A screenshot, a link, and a heap of praise are met with a takedown notice

The New York Times should have considered context before slapping Quartz with a takedown letter.

The New York Times sent a takedown notice to Quartz because Quartz published a screenshot of a Times interactive visualization.

Let me clarify:

Quartz posted a static screenshot of an interactive and it linked to the interactive and praised the interactive. Quartz was actively encouraging people to go check out the full thing on the New York Times’ website. The offending Quartz article is titled “Our favorite charts of 2012.”

Quartz was transferring at least 90% of the attention and value to the New York Times. And yet, the Times wanted Quartz to take the whole thing down.

Quartz wisely did two things:

  1. They revised the article to make it clear the full interactive visualization was produced by the Times. This was really their only mistake in the matter. Insert attribution clearly and often is a rule to live by in the online world.
  2. Quartz didn’t take the screenshot down because they believed its inclusion qualifies as fair use.

The Times backtracked and said they were only looking for proper attribution.

That’s not quite right, though. Quartz published the full takedown notice they received and there’s nothing in there that says, “Hey, thanks for the link. You think you could make the attribution clear?” Rather, it’s one of those “take that down or else” letters.

Here’s what I find interesting about all this:

  • Any reasonable online editor would look at the Quartz story and deem it acceptable. The Times, or whoever is sending these notices on behalf of the Times, is shooting the organization in the foot because now they’ve planted a seed of doubt in the minds of Quartz editors, and all online editors for that matter. People may think twice before highlighting the Times’ work.
  • I love that Quartz pushed back with fair use. If this isn’t fair use I don’t know what is.

There are plenty of examples of questionable curation and attribution committed by mainstream media and independent writers alike. This isn’t one of them.


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