Imagine spending your time writing an article with the hope that it will be published on a popular website. Imagine the thrill when you find out the the website is going to publish your article. You are becoming a trusted source for that particular information. Perhaps you will be able to earn money by granting permission to other publications that want to use part or all of your work. After all, any other publication would have to first get your permission before it could republish your masterpiece.
What happens if another publication does not even care to ask for your permission, and just goes ahead and republishes your work? And what if they send you the following in response to your request for an apology and a meager $130 donation?
“Yes _______, 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! It happens a lot, clearly more than you are aware of, especially on college campuses, and the workplace. If you took offence and are unhappy, I am sorry, but you as a professional should know that the article we used written by you was in very bad need of editing, and is much better now than was originally. Now it will work well for your portfolio. For that reason, I have a bit of a difficult time with your requests for monetary gain, albeit for such a fine (and very wealthy!) institution. We put some time into rewrites, you should compensate me! I never charge young writers for advice or rewriting poorly written pieces, and have many who write for me… ALWAYS for free!”
This actually happened. The quoted paragraph was written by Judith Griggs, the editor of Cooks Source magazine. Have some free time? Check out what has been written on Cooks Source’s Facebook Page in response.
Griggs not only made the mistake of plagiarizing another’s copyrighted work, her response is flat out incorrect in multiple areas. The web is definitely not considered a public domain. Had the author of the piece decided that she wanted to pursue a copyright infringement action, she would have succeeded. However, the legal battle probably would not have been worth it. Instead, she has effectively shown the idiocy of an editor of a magazine, someone you would expect to have at least a minimal grasp on Copyright Law.
I am aware that articles are lifted quite a bit. That gives Intellectual Property attorneys quite a bit of business. Others do not get to decide whether a copyrighted article deserves to be edited and republished without permission.