A small tech startup is being threatened with legal action by the New York Times after it created an easy-to-build imitation of the paper of record's Pulitzer-winning interactive feature "Snow Fall."
The labor-intensive multimedia project, which interwove text, video, photos and maps into a seamless narrative, was widely hailed as the future of online journalism and reportedly took months to code and create. But entrepreneur Cody Brown had been working on a simpler way to create a similar effect. He decided to build a replica of Snow Fall to demonstrate what his web design tool, Scroll Kit, was capable of.
"I was thrilled when I first saw 'Snow Fall,'" Brown wrote on his blog. "For the past few years I’ve been working to help publishers break from their templates and craft powerful digital stories. So, instead of tweeting about how awesome “Snow Fall” was, I wanted to do something that would show its admirers that they can do it too."
Brown posted a video demonstration of the entire process along with a statement saying, “The NYT spent hundreads of hours hand-coding ‘Snow Fall.’ We made a replica in an hour.”
A month later, Brown received a cease-and-desist letter from the Times's legal team. He took the video down but left the text, and another letter was quick to follow, this one objecting to the use of the New York Times's name at all. As of Wednesday, the text was still there.
"I emailed Deborah and asked why our claim is considered a copyright infringement, and am waiting to hear back," Brown posted.