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Exclusive: Cooks Source kicks hornet's nest; wronged writer responds

Blogger, medieval enthusiast and self-proclaimed nerd Monica Gaudio is "flabbergasted" at the Internet's response to her copyright complaint -- and she hasn't even seen the full extent.

"It's crazy, amazing, fantastic and weird and scary, all at the same time," she told me in a phone interview today, about "the overwhelming response of the Internet and how fast crowdsourcing can work."

On Thursday, I reported on Gaudio's initial LiveJournal blog post. It was about an essay she wrote on the medieval origins of apple pie -- an essay that showed up on the website of New England magazine Cooks Source with Gaudio's byline, but without permission or payment.

Gaudio's post included an excerpt from a response Gaudio said she received from Cooks Source editor Judith Griggs after she contacted the magazine, requesting compensation in the form of a printed apology in the magazine and $130 donation to be given to the Columbia School of Journalism.

Riddled with pedantic misunderstandings of copyright, fair use and the nature of the Internet, the Cooks Source response also contained grammatical errors, while at the same time criticizing Gaudio's writing abilities, adding "We put some time into rewrites, you should compensate me!"

Gaudio has yet to hear back from Griggs or Cooks Source, though this message was posted on the original Cooks Source fan page on Faceook (with this spelling):

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

The magazine's unrepentant Facebook response combined with the evidence rapidly amassing via Gaudio's crowdsourcing champions make things look pretty bad for the small foodie magazine.

"I don't know what some of you think you are going to achieve? We apologized, now go find a rabbit to catch or something," reads one of several chastising administrator posts on the new Cooks Source Mag Facebook fan page.

"For those of you who wish to be negative. Please use our other group. For those who are here as readers welcome!" reads another, referring the the original Cooks Source page which now hosts more than 4,000 "fans" who continue to actively pass the popcorn in this Internet roast the magazine could have shut down with a simple "my bad" issued much earlier on.

"A new page as the previous one was hacked," reads the description on the fresh Cooks Source Mag Facebook fan page, which currently has around 700 fans. Even this is a recipe for mocking, as the original Facebook fan page wasn't so much hacked as it was trashed.

(It's pretty much a micro version of what happened on Nestle's Facebook page when it threatened Facebook posters protesting its use of palm oil and environmental damage. Scolding the fan page protesters didn't work out well for that food organization either.)

As is the way of the Internet, there are now faux Twitter feeds for Cooks Source and Judith Griggs -- the latter so cutting, it elevates the blue-blooded grotesquery of the original Griggs response to performance art. As @JudithGriggs responds to one insult tweet: "Dear, at Bryn Mawr we had a word for girls like you."

It's too late for "my bad" now, what with protesters posting personal contact information for the vilified parties, and more constructively, researching and compiling damning evidence of the many stories Cooks Source picked up from larger media entities including NPR, Martha Stewart, the Food Network and Weight Watchers -- compiling them on Facebook and on a spreadsheet in Google Docs.

"Flabbergasted -- that is the word that encompasses my feelings," said Guadio, who figured her LiveJournal post would gather maybe 20 responses, and hopefully some legal advice -- not the hundreds she hasn't had time to read because she's been traveling since the story blew up.

Along with the Facebook flame war on the Cooks Source fan page and the news stories about her plight, there's retweet of tale by favorite author Neil Gaiman to his 1.5 million Twitter followers.

"If I had to investigate by myself, I would have been spending weeks or months doing it," said Gaudio of the mounting Cooks Source evidence. "Then there it is, in one day, [the evidence in] a spreadsheet in Google Docs. The amount of attention the Internet can put on a subject is enlightening, amazing and incredibly powerful."

While Gaudio is appreciative of the support, she is also concerned about the less productive protests. "I have to admit now, I do worry about the Cooks Source editors," she said. "Some of the feedback has been really negative and over the top. This is not what I expected."

"Once you, put something out there like this, the Internet can pick it up as their cause and do as they want," she said, in an observation that reflects on both her own LiveJournal blog and Cooks Source.

Gaudio ended our conversation, and proved her nerdhood, with a shout out to her Internet supporters. "Be mighty," she said, quoting Sci Fi podcast host Mur Lafferty's closing words at the end of every Escape Pod episode, "I would ask everyone to observe the Golden Rule, but be mighty."