Pass the #popcorn

ICYMI: "Snow Fall" creates an avalanche of copyright questions

According to a recent Pew study, 16 percent of adults online use Twitter — 8 percent daily. I’m pretty sure most of that 8 percent are journalists. Journalists love Twitter, whether using it for writing, conversation, or fighting. And I love to watch—and judge—the sparring.

If you see a #JournoTweetFight that you think merits inclusion, please give me a heads up @saramorrison.

A web content editing tool called Scrollkit used The New York Times’s “Snow Fall” piece to demonstrate how it can be used to create “Snow Fall”-like multimedia digital stories quickly and easily with a video that showed how Scrollkit could be used to create a “Snow Fall” replica. “The NYT spent hundreds of hours hand-coding ‘Snow Fall.’ We made a replica in an hour,” Scrollkit boasted.

The NYT’s lawyers responded with a cease-and-desist, which Scrollkit founder Cody Brown posted about. To summarize it: the NYT demanded that Brown removed the demo video and any other references to copyrighted NYT content. Brown thought his video was “fair use,” but didn’t want to go against the NYT’s legal team to prove it. So he “removed” the video. NYT lawyers said that wasn’t enough — he was still referring to the NYT on his site to promote Scrollkit and he hadn’t actually removed the video so much as set it to “private” on YouTube. So far, Brown has refused to remove the mention of NYT from Scrollkit’s site.

Many have said NYT went “too far” here; that it was too draconian in enforcing its copyright, threatening to take legal action against what Brown characterized as a “three-person startup whose goal is to facilitate the type of immersive storytelling that [NYT says] ‘everyone wants to do now.’” Twitter is definitely the best place to hash this out.

DECISION: This round goes to late arrival @robmillis, simply for being the only person who seemed open to considering other people’s opinions and both sides of the issue.

Second place goes to @paulcarr. I agree with him for the most part — copying “Snow Fall” wholesale is copyright infringement, and doing so for the purpose of advertising a product with a tagline that undermines all the hard work that went into “Snow Fall” is, frankly, rude. NYT is well within its rights to enforce its copyright, though that bit at the end where it tries to make Brown remove all references to NYT from his site is an overreach. Carr didn’t seem willing to consider that aspect of the argument, while @mathewi seemed incapable of considering anything but that and how petty that request, free of context, made NYT’s legal team appear. I’m sure he’ll get a few blog posts out of it, though, so everyone’s happy (UPDATE 6:12 pm: ah, here it is).

Except NYT, who somehow managed to look like the bad guy for asking a startup to stop stealing the content its employees worked so hard to create.

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Sara Morrison is a former assistant editor at CJR. Follow her on Twitter @saramorrison. Tags: , , ,