The Cooks Source magazine scandal is an unfortunate reminder of how content can easily be plagiarized on the Internet. The fury that erupted against Cooks Source magazine occurred after a food blogger discovered that the magazine had allegedly copied an article she wrote without getting her permission.
After the blogger contacted the magazine about the copyright issue, she received quite a surprise when editor Judith Griggs emailed a response. Griggs’ reply? “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!” Griggs went on to say the article “was in very bad need of editing…” and “We put some time into rewrites, you should compensate me!”
Once Griggs’ reply was posted on the blogger’s site, people began expressing their anger on the Cooks Source Facebook page and someone even acquired the “JudithGriggs.com” domain name to redirect to the “Public Domain” entry on Wikipedia.
Plagiarism and the Internet
Although much of the fury stemmed from Griggs’ response, plagiarizing content on the Internet unfortunately is not unique to Cooks Source. The reality is content can be easily copied and misused by others online. This is frustrating for content creators who understand the importance of creating unique copy for their websites as part of their SEO strategy. In many cases, your site content can be one of your biggest assets online. Protecting this asset is critical.
How can you protect your content online?
So how do you protect content from being ripped off? Although plagiarism is not entirely preventable, there are some things you can do on a regular basis to monitor and identify when content has been infringed upon including:
- Using a free online plagiarism checker like Copyscape to scour the web to see if your work is being used on other sites.
- Setting up real time alerts so that when your name, URL, or other important keywords are mentioned on other sites, you are notified. Free tools like Google Alerts and Social Mention allow you to set up alerts and get notifications sent right to your email box.
- Conducting regular manual searches online to see if your images or other electronic content shows up on someone else’s site.
- Reviewing your site analytics data regularly to see if you see any unusual activity.
And always be sure to include copyright information on all your online content and protect your images with watermarks. Once you’ve identified that your content has been used without your permission, contact the copier to have it removed from their site. Sometimes it may be necessary to contact the site’s host provider if you are having trouble reaching the site owner. Also, be sure to check out The University of Baltimore’s Langsdale Library website with a list of copyright resources to help you determine a best course of action when this happens to you.
If you ever find yourself on the other end of this issue and have mistakenly placed someone else’s content on your site, do not respond with an email like Judith Griggs. Take a lesson from the Cooks Source scandal and remember to always give credit where credit is due and ask for permission first.