Monday, November 8, 2010

Thou Shall not Steal

Don't steal
Originally uploaded by lisablaschke
It's a pretty basic request. Whether you believe in God's laws, man's laws or both. It's spelled out pretty simply. So how could something so simple turn into such a huge misunderstanding on the part of one magazine editor who has just learned what happens when you ignore this simple request.

If you're a writer or a photographer -- or both -- you've probably seen the news online. A magazine editor for Cooks Source Magazine -- an editor with 30 years experience who certainly should have known better -- is learning the hard way that writers and photographers don't like to have their work stolen from them. To get you up to speed, take a look at this article from the Washington Post.

So a writer finds her work in this magazine and thinks -- "that's funny, I didn't get paid for this. I didn't even give them permission to use this." So she shoots off an e-mail after attempting a phone call and has a couple of simple requests -- say you're sorry and make a donation to a prominent school of journalism. What she gets in return is an e-mail that sent the internet into a tizzy! The editor claims anything on the internet is public domain and she can copy and paste anything she darn well wants to and publish it in her little magazine.

Their Facebook fan page jumped from a handful of fans to more than 5,000 within a few days time. Not so people could admire the magazine, but so that they could send this editor nasty messages. "Cooksourcing" has become synonymous with "plagiarism" seemingly overnight. Upon further investigation, it seems that pretty much every article this magazine has ever run and probably almost every photo they've ever run was stolen from the internet. Sadly, it seems writers and artists have an awful lot of time on their hands to search the internet and compare articles found in Cooks Source with articles published elsewhere online. Unfortunately it's because many of them are unemployed because editors like these refuse to pay for their services.

As a journalist I am offended. As a photographer I am offended. In this editor's mind, anything we write, anything we photograph, if uploaded online, is free for her to sell and from which to profit.

Not only did this editor steal the words and photos of others. She thumbed her nose at the entire creative community with her reply e-mail that says among other things "you should compensate me" for editing the article. I think she's learning the hard way that the Internet is not public domain.

One of the things a lot of my client's ask me during a shoot is "my face isn't going to end up on a package of yogurt in Switzerland is it." Well, maybe not word for word. But there is a concern that their face could be sold and used out there for someone else's profit. I have gone through every step I possibly can to prevent that. My site is locked meaning it's not possible to download an image. I have my logo splashed across each image. I don't sell my portrait images commercially -- at least not without specific written permission of the client. I can't say it's impossible, however. As long as there are people out there like this Cooks Source editor who think the creative world is their own little private domain, there will always be that fear among me and every other writer, designer, photographer out there that their work could be stolen.

That's why I'll be watching this case pretty closely. This editor allegedly stole from Martha Stewart, The Food Network and Disney. These places have the money to take this magazine to court. The last I heard, the magazine's advertisers were pulling their ads and subscribers were dropping like flies. I hate to hope for the downfall of any publication. But a publication who refuses to play by the rules and pay for what they take does not deserve to profit.

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