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The Copyrightability of Twitter Posts 183

TechDirt has an interesting look at some of the questions arising about the copyrightability of Twitter messages. I haven't seen any actual copyright lawyers weigh in yet, but it certainly will be interesting to watch the feathers fly until someone nails down the answer. "[...] it seems like there would be two issues here. The first is whether or not the content is covered by copyright — and, for most messages the answer would probably be yes (there would need to be some sort of creative element to the messages to make that happen, so a simple 'hi' or 'thanks' or whatever might not cut it). But, the more important question then would be whether or not ESPN could quote the Twitter message. And, there, the answer is almost certainly, yes, they could, just as they could quote something you wrote in a blog post."
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The Copyrightability of Twitter Posts

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  • by Lordfly ( 590616 ) on Monday March 30, 2009 @04:13PM (#27392827) Homepage Journal

    ...automatically assumed to have copyright attributed to the author?

    I had no idea Twitter had some mystical "copyright-defeating aura" about its service.

  • yes.... (Score:2, Informative)

    by inerlogic ( 695302 ) on Monday March 30, 2009 @04:13PM (#27392833) Homepage
    as soon as you create something, it is protected by copyright.... as long as you're in the US (YMMV in other countries)

    and yes, ESPN can quote.... as long as its newsworthy.... news is covered by fair use...

    plus, ESPN is owned by Disney.....
    they can get away with anything....
  • by TinBromide ( 921574 ) on Monday March 30, 2009 @04:21PM (#27392947)
    Its not long enough, the snippets would have to be sufficiently expressive to be copyrightable. Like an entire haiku might be copyrightable, but a sentence, idea, thought, or word is not. Otherwise you have copyright law protecting slogans and phrases (the work of trademark law).

    The copyrightable expression circulation (circ 34) is currently down, but its normally found here: []
  • by TinBromide ( 921574 ) on Monday March 30, 2009 @04:27PM (#27393031)
    from the cache page. []

    Names, titles, and short phrases or expressions are not subject to copyright protection. Even if a name, title, or short phrase is novel or distinctive or if it lends itself to a play on words, it cannot be protected by copyright. The Copyright Office cannot register claims to exclusive rights in brief combinations of words such as:

    * Names of products or services
    * Names of businesses, organizations, or groups (including the name of a group of performers)
    * Names of pseudonyms of individuals (including pen name or stage name)
    * Titles of works
    * Catchwords, catchphrases, mottoes, slogans, or short advertising expressions
    * Mere listings of ingredients, as in recipes, labels, or formulas. When a recipe or formula is accompanied by explanation or directions, the text directions may be copyrightable, but the recipe or formula itself remains uncopyrightable.
  • by Microlith ( 54737 ) on Monday March 30, 2009 @04:27PM (#27393035)

    Works must meet some level of "creativity" before they can be copyrighted. Many Slashdot posts would qualify as such, as people stop and take a second to put thought into them (sometimes.) Twitter encourages lots of little posts that are more like wafts of thought, things you'd say to someone. The exception here is that it's printed text and that "someone" is an audience of a bunch of people.

    I'd wager that most twitter posts probably (frequently) fall below the line of value in terms of being copyrightable. But if it's a paragraph in length or longer then it's probably a given that it is, however few people will ever go through the effort of actually -securing- the copyright (printing it out, filling out the paperwork, and filing it.) It generally isn't worth it. If anything, I suppose that stuff you publish on boards that isn't explicitly copyrighted beforehand (you tag everything with a copyright notice and archive it with a date and time) falls into that weak unregistered copyright realm that is harder to defend.

    tl;dr: It probably is copyrighted, but good luck defending it unless you have it printed, dated, and stuffed in a sealed envelope. IANACL.

  • Re:140 Characters? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Znork ( 31774 ) on Monday March 30, 2009 @04:27PM (#27393039)

    I already have copyright on all possible combinations of 140 characters. You will soon be able to buy an anthology of Znork's collected works on Amazon. It'll be a few trucks and in really fine print, but for the true connaisseur it's definitely worth it.

  • by Rix ( 54095 ) on Monday March 30, 2009 @04:28PM (#27393043)

    You can't copyright facts, for example. If you get up on a soapbox on Main St. and yell that the Mayor is a space alien, the local paper can report that you did so without any invocation of copyright. They can quote parts of your screed under fair use. TFA discusses this part, if you'd read it.

  • Re:yes.... (Score:3, Informative)

    by langelgjm ( 860756 ) on Monday March 30, 2009 @04:50PM (#27393285) Journal

    as long as you're in the US (YMMV in other countries)

    Signatories of the Berne Convention are not allowed to impose formalities for the granting of copyright. Meaning in Berne Convention countries (the vast majority of the world), you don't need a registration to have a copyright.

    You may need a registration for other purposes; e.g., in the U.S., you have to register your copyright before bringing a suit for infringement.

  • Re:140 Characters? (Score:2, Informative)

    by gilleain ( 1310105 ) on Monday March 30, 2009 @04:53PM (#27393327)

    Well, given an alphabet of just 'a-z' + ' ', that would be 26 ^ 140 or:

    1, 248, 155, 560, 712, 888, 693, 721, 116, 035, 178, 646, 463, 649, 590, 092, 724, 076, 699, 557, 919, 198, 775, 318, 840, 655, 335, 967, 337, 203, 969, 601, 545, 498, 350, 937, 608, 330, 255, 529, 112, 180, 176, 094, 892, 997, 792, 623, 787, 890, 917, 357, 870, 916, 489, 701, 094, 150, 005, 153, 729, 071, 148, 146, 282, 725, 376

    which is quite a few possibilities.

  • by detachable_halo ( 1519547 ) on Monday March 30, 2009 @04:56PM (#27393369)
    Just a simple proof:
    Character count is less than
    One hundred forty

    Copyright © 2009 detachable_halo.
  • Re:140 Characters? (Score:4, Informative)

    by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Monday March 30, 2009 @04:59PM (#27393419) Journal
    I take it you missed this at the bottom of the page:

    All trademarks and copyrights on this page are owned by their respective owners. Comments are owned by the Poster. The Rest © 1997-2009 SourceForge, Inc.

    You own the copyright on all of your posts.

  • Re:140 Characters? (Score:2, Informative)

    by p!ngu ( 854287 ) on Tuesday March 31, 2009 @07:42AM (#27400125)
    For those playing at home, the number of atoms in the universe is about 10^80. Of course, it's pretty difficult to grasp these kind of numbers anyway, but it should give some kind of scale. And remember, space is BIG.

"This is lemma 1.1. We start a new chapter so the numbers all go back to one." -- Prof. Seager, C&O 351