Have you heard the one about the cooking magazine, the ripped-off article and the editor who told a writer she should pay that editor for stealing her story? Yes? Sorry for stale news. No? Well, let me fill you in.

The magazine is a teeny little regional thing in New England called Cooks Source and its editorial technique is apparently “copy, paste, edit, publish and don’t tell (or pay) the writer — but keep her name on the story because we’re not just crooks, we’re also really stupid.” The current issue of Cooks Source (why no apostrophe?) ran a 2005 article by writer Monica Gaudio about medieval apple pies that they swiped from  this website. When Gaudio found out her work had been lifted, she contacted the editor, Judith Griggs, who, in an e-mail, told her:

“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.”

And the kicker:

“We put some time into rewrites, you should compensate me!”

So what happened? Not surprisingly, Gaudio blogged about it, and Lo the Internet heard and was roused  to wrath. And  Cooks Source is being eviscerated.

There are stories about this on The Stranger (where I first read about it), The Washington Post, BoingBoing, Technorati, The Guardian (which reports author/nerd-king Neil Gaiman has joined the fracas!!!), The Sydney Morning Herald, MSNBC and of course Facebook, where the free mag is being “blamed” for everything from Jay Leno getting Conan O’Brien fired to Jar Jar Binks being a Star Wars character.

It’s ugly. It’s cruel. And it’s very, very funny. Sample comments I found on Cooks Source’s Facebook wall: “Cooks Source cheats at solitaire,” “Cooks Source thinks piss and vinegar is a real recipe,” “Cooks Source killed the electric car” and “Cooks Source tells little kids that Santa isn’t real and that there really are monsters under the bed.”

It’s like watching piranhas annihilate a deer. Cooks Source  apparently had 100 Facebook friends before this started. Now it’s got 3,100 and rising fast.

I mentioned Neil Gaiman: he tweeted a link to a report that says Cooks Source also lifted material from Simply Recipes and The Food Network. Uh oh. The magazine and its editor are dooomed, and so brutally dooomed I feel bad for them. Poor idiots.

If only they’d put the apostrophe in their name, maybe all this never would’ve happened.