Tweet twitter tweeted: Can copyright protect tweets?

By Manisha Singh and Raashi Jain, LexOrbis
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We live in a world where people find it imperative to share their thoughts, even if inane. The success of social networking websites such as Twitter is a clear testament to this need. However with the arrival of Twitter – one of the largest social networking websites, with some 320 million users – new intellectual property issues were bound to rise.

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Manisha Singh

Twitter boasts of extreme intolerance towards copyright infringement; the terms of service clearly state that ownership of the content vests with the respective user and in case of copyright infringement, the content suspected to be infringing will be removed. Twitter also has the authority to terminate the account of a user who is held to be a repeated infringer. Though Twitter allows users to “retweet”, i.e. to repost a tweet which belongs to another user, while crediting the tweet to the latter, the question that arises is whether a person can copy the tweets of others without crediting them.

Although the initiative shown by Twitter to protect its users’ IP rights is commendable, the question of whether tweets are capable of being protected by copyright law has plagued the world since the website came into existence. This discussion took on new life when Mark Cuban, the owner of Dallas Mavericks, tweeted about an NBA game and his tweet was picked up and republished by ESPN without his permission.

Raashi_Jain_-_LexOrbisRecently, Twitter was in the news for deleting jokes on the ground of copyright infringement. Olga Lexell, a freelance writer based in Los Angeles, found one of her tweeted jokes to have been posted by others without due credit being given to her. She argued that writing jokes is her bread and butter.

Twitter deleted the infringing tweets after she filed a takedown request.

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Manisha Singh is a founding partner of LexOrbis, where Raashi Jain is an associate.

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