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Dear Al-Jazeera: Why Steal Our Code? Dear Al-Jazeera: Why Steal Our Code? | Scrollytelling

Update: clarified that we exhaustively tried to resolve the situation amicably, but our friendly requests over multiple channels were ignored. The DMCA request was our last resort.

Aftermath update: Al-Jazeera swiftly corrected the situation by moving the story to open-source pageflow hosted by themselves. Hurray!

Dear Al-Jazeera,

Theres a saying: Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. So imagine our surprise when we noticed a story that you published on your site, that was not only imitated, but directly taken from our own code. In other words, our code had been stolen, by you.

Initially we were taken aback and confused. We knew there must be some mistake. We contacted the author of the piece, Hidde Boersma, who told us he sold his piece to you. This is fine. Our source code however was not included in the sale, nor could it have been. Hidde promised to resolve the situation. In addition we contacted you directly too. After waiting patiently we received no response. After many tries through your editorial office we got hold of an editor who promised to return our call. This never happened either. As a final measure we sent you a DMCA takedown request and waited patiently. No response.

We know you love us Al-Jazeera, but stealing from us and then ignoring us is not the way to express it.

In order to clarify any potential confusion on your side, here is what we were confronted with.

On May 6th, 2016, the Dutch newspaper, de Volkskrant published this story:

The story was created using our software, and is one of many stories like these, that we host for the Volkskrant.

Some time later, you published this story:

Look familiar? We also thought so. Your story, Al-Jazeera is not only similar, but an exact copy of our source code, which was used without our permission.

We did notice you took some creative license and manually removed our copyright notices and replaced them with your own. And you added an eggplant emoji.

Some advice

In the long run, its likely to have been a lot more expensive to have a developer copy our code, copy the assets and put these on a server. The links not only had to have been updated by hand, inside the document, but someone would have had to un-optimize our JavaScript code, and do all the other work that allows the production to be somewhat available.

They didn't even do a good job. They did not rip many images, leading to a bad experience for your readers:

Some of the images that do load, are actually still on our systems. Which means you're stealing our bandwidth to this day:

Just so you know, one month of using our product is equal to a couple hours of developer time. For that, all images load and we include all the bandwidth costs for world wide https content delivery.

To add insult to injury, you didnt do a great job at ripping the code either. The social sharing doesn't work, the audio off option is gone, and the animations are glitchy and lets not get started on how the slide transition is just plain messy. Your video doesnt seem to be globally distributed like ours, and the story isnt on https.

Are all those things still included in our flat monthly price? Yes, yes they are!

What Happened to Journalistic Integrity?

Al-Jazeera, we know you understand all about journalistic integrity. You have a whole section of your website dedicated to it. The first point states:

Adhere to the journalistic values of honesty, courage, fairness, balance, independence, credibility and diversity, giving no priority to commercial or political over professional consideration.

Al-Jazeera code of ethics, paragraph 1

Stealing someones code? Not ethical. So Al-Jazeera, we hope that you can stand by point 7 in your Code of Ethics (and we will quote it for you below in case you havent read it in awhile):

Acknowledge a mistake when it occurs, promptly correct it and ensure it does not recur.

Al-Jazeera code of ethics, paragraph 7

Wed love to work with you Al-Jazeera. But not like this. So how about starting over and signing up for an account. We will even keep that eggplant emoji in there for you.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Martijn & Joost - Scrollytelling

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