Little birds tweet to the tune of infringement

Social media site Twitter is taking a ‘crackdown’ approach to copyright infringement, as they will withhold content they believe to be breaching other users’ rights.

The policy gives users a contact email address and states that the company will respond to notices of alleged copyright infringement which comply with applicable law. When a claim is successful, the infringing user will be given a 10-day appeal period, and their tweet will be replaced with a ‘Tweet Withheld’ message on the newsfeed.

When a tweet is blocked due to infringement, the website offers users the chance to “learn more” via a link to Twitter’s policy on DMCA takedown notices. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) is US legislation targeting the avoidance of digital rights management that protects copyrighted work.

Twitter’s policy indicates they will respond to reports of alleged copyright infringement, such as allegations concerning the unauthorised use of a copyrighted image as a profile photo, header photo, or background, allegations concerning the unauthorised use of a copyrighted video or image uploaded through media hosting services, or Tweets containing links to allegedly infringing materials.

This action is thought to stem from a number of users complaining that their jokes have been shared by others, passing them off as their own.

Plenty of Twitter accounts, with thousands of followers, many similar to each other, consist solely of lifted jokes and media. Some accounts have even joined together to form businesses.

Tweet theft and content appropriated without credit has been happening since the dawn of the social network. In 2013, a minister from South Carolina, who became famous for his witty tweets, was found to be lifting them from famous comedians. Even comedians themselves have been known to copy others.

Reaction to Twitter’s new policy from users has been mixed, many responding with jokes. Whether they are all original, however, remains to be seen.

If you think you may be at risk of infringement, please contact one of our intellectual property attorneys for strategic advice on intellectual property.

© 2018 Wilson Gunn