I sometimes advise business on the nature of Social Media (as I call it, S&M), and what kinds of risks and benefits there are to engaging customers through social means. It’s often we see the infinite benefits pointed out. What about the downside? I saw an excellent example via The Toronto Star’s “My Name is URL” segment that appears every sunday in the print and online versions. I find this segment one of my favourite items to read. I think it’s funny to say I get my random internet news from the paper.
It’s the last item: “And in case you missed it…”
My Name Is Url – Sunday Nov 7, 2010
I enjoy working though a fine postmortem on the pitfalls of mixing bad behaviour with the Internet, especially when social media tools are put into use. So what happened?
A random person edits and writes a random printed and online magazine, into which go at least one, possibly many, many attributed but unpaid-for-articles and photos judging by what I’m seeing and reading. This may have been going on for who know how long. Obviously it appears to have gone on for some time – maybe a few years now?
One young woman finds her very interesting article on the evolution of mediaeval apple pies lifted, edited, and posted for print and web. However, the magazine has a FaceBook presence, and much fun ensues, but I’ll get to that in a bit.
The young woman contacted the editor and eventually got a response. She was looking for a token public apology, and a donation to her preferred Journalism School in the amount of $130.00. Get a load of the response she received:
Copyright Infringement and Me
“Yes Monica, I have been doing this for 3 decades, having been an editor at The Voice, Housitonic Home and Connecticut Woman Magazine. I do know about copyright laws. It was “my bad” indeed, and, as the magazine is put together in long sessions, tired eyes and minds somethings forget to do these things.
But honestly Monica, 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! … I never charge young writers for advice or rewriting poorly written pieces, and have many who write for me… ALWAYS for free!”
Don’t you love being schooled on how not to behave?
So once that had been let loose, she blogged about it, and told a few friends, who then told a few friends, and so on, and so on. The Cook’s Source magazine happened to have a decent FaceBook presence, which has been leveraged to bring them attention of course! However now that they’ve been caught red-handed reusing other people’s hard work, there was no chance this would play out quietly. I enjoy the fact that the defacing of this magazine’s FaceBook page has happened with some humour and grace. It’s a good thing the readers of Gode Gookery and the infringed author’s fans are more Monty Python aficionados than followers of Tom Green or Jackass.
So, as it stands now, the FaceBook page, and the Mag’s reputation, have been sullied – maybe permanently. Lots of fun was had after a rude rebuttal to a request for a compensatory 130.00 (!) donation. And a writer’s faith in fairness and community has been hopefully renewed judging by the responses she has received to her web site’s post on the matter.
1) Social Media can turn the smallest project into a smouldering wreck overnight. Best to treat your sources and contributors well, even if mistakes happen. I say “project” and not “business” as I do see many small operations working with limited resources, and that often leads to cut corners that can haunt them later. Notice how the Cook’s Source editor blamed the “mistake” on “long sessions, tired eyes and minds” right before they launched into the you-should-thank-me missive? Had they left it at “tired eyes”, the mess likely would have been avoided.
2) Fess up! But if you can’t or don’t need to, good grief, don’t insult the source of the request. If you are working hard to make a name for yourself, no matter how bad, ignore the advice. The web can be a forceful and poetic leveller of fortunes.
3) Learn from other people’s mistakes. They’re on the internet after all. And they *never* go away.
4) God forbid your punishment becomes a meme (“But honestly Monica” – Google it)…which seems to be there case here.
1) The FaceBook page is hilarious
2) The Author’s friend has some great comments posted his blog on the matter.
3) The Author’s blog post has some great comments…tons!
4) The perp has been Hitler’d on YouTube!
And it’s a meme…I’m even 4 days late.
Cooks Source Recipe Plagiarism Scandal (2010)
And finally the best journalistic synopsis to date. This one is showing updates dated Nov 5th.
This situation is evolving at a harried pace. The topic is now officially in the international press, has become a proper meme (!) in all of two to three days, and there are thousands of people whose hobby has become to help track down more victims of copyright theft, at least the victims who were affected by this particular publisher.
Fascinating, and a great example of how poor ethical behaviour can destroy your internet presence overnight.