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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 geekmux ( 1040042 ) on Monday March 30, 2009 @04:22PM (#27392963)

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

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

    The only thing about Twitter that is "mystical" is its ability to stay popular and relevant well past its 15-minute window...

  • There are some things that can't be copyrighted.
    For everything else, there's Lawyers.

    (Accepted wherever greed is good)

  • Re:yes.... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by JWSmythe ( 446288 ) * <> on Monday March 30, 2009 @04:32PM (#27393087) Homepage Journal

    That makes it interesting for copyright law. It's my understanding that if you quote an insignificant piece, that's simply a quote. If you quote the whole work, then it's infringement.

        Like, it's generally (but not always) ok to quote say one line from an article in a magazine. But if you copy the entire article that's a little fuzzier. If you copy the entire publication, you're just not going to win no matter how it's argued.

        So, to quote an insignificant but complete phrase from a twitter is almost always going to be the whole thing.

        The 1886 Berne Convention states that the © mark (the circle around a c) indicates that the document is copyrighted by declaration. The Buenos Aires Convention of 1910 established that some sort of copyright warning was required, such as the simple statement on the publication "all rights reserved". To the best of my knowledge, both currently apply inside the United States.

        By quoting a copyrighted work, you'd better be clearly inside the lines of "fair use". Of course, fair use is not clearly defined, so it can be fought by both sides, and the bigger meaner (and usually richer) side will win. The considerations for fair use are:

          1. the purpose and character of the use;
          2. the nature of the copyrighted work;
          3. the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
          4. the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

        By quoting a few lines from a New York Times article in a high school student essay, they're likely going to be ok. It's frequently looked at as the impact on the original publication. A blogger with 4 daily readers probably won't get a C&D by the NYT either, even if they publish the whole article. A blogger with 400,000 daily readers, who reguarly reposts NYT material may have an economic impact on the NYT, and therefor be in a bit of trouble. The C&D will generally say "cut it out, or we'll play rough."

        So, if some twit you wrote (err, twitter twittlie doo, whatever) got quoted by, either you can be happy that someone actually looked (because the rest of us don't care), or you can call your lawyer and have a C&D sent over. They'll retract that part of the story, and never quote you again. Or they won't really care, and you can take them to court for your (oh my gosh) serious economic losses and personal suffering.

        Really though, if you didn't want it quoted, you shouldn't have posted it for the world to read.

        © (c) 2009, JWSmythe
        All Rights Reserved
        For Republishing Information, Please Reference []
        IMHO, YMMV, RTFM MF. :)

  • Re:140 Characters? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by retchdog ( 1319261 ) on Monday March 30, 2009 @04:46PM (#27393233) Journal

    Here is an "anthology" of six-word-long short stories; maybe you'd agree that at least a few of them are art? []

    (Of course, there might be a problem with "derived works" here - Alan Moore and Darren Aronofsky independently wrote basically the same thing.)

  • Re:Below the line (Score:3, Interesting)

    by TaoPhoenix ( 980487 ) <> on Monday March 30, 2009 @05:50PM (#27394149) Journal

    Nope. Quit that wager before you lose your shirt.

    Tweet posts are copyrightable works as long as trivial outliers are avoided. Ignoring issues like TOS grabs, the lower bound is much shorter, perhaps down in the 1 word range.

    You can fit two haikus per tweet - no one's going to deny the creativity there!

    Just because most people burn their characters on facile content doesn't automatically strip away the copyrightability.

    What's happening is that it's hard to find a Fair Use fragment since the whole is so short.

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

    by Workaphobia ( 931620 ) on Monday March 30, 2009 @06:10PM (#27394515) Journal

    I call shenanigans on your keyboard mashing. You made the number of combinations an odd number.

  • by langelgjm ( 860756 ) on Monday March 30, 2009 @06:11PM (#27394517) Journal

    You'll notice the conspicuous absence of the word "sentence" from what you quoted. Never have I read anywhere that a single sentence is ineligible for copyright. It's certainly not in Title 17. Part of the reason is that "sentence" is of an undefined length. Sentences can be very short. (like that one) Or they can be very long, like the kind you find in the last chapter of Ulysses.

    My point is that if a haiku contains enough creative content to qualify for a copyright, a sentence of the same length, containing the same amount of creative content would also qualify.

Statistics are no substitute for judgement. -- Henry Clay