it in the magazine without first notifying or asking for permission. The magazine attributed the article to the writer in question, so imagine her surprise when her friend congratulated her on getting published!

She contacted the magazine, and when asked what she wanted them to do about it, she asked for "an apology on Facebook, a printed apology in the magazine and $130 donation (which turns out to be about $0.10 per word of the original article) to be given to the Columbia School of Journalism". Why Facebook? Because the magazine's pages are uploaded to its Facebook page, each issue being granted its own photo album.

Well, not only did they refuse to apologise, the editor of the magazine wrote an email that said:
  1. I've been an editor for 3 decades and I know about copyright laws

  2. I haven't done anything wrong because everything on the Internet is public domain

  3. You should be thankful that we actually credited you as the writer

  4. Your article was badly written and our editing made it better, so you should be paying us.

It's the sort of thing that proves truth is stranger than fiction.

Unfortunately for the magazine editor, Judith Griggs, the writer blogged about all of this. Even more unfortunately for her, that post was picked up by Twitter and Facebook users, even retweeted by Neil Gaiman (who has 1,500,998 followers). Eventually big names like Boing Boing,, The New York Times, and The Guardian, to mention a few, picked up on it too. Thus what must have seemed like the whole Internet community descended on her magazine's Facebook page, "liked" it and proceeded to, uh, vilify her business practices via wall postings.

Not only that, people began to investigate further, discovering that her magazine had also lifted content from other places, among them more prominent names like Martha Stewart and the Australian chapter of Weight Watchers; these people/organisations were informed of the discovery, as were the magazine's advertisers. Five writers/organisations have confirmed their work was reproduced without permission, with some contemplating legal action. A number of advertisers have also withdrawn their ads from the magazine.

It turns out that the magazine is mainly distributed locally and most of the advertisers are local businesses. While everyone is busy wondering how Griggs could be so misguided as to believe that anything published on the Internet is public domain (it is not, in case you were wondering), I'm just wondering what ramifications all this will have for Griggs.

I mean, how is she going to continue living where she's living? Local business owners and their employees will probably be giving her the cold shoulder after this; a (now former) advertiser commented, "...being associated with publications like this that don't respect its readers (who are all our potential customers) is unacceptable to us in light of their practices. What angers me even more is the fact that it is being made light if [sic] by the Editor herself." Apart from that, I expect the local townspeople will be pointing and whispering behind her back, and I'm also wondering what her employers will think about her notoriety, since editing the magazine wasn't her day job. I really can't imagine how she's going to hold her head up or dare to go out in public.

Yet she posted on her magazine's Facebook page:
    Hi Folks!

    Well, here I am with egg on my face! I did apologise to Monica via email, but aparently it wasnt enough for her. To all of you, thank you for your interest in Cooks Source and Again, to Monica, I am sorry -- my bad!
    You did find a way to get your "pound of flesh..." we used to have 110 "friends," we now have 1,870... wow!

    ...Best to all, Judith

It really does seem like she doesn't get it at all. In my part of the world, we call this Being unclear of the concept.


BP said...

Sounds like she's being sarcastic. To me it reflects a certain trait many Americans share.

A lot of them have practically no clue on how the world outside their own operates, but are told they're smart, confident, can-do-anything, etc. USA boleh!

She pretty much acted on her own misguided assumptions, and looks to me she's reeling from the shock - and still in denial.

And in 2012, someone like her may run for president. The beginning of the end.

Sunflower said...

I dunno, it sounds more sardonic than sarcastic to me... the more I read it the more I think she must have done it on purpose, knowing what she's doing. No one can be that clueless, could they?

BP said...

Oh, ho ho, you have no idea how many clueless people there are in the US.

Though what you said is also possible, that she knowingly lifted from the Web, and didn't expect to be found out, or the ensuing backlash from her actions.

You watch. With enough impetus, her name will be forever associated as a verb for what she did. "No way! You've been Grigged!"

Sunflower said...

Oh, that's already been done: