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FreeCodeCamp violated the rights of Medium authors

kylegalbraith profile image Kyle Galbraith ・3 min read

By now a lot of folks in the dev.to community are very familiar with the recent move that Free Code Camp made to get off of Medium. FCC is the leading technical content publication on Medium. Hundreds of authors have contributed fantastic content, myself included.

But, Free Code Camp violated my rights as an author on Medium. Without my permission, they redirected links away from Medium and to their own FCC News site. You can read more about the move and this violation in Ben's fantastic article.

First, I did get everything undone for my articles and all links now redirect back to my Medium posts outside of the Free Code Camp publication. But, it wasn't easy and I still haven't seen anything where FCC admits what they did is wrong.

Steps Taken

So what did I do to get things undone? To be honest I had no idea what to do when this first happened. So I took to Twitter to share my thoughts and feelings on the entire matter.



How much of this impacted the final result in getting things undone? I have no idea but at least it drew attention to the fact that this is not right.

One thing that I want to call out that I saw quite often on Twitter is that this isn't about a Dev vs Free Code Camp rivalry. I respect both communities for what they provide. So my feelings and complaints about this move are not against the community. They are against those in charge of the community. The lack of respect they have shown to those that helped them get to where they are, their contributors.

Since Twitter wasn't getting a response, I went the next route I could go. I filed DMCA takedown notices with Free Code Camps hosting provider. This was actually very easy to do. FCC proxies all traffic through Cloudflare which allows you to submit DMCA takedown notices which they forward onto the site owner and hosting provider.

Resolution

Shortly after I submitted DMCA takedown notices I was contacted by Free Code Camp. To their credit, they were open to undoing things. All my articles were removed from the Free Code Camp Medium publication and redirects now go to my articles on Medium.

So at this point, my articles are back in a normal state. The damage is unknown because of the lack of visibility into the entire matter. But I now have control over my content again which is one of the most important things to me.

The Takeaways

This entire experience highlights a lot of things that Free Code Camp did wrong. They moved content, that by Medium terms of service, belongs to the authors of that content. Those terms of service apply even when it is published to a publication.

To make matters worse, authors were locked out of their content on the Free Code Camp platform. To gain access required a video call to get set up on the platform, which for those of us that are busy is not as simple as it sounds.

The worst part is that I have been contacted by dozens of other FCC authors who are fearful of contacting them to have this undone. Dozens of authors are concerned that contacting FCC to undo this will be met with resistance. This is the opposite attitude that the actual community conveys.

My hope is that this post can at least give those authors a pseudo blueprint to take action. I can't guarantee what worked for me will work for you, but it seems like a sensible place to start.

If there are any questions that I can help answer from my experience, please feel free to add a comment below. 👇 👇 👇 👇

Posted on by:

kylegalbraith profile

Kyle Galbraith

@kylegalbraith

Programmer by day and author by night. I am passionate about all things development related, but especially Amazon Web Services. I recently created a course about learning AWS by using it.

Discussion

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Kinda related but not... when you donate to FCC, they don't let you know the donations will be on a recurring basis; nor is there a way to stop it if you didn't contribute via a PayPal account. I misspoke, you can stop it by emailing Quincy Larson who seems to be the only person that can contact Stripe and remove your "account." Not entirely surprised practices across the board are unethical, for lack of a better term.

 

Damn, really? That's like... way more than uncool. That's fraud and theft.

 

// , I'm skeptical of your comment, based on what I found here:

freecodecamp.org/donate

Seems pretty damn clear which is a one-time donation and which isn't.

 

Geeze, that's real appropriate. My comment was almost a year ago after I directly corresponded with Quincy Larson. Things were obviously different. Why would someone lie about that? Go to sleep.

 

I asked Quincy about getting access to remove the posts they copied over to their publication and raised a concern about their author application, which required me to grant permission to use past work (which they were already using). He said, “Don't worry about the waver - just set up a time to meet with me that's convenient and I can fill you in on everything.” It just wasn’t convenient and didn’t seem advisable to complete a form granting permission and trusting in a private DM claiming that the waiver wouldn’t really count.

 

I wonder if the better course of action would be if some authors, such as yourself, attempted to approach him as a group versus individually with concerns/demands for your author rights.

 

I believe that is called a class action. Add a lawyer to the mix, appropriate with illegal actions such as Free Code Camp's, and you can file the appropriate lawsuit. Especially in light of the fear expressed by authors. That's called intimidation and retaliation and I would advise the victims to consult a lawyer before any possible statute of limitations expires. Idk I am not a lawyer.

 

You have control over your content if you publish on a medium that you own and control. It's as simple as that.

 

// , Give some examples of TOU-free media that give us more direct control of our content.

 

I've continued to get DMs like this...

 

I was also surprised to see that FreeCodeCamp still hasn’t fixed the canonical url issue where they no longer respect the canonical url people set on Medium.

I wrongfully thought of this as a mistake they’d quickly rectify even if they didn’t right the overall wrong.

But it seems like they’re really uninterested in making even the most minimal ethical choices.

 

I am disappointed to see that Quincy is very arrogant in dealing with the case. Also, being a little arrogant... No one would ever think that the new news site could be a competition for dev.to 😂 I think they should just say something like this: "Well, we did it wrong. Help us do it better."

 

Honestly, this makes me want to no longer use the FCC community sadly.

 

I hate Medium with a passion. Everything there is not a paid article. I open up the app, and even any shitty article about "How to do X or Y" is now paid.

 

Medium is history for me, finished. I'm not even opening their newsletter anymore.

 

This is what happens when you trust platform that they will respect your rights. No, when something happens, they won't. If you give away the control, you have no control.

Btw, I think this is GDPR violation 🤔

 

Wow, this is ridiculous. I can't even fathom how those in charge would think this would be a good plan. Nevermind from a human standpoint, but even if all you care about is the business of the community it's a bad move.

 

I've been following this topic, and it keeps getting more and more interesting.

Glad your content was fixed in the end!

Hopefully the creator can humble himself enough to admit this was the wrong way to go about things, and move towards a solution.

Ignoring problems doesn't make them go away.

 

It's curious how the snowball is growing ...

 

// , Yet another platform risk, an example of counterparty risk.

In "The Cloud" possession is nine tenths of ownership.

That goes for medium.com and Free Code Camp as much as it goes for any website, IaaS, or game with a ToU / EULA. That includes dev.to.

If a third party asks you to trust them with control over your resources, you probably shouldn't, no matter whatever they might blather on about on an Ethics statement.

But I now have control over my content again which is one of the most important things to me.

Do you? They don't just want money or protection from liability. They all want control.