Are Tweets Copyrighted ?

Here is a question for all you legal scholars out there.  Is a tweet copyrightable ?  Is a tweet copyrighted by default when its published ? Can there possibly be a fair use exception for something that is only 140 characters or less ?

I got to thinking about this when I tweeted about an NBA game.  I tweeted to the people who follow me.  While I never asked that they not distribute it to other tweeters,  i did not give anyone permission to republish my tweets in a commercial newspaper, magazine or website.

So when an ESPN.com or any other outlet republishes a tweet, have they violated copyright law ?

Is twittering the process of publishing in 140 characters or less, or is it a private communications to those that follow you ? Even if you dont block outsiders from seeing it ?

You could also extend this to Facebook. Do you own your status update ? Is it a private communications between you and friends, or is a published work ? If a newspaper or website wants to publish your status update, do they need permission first ?

110 thoughts on “Are Tweets Copyrighted ?

  1. Pingback: Are Tweets Copyrightable? :: in propria persona

  2. I still don’t understand the point of Twitter. Isn’t it just like Facebook except you can only update your status? :P

    Comment by Ward Roberts -

  3. Hi Mark are u going to be able to take the spurs out or have u great comeback for Dirk and company am rooting for the nugetts they are preinially losers like the old broncos jeff

    Comment by jeff latham -

  4. I thought the same with Skype the messages that are transfered through there can be used against you is this correct? I myself make copies of chat through skype and paisting it into Emails for later review.

    Comment by CARRENZO -

  5. Brock (and Brooks) – w/all due respect, your comments are incredibly erroneous and mis-informed as to make them challenging to rebut efficiently, but I’m going to try. Reading “It’s annoying to read so much ignorance” from Brock was the highlight of irony, with apologies to Alannis Morisette (sp?).

    When anyone creates an “original work” and fixes it in a “tangible medium,” then the material is protected by copyright. Originality and fixation — that is it. Your suggestion above that “A tweet is not a literary work” is flat wrong, and the fact that you used the following example is ridiculous: If I tweet, “Everybody, clap your hands!” do you think that is protected by copyright? Wrong. A court has already answered that question – it’s not copyrightable.” suggesting that it is too “common.” [NOTE: Really? What Court? Got a cite for me?]

    The only legal threshold of the type you allude to regarding common-ness is that of originality, and the threshold is remarkably low. See, for example, Key Publ’ns, Inc. v. Chinatown Today Publ’g Enter., Inc., 945 F.2d 509 (2d Cir. 1991), where the Court held that that yellow page listings in a telephone directory were original for copyright purposes. Yes, yellow page listings. Original.

    So if I sit down to “tweet” and type what is on my mind, it will be almost certainly be sufficiently original to meet the minimal legal threshold for originality. Note that the fact that a phrase has been written before does NOT mean that the second writer is unable to claim copyright protection.

    You wrote: “It’s just too common (even though you may not have ever heard anyone say it), and copyright protection would not extend to such a phrase. Phrases are tricky – some could be protected, but most are not.”

    This, too, reflects a profound misunderstanding of copyright law. An original phrase which an author fixes in a tangible medium is capable of being protected by copyright, even if another author wrote it before. Of course, if I am looking at someone else’s work and I type the same thing, then I may be a copyright infringer, but I will still be creating material capable of being protected by copyright. In fact, independent creation of the identical material would be an absolute defense to a copyright infringement claim and both parties would have copyright rights in his/her respective work.

    You then went on to write:

    “Much has been said about comparing tweets to blog posts, but the same applies to a blog post. the greater the “substance” of the post, the higher likelihood of copyright protection. However, simply because the copyright act states that copyright protection may protect website content, blogs, articles, etc., does not mean it does protect such materials. There are various other tests that must be applied.”

    Um, actually, there are not “various other tests.” If the material is original and fixed in a tangible medium, that’s it.

    Then, you go on to make a further fool of yourself by saying this:

    “All in all, everyone on Twitter seems to somehow believe they own the content they post. The simple fact is that you don’t. It’s public domain, which means Fair Use doesn’t have any impact. It’s free for the taking – commercial or non-commercial.”

    It actually turns out to be very, very difficult to put something into the “public domain” even when you are trying to do so, but certainly typing something at Twitter won’t do it.

    And you cement your ignorance of copyright by writing this:

    “Even still, to actually accomplish anything with your false belief of copyright protection, you would need to register your work before bringing an action. Good luck – the copyright office will not register your tweet, because it’s not copyrightable subject matter. That would foreclose all your potential arguments in the discussion above.”

    The technical requirement of registering to bring an action is a red herring (and registering can be done right before you decide to sue, long after you publish the work, though you give up some statutory rights in that example) that is unrelated to the question of copyrightability-something the Copyright Office makes absolutely clear.

    As to your example, I’d bet you ten times the cost of registration that the copyright office will in fact, register a tweet — in part, because the copyright office does precious, precious little to review applications for protection.

    Bottom line, you are grossly mis-informed and spouting nonsense. Please stop.

    Comment by EJP -

  6. What’s amazing to me is that after 100+ people gave comments with absolutely ZERO understanding of copyright law (other than reading a section or two from the Copyright Act – or for those ‘scholars’ who have a clue how to apply Fair Use), no one other than me and Brooks addressed the threshold question: is the subject matter even copyrightable. Every single person on this thread who believes a Tweet is copyrightable is flat out wrong. Perhaps there is some potential for someone to actually write a copyrightable Tweet, but that exists only in theory. Ok, Ok…maybe Tweet a Haiku…maybe that will do it for you. In reality, no one on this thread has ever written a Tweet that they could protect under Copyright law. It’s annoying to read so much ignorance.

    Comment by Brock -

  7. Really? Mark, are you that far gone in the crazy content ownership cult?

    If tweets containing fact or opinion are copyrighted, then so are quotes and simple facts of paraphrase, like “Mark Cuban is wondering if he can exert copyright over his tweets.” Oops, I’m violating copyright! That fact is yours!

    There are a million things wrong with even wondering about this subject. And while some big content types would salivate at the idea of owning and controlling quotes, if our society goes that way we are in serious, serious trouble. Goodbye, reporting. Goodbye, opinion and commentary.

    Comment by Brooks -

  8. I w3as going to ask about Facebook, I know when I post there I am in danger of some one else using my blog. If it is copyrighted can they still do that?

    Comment by Gino Lopez -

  9. Not unless you don’t quote the source and author

    Comment by JustinSMV -

  10. Okay, so everyone here has more or less settled the argument about Tweets being copyrighted.

    However, I would love to know people’s thoughts on this:

    http://ninabarry.com/404/?page_id=22

    Fair use or Twitter copyright infringment?

    Comment by Danny -

  11. Pingback: Are Tweets Copyrightable? « The Legal Satyricon

  12. Pingback: Tweets, Copyright, & Fair Use

  13. There is no copyright protection for a tweet. While this discussion has touched on possible exceptions and/or exemptions (e.g., Fair Use) to copyrighted material, the entire thread presupposes copyright protection. The source cited is direct from the Copyright Act, which identifies the subject matter of copyright protection. The problem in everyone’s perception is what is copyrightable to begin with. A tweet is not a literary work. To a layperson, it is literary, because it is typed words. In copyright law, it lacks the ‘substance’ of a literary work.

    Someone mentioned that a haiku or short poem would be protected, but failed to notice the distinction between a poem and a tweet. This requires a legal understanding of “original” and “authorship.” Most tweets are either restatements of fact, or some minimal attempt at humor which are really ‘Scenes a Faire.’ Copyright protection does not extend to such minimal expressions that are typical in our society. Imagine if you created a tweet then tried to stop someone from copying it. What would be your claim? That you are the original author of it? I have yet to see an “original” (as that term is used in copyright infringement actions) tweet. Moreover, a person most likely did not “author” the tweet (again, as that term is used in copyright infringement actions). Chances are whatever you’re tweeting has been said before….”wow, she must work out”…”if only I could install machine guns on my rear view mirrors”…”someone farted on this elevator and it was…me!” You think you’re the first one to say that? You think you’re going to keep anyone else from saying it?

    If I tweet, “Everybody, clap your hands!” do you think that is protected by copyright? Wrong. A court has already answered that question – it’s not copyrightable. It’s just too common (even though you may not have ever heard anyone say it), and copyright protection would not extend to such a phrase. Phrases are tricky – some could be protected, but most are not.

    Consider further the basis of copyright protection – to promote the progress of arts and sciences through the protection, for a limited time, of certain subject matter. Tweets aren’t even used in a manner that would fit within the paradigm of copyright protection. It’s just not done.

    Much has been said about comparing tweets to blog posts, but the same applies to a blog post. the greater the “substance” of the post, the higher likelihood of copyright protection. However, simply because the copyright act states that copyright protection may protect website content, blogs, articles, etc., does not mean it does protect such materials. There are various other tests that must be applied. Also, most blog posts have much more substance – akin to songs, articles, etc. What is akin to a tweet that is protected? Nothing.

    All in all, everyone on Twitter seems to somehow believe they own the content they post. The simple fact is that you don’t. It’s public domain, which means Fair Use doesn’t have any impact. It’s free for the taking – commercial or non-commercial.

    Even still, to actually accomplish anything with your false belief of copyright protection, you would need to register your work before bringing an action. Good luck – the copyright office will not register your tweet, because it’s not copyrightable subject matter. That would foreclose all your potential arguments in the discussion above.

    It’s great that everyone reads the Copyright Act and has an opinion and basic understanding of some of its attributes, but simply because you can restate and roughly interpret one part of the statute doesn’t mean your perception is correct. In this case, your perception is wrong, because it doesn’t factor in the threshold inquiry – Is the material even copyrightable to begin with.

    Also, just because Twitter (or Facebook or whoever) doesn’t claim an interest in your “IP” doesn’t mean you have IP. You have no “IP” in a tweet (at least not copyright protection). Are you going to argue passing off or some alternative trademark argument? Good luck with that, since your tweet doesn’t identify a source of goods or services…or does it?

    Anyway, I’ve been following this thread since it came on, and noticed that my earlier comment about tweets not being copyrighted was ignored. I thought I’d throw in some logic for the confused among us.

    THIS IS NOT LEGAL ADVICE OR COUNSEL; IT IS MERELY INFORMATION.

    Comment by Brock -

  14. Pingback: GNC-2009-03-31 #464 Back in Honolulu « Technical Support Geek

  15. Mark,

    This is totally off topic, but; what is going on with Mahalo? I haven’t seen an update in a few weeks and really enjoyed reading the news on Mahalo each morning. It had become part of my daily routine. I’m pretty sure i read on your blog that you are an investor of the site. Just curious about the status.

    Best regards,

    Chris

    Comment by Chris -

  16. Your blog is and I think I remember espn.com has quoted it several times.

    Comment by Chad Sweeney -

  17. Technically, it’s copyrighted, whether it’s on Twitter, a blog comment, a discussion forum, USENET, whatever.

    That said, it’s totally a “fair use” issue. Just because something is short doesn’t mean that using it constitutes fair use. For example, a short poem, e.g., a haiku, is considered a complete work, and therefore re-publishing it is generally a copyright violation.

    The question here is whether a single tweet is really a “complete work”, or simply part of the total body of work of someone’s collected tweets.

    There are no absolute rules about fair use. There are multiple guidelines, including the extent of the work that was republished, the intent of the republication, whether or not attribution was properly given, and whether or not any potential economic damage was done to the original author.

    While we haven’t seen a test case of it yet, I have to think that the widespread practice of re-tweeting is going to make enforcement of copyright difficult with Twitter posts. Killing re-tweets would kill Twitter. And how is somebody supposed to indicate that they don’t want their posts re-tweeted?

    And if you don’t positively enforce your copyright claim against re-tweeters, I would think it would be difficult to make a claim against any other outlets over a single tweet.

    Comment by Scott Allen -

  18. Is a tweet copyrightable?

    Most likely. Under the Copyright Act, 17 USC § 102,
    (a) Copyright protection subsists, in accordance with this title, in original works of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression, now known or later developed, from which they can be perceived, reproduced, or otherwise communicated, either directly or with the aid of a machine or device.

    Is a tweet copyrighted by default when its published?

    I believe this question should be rephrased. The question probably should be two parts. First, is the transmission of twitter publication? Second, does publication of twitter alter any rights of the author?

    To answer the question asked, whether or not tweet is copyrighted by default when it is published, copyright exists when an author creates an original work covered by the act, but does not require publication. See the section of the Copyright Act copied above, reading that quotation there is no requirement that the work be published for copyright to exist. For further proof, examine the section of the Copyright Act regarding pre-emption.
    (a) On and after January 1, 1978, all legal or equitable rights that are equivalent to any of the exclusive rights within the general scope of copyright as specified by section 106 in works of authorship that are fixed in a tangible medium of expression and come within the subject matter of copyright as specified by sections 102 and 103, whether created before or after that date and whether published or unpublished, are governed exclusively by this title. Thereafter, no person is entitled to any such right or equivalent right in any such work under the common law or statutes of any State. 17 USC § 301.

    You notice the section that expressly states published or unpublished is governed exclusively by the Copyright Act? The purpose of the section is to prevent state law from also legislating in this area of the law, but it also provides evidence without resorting to case law that publication of a work is not required for an author to have a copyright in their work.

    Can there possibly be a fair use exception for something that is only 140 characters or less?

    There may be a fair use exception for a literary work under these circumstances, but I don’t believe the issue is solely related to the relative brevity of your work. Initially, you would examine your rights in your work. Presumably, you would prefer to control the reproduction and distribution of your work. Under 17 USC § 106, you have exclusive rights in this area, but those rights are subject to the limitations in § 107-122. 17 USC § 107 is the section of the Copyright Act that deals with “fair use.”

    Notwithstanding the provisions of sections 106 and 106A, the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright. In determining whether the use made of a work in any particular case is a fair use the factors to be considered shall include —
    (1) the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
    (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.
    The fact that a work is unpublished shall not itself bar a finding of fair use if such finding is made upon consideration of all the above factors.

    If I were defending the media against an allegation of copyright infringement, I might bring up the shortness of the twitter, especially given factor (3). I do not believe this is the lead issue in defending such a claim. I would argue that as owner of the Dallas Mavaricks your comments are fall into the statutory exception for reproduction of works for purposes of comment, criticism, and news reporting and as such are not copyright infringement.

    So when an ESPN.com or any other outlet republishes a tweet, have they violated copyright law?

    It is conceivable that republishing a tweet could be a violation of copyright law, but in your case it seems unlikely because of who you are and the nature of the comments. It is likely that the reproduction of your comments would fall within the fair use exception to copyright infringement.

    Is twittering the process of publishing in 140 characters or less, or is it a private communications to those that follow you? Even if you dont block outsiders from seeing it?

    I don’t believe that publication or the lack of it is relevant to whether or not copyright law could be used to prevent distribution twitter comments, given the facts you indicated. But, to answer the question of whether or not twittering is publication look at some definitions within the Copyright Act.

    Under 17 USC § 101 –
    “Publication” is the distribution of copies or phonorecords of a work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending. The offering to distribute copies or phonorecords to a group of persons for purposes of further distribution, public performance, or public display, constitutes publication. A public performance or display of a work does not of itself constitute publication.
    To perform or display a work “publicly” means —
    (1) to perform or display it at a place open to the public or at any place where a substantial number of persons outside of a normal circle of a family and its social acquaintances is gathered; or
    (2) to transmit or otherwise communicate a performance or display of the work to a place specified by clause (1) or to the public, by means of any device or process, whether the members of the public capable of receiving the performance or display receive it in the same place or in separate places and at the same time or at different times.

    To “display” a work means to show a copy of it, either directly or by means of a film, slide, television image, or any other device or process or, in the case of a motion picture or other audiovisual work, to show individual images nonsequentially.
    Based on my understanding of twittering, I don’t believe that twittering would constitute publication. Merely displaying or transmitting your work to the public does not constitute publication under the statute. Rather, I believe that it would constitute “display” using the plain language definitions of these terms contained within the act.

    You could also extend this to Facebook. Do you own your status update? Is it a private communications between you and friends, or is a published work? If a newspaper or website wants to publish your status update, do they need permission first?

    If newspaper, website, or other actor that wanted to publish a work did not have a qualifying exception to the copyright law, then publication of the author’s work would require permission. The consequences for failing to get permission in advance of such publication and likelihood of an author enforcing those consequences seem uncertain. There really isn’t enough information in such a hypothetical to hazard a probable guess as to the legal or practical outcome.

    Comment by Guile -

  19. Pingback: Are Your Tweet’s Copyrighted? | The Dev Shack

  20. I see tweets as “mini-blogs” so whatever rights apply to blogs I would assume they should apply to “tweets”.

    Comment by Paul D -

  21. The point is moot. It doesn’t matter whether you “own” your work. It’s being quoted here. Something said or written in a public forum, or something that’s published in any way, is quotable material. So a copyright on Tweets wouldn’t protect them from showing up on ESPN or anywhere else for that matter.

    Comment by Kat Greene -

  22. @Michael Thanks for the info/update. Will keep for copyright & future possible advice. I’ve exposed a company/idea over Twitter already. – patrick

    Comment by patrick in California -

  23. What makes your criticism any different from that of a fan who buys into the NBA by purchasing a ticket? What law says it’s illegal for you to criticize the NBA’s refs? You are essentially a shareholder, and unless there is a clause that says there is to be absolutely no opinion whatsoever mentioned publicly that relates to criticism, you should sue those bastards.

    Comment by Clayton -

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  25. Pingback: Twitter: conversação privada ou pública? « Webmanário

  26. want to argue semantics? just because one could technicaly, legally become a copyright nazi doesn’t mean it should be the norm. now, everyday tweets aren’t likely to be sought out for their timeliness, controversy, or widespread appeal. but, they can cause a stir from time to time, and most of the time they’re just opinions that wouldn’t really justify going out of one’s way to protect as intellectual property. now, on that same note, although copyright is implied when you post, assuming the tweet is truly your own, would you really feel safe posting something that really *should* be protected, such as poetry, a (very) short story, or an excerpt from a long piece? perhaps mark is simply questioning ethics and legality, technically speaking. would he really want to pursue it? i doubt it. don’t take a small picture and blow it up too much.

    Comment by jessica -

  27. Twitter is a public conversation. While it might be technically true that what you write is copyrighted, how much of a pickyune bad sport does anyone want to look like pursuing it? And what about the RT? Someone says something interesting, compelling, provocative, and people retweet it. Do we really want to stop that by making people get permission?

    How foolish do we want to look?

    Now, if you want to talk about being fined, I think that’s ridiculous. But that isn’t about copyright – it’s about the NBA being oversensitive.

    Comment by Sue Densmore -

  28. Tom Casady, Chief of Police for Lincoln, NE posted this on his blog today. It kind of addresses your question.

    http://lpd304.blogspot.com/2009/03/digital-footprints.html

    Comment by Eric -

  29. Pingback: 3 Count: Scribus Takedownius | PlagiarismToday

  30. Pingback: Do you own your Tweets? (Mark Cuban wants to know) | Sportsin140.com - Athletes & Sports on Twitter!

  31. Pingback:   links for 2009-03-31 — contentious.com

  32. have you *read* the twitter TOS? i’m not going to read thru 76 comments to try and find that answer, only because i’m pressed for time. anyway, it states that you are soley responsible for your content and conduct on twitter, and that they lay no claim of copyright to your tweets and such, and that the poster maintains all copyright to all of their content, provided said content is not copyrighted otherwise. so, i feel that the mere outline of established copyright in their TOS means that someone should have asked you before they printed or otherwise reproduced your tweets. now, there may be a legal loophole of which im not intricately aware that gives freedom of press TO the press, so long as you are cited as having made the quote, much like citing references in a research paper.

    i hated high school english, too.

    Comment by jessica -

  33. Hmmm, great questiong….seems to be the meme of the day. At least with Facebook…..they just publicly specified that you do own your own content….not sure about Tweeter. I suppose the EULA’s for the various sites could be adjusted to clarify this.

    Comment by szook -

  34. Tweets are under copyright, as they should be.

    ‘We claim no intellectual property rights over the material you provide to the Twitter service. Your profile and materials uploaded remain yours. You can remove your profile at any time by deleting your account. This will also remove any text and images you have stored in the system.’

    On the other hand:
    ‘You are solely responsible for your conduct and any data, text, information, screen names, graphics, photos, profiles, audio and video clips, links (“Content”) that you submit, post, and display on the Twitter.com service.’

    http://twitter.com/terms

    Comment by Lil -

  35. Everything you write is your own and unless someone quotes you without attributing the quote to you, then they have violated copyright policies.

    On a more important note:
    -ahem-

    Dear Mr. Cuban:

    I would like to propose that as I am a Cornell University undergraduate, that you would allow me the opportunity to review your tweets before you post them (IE for grammar, or more importantly for potential topics that may lead to fines.)

    In just payment, I would ask that you pay for part of my college tuition which has been increasing steadily although the economy has faltered. Rather than donating this money towards charities for injured hockey players, perhaps aid a potential sports writer? =)

    If you would be interested in this trade, please e-mail me at ChristinaK5689@hotmail.com and we can converse further.

    Yours,
    Christina

    Comment by Christina -

  36. Dear Mark,
    With all due respect for all youve done for this organization. A man like you shunt be asking the masses a question of this nature. You are rich enough and smart enough to consult an attorny that specializes in this matter

    Comment by MavsFann -

  37. A tweet is not protected by copyright. It lacks many of the requisite elements of copyrightable material. This is a pretty interesting thread, but off base.

    Comment by brock -

  38. dont you think, that retweeting id re-publishing

    Comment by Moksh Juneja -

  39. Pingback: Copyright And Libel Questions Hit The Twitterverse | bitbucket.kylewelsh.com

  40. Pingback: Pirate Social » Are Tweets Copyrighted?

  41. You got a 25k fine for that tweet that is ridiculous. You have to fight this Mark. Freedom of twitter. Is Stern crazy?

    On another note I just watched your movie redacted. It was very controversial and good.

    I hope so much you make the movie Loose Change and put it in theatres. You are the only man that has the balls and the means to do it. You would be a hero and this movie would be prolific.
    Bill O’Reilly would flip out.

    Aaron Russo was a great man and this could make him RIP.
    WhiteWoody
    espn poker

    Comment by Mark -

  42. I’d love to see you pursue this and find an answer.

    Off topic, NBA refs deserve to be criticized. After seeing phantom fouls on Dwyane Wade get called and seeing Gerald Wallace suffer a concussion with no foul call, I think it’s fairly obvious there is a lack of balance in officiating.

    Comment by Corey -

  43. You can copyright your twitter feed via Creative Commons and TweetCC
    http://ow.ly/1IOz and you can go thee to view if someone has done so. It’s usually a public domain dedication license requiring attribution and that seems appropriate to me.
    Why do this? Well if somebody writes a book and publishes all of your fantastic Tweets, shouldn’t they attribute the comments to you?

    Comment by Janet -

  44. Good question. I’ll leave the legal debate to the comments above.

    I was more concerned with you being fined by the NBA for the tweet and how that might impact your (and others) future usage of Twitter.

    Not that you need it but as a blog reader and Twitter follower, I’d chip in my share of the $25k fine to keep the comments flowing.

    Comment by Mike Ford -

  45. Pingback: » Copyright And Libel Questions Hit The Twitterverse JJMacey Dot Net / Blog: Run Lixux, Run Open Source - Run Free!

  46. Pingback: Cheap LOL » Blog Archive » Don’t fuck with Mark Cubans Tweets

  47. A group of tech-savvy lawyers have discussed this in the This Week in Law podcast a few weeks ago: http://twit.tv/twil21

    Comment by Joel -

  48. The answer is NO!

    Tweets cannot be protected under copyright law. They cannot for the practical reason that individuals could begin brute-force copyrighting what can be said on twitter for various domains and the law loses its utility. Should it be the case that the writing of copyright law allows interpretation for tweets to be protected the law is broken in a newly discovered way.

    Comment by Michael Lang -

  49. @patrick in California

    You don’t have to register to own the copyright, but there are benefits to doing so:

    • Registration establishes a public record of the copyright
    claim.
    • Before an infringement suit may be filed in court, registration
    is necessary for works of U. S. origin.
    • If made before or within five years of publication, registration
    will establish prima facie evidence in court of
    the validity of the copyright and of the facts stated in
    the certificate.
    • If registration is made within three months after publication
    of the work or prior to an infringement of the work,
    statutory damages and attorney’s fees will be available to
    the copyright owner in court actions. Otherwise, only an
    award of actual damages and profits is available to the
    copyright owner.
    • Registration allows the owner of the copyright to record
    the registration with the U. S. Customs Service for protection
    against the importation of infringing copies. For
    additional information, go to the U. S. Customs and
    Border Protection website at http://www.cbp.gov/xp/cgov/import.
    Click on “Intellectual Property Rights.”

    http://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ1.pdf

    Any celebrities interested in pursuing copyright protection for their blogs or tweets should call me! Click on my name, then about, and email me. Especially if you’re Jennifer Aniston.

    Comment by Michael F. Martin -

  50. This is particularly interesting for celebrities to investigate. The other day, I found a trash magazine that based the John Mayer/Jennifer Aniston breakup on his excessive use of Twitter. It used Mayer’s Twitter posts to interpret a certain state of being about the Johnifer relationship. I thought it was incredibly stupid, because who breaks up over Twitter? But I think also that Mayer could find this damaging to his personality and perhaps libelous. If not in the US, than perhaps abroad where libel and slander laws do not favor the media as much as they do here?

    Comment by Mallory -

  51. Did some research/homework.

    I talked to a longtime columnist for our local town paper. He puts out a clever original quote accompanied by an illustration in side a box almost daily. Not a cartoon, but a “thought for the day” type segment. Example: “If your not looking for love, ONLY hate will approach you!” Then he might have a drawing of a dark cloud overhead, above a man.

    Anyways, he registers about once a week with the Library of Congress. Sends in the fee which is $35 I think. Thats what I paid for material sometime back. Anytime he comes up with a winner, a real humdingy, it is fastly registered. Copyrighted. Everytime. No excdeptions. These one liners, to two liners are identical to a Twitter box. Almost same size. Addition is the illustration.

    This columnist has now two books published. All compiled with these box captions from the years with the newspaper. He’s made a small fortune.

    Question posed. Who owns the captions. The newspaper or the columnist? Just like a Twitter box almost.
    The Answer- he owns what he copyrighted. Thats why he has paid over $100,000.00 in copyright fees to the government. So he’s protected. Each and every time there is a reprint of any of his captions, anywhere in the United States, he is paid. He collects a residual. The “Tonight Show” used some of his captions once, and he was paid.

    Only what he has copyrighted for himself is he protected and owns the rights to. As he does not copyright every single day, he couldn’t. Therestoo many.What he doesn’t copyright, the newspaper then owns the rights. That is to reprint again and again without paying him.

    I think, you would have to go through the lengthy process of filing a copyright application, enclosing a $35 dollar fee or whatever it is, and securing your 140-characters in the Library of Congress in Washington D.C., each and every time before you Twitter to be fully protected.

    Think about it. Copyright each and every time. Everyone of your important Tweets? Am I mad, or you mad? Are you going to do this? Never. Unless you’re a multi-millionaire and have a team of lawyers working for you. You would be running into a budget of a quarter of a million dollars a year just for the hundreds of thousands of Tweets. Is it worth the protection? The cost?

    Suggestion. If it is extremely important. Then go ahead and copyright the 140-characters you’ll want to be Tweeting. Wait the 6 to 10 weeks for the certificate of Copyright ownership to come back to you in the mail. Review your document carefully. Once you are sure you are fully protected as rightful owner to the orginal 140-character Twitter masterpiece. then immediately, wast no more time, and turn on your computer. Commence tweeting.

    But remember. By the time all your fantastic lifelong friends and “new” followers have received your long awaited tweet, they will be either long gone, moved on or relocated, just plain bored with you to the point of being highly irritated beyond rationality, or maybe even passed away.

    I think it would be better maybe then to just go ahead Tweet “nonstop” again, immediately, and take your chances that the honest Tweeter world out there in internet land is going to respect all of your private “tweet” property!

    P.S. this blog is not copyrighted. I release all rights to Blog Maverick @ Blog Maverick HQ’s in Dallas, Texas. Did I do that right?

    Comment by patrick in California -

  52. It seems strange to me that people would be bothered by their tweets being re-purposed, even if it’s in the mainstream media. Isn’t that the whole point of Twitter? Isn’t that the point of Facebook? That your thoughts and ideas are being shared? Social networks aren’t a place for your deepest, private thoughts. It’s one thing if someone were to try and pass your content off as their own, and another entirely if they are simply sharing it with others. That’s kind of why you put it out there in the first place….

    Comment by melissa -

  53. Well your words are copyrighted as soon as they are published… and when you hit update, you publicly published them. They are not just for people who subscribe to your twitter account unless you make them private… You check a box in account settings that says “Protect my updates”. What fun would there be in that? I do think copyright law covers this and I suggest you ask them. They have a form you can fill out to get a reply. I have used it in the beading world that I work in and it comes in very handy. http://www.copyright.gov

    Comment by Pamela Welborn -

  54. Pingback: Are tweets coyrighted? « Raja Jasti’s Blog - Renaissance Thinking

  55. You’re a public figure posting to a public medium. What you say is fair game.

    Comment by Jeff Putz -

  56. Pingback: Ruling Imagination: Law and Creativity » Blog Archive » Is republication of Mark Cuban’s tweet on Twitter non-infringing? Almost certainly it is.

  57. An argument could be made to protect an individual tweet if it could be considered a complete work, say a Haiku for instance, but otherwise it’s going to be a long shot because of the “short phrase” exception.

    Comment by kevinhouchin -

  58. Thank God for the Copyright Act of 1976 http://www.copyright.gov/
    Yes, if you even think it, you’re protected.

    Comment by Jim @smashadv -

  59. the point of course being that tweets and facebook updates and the like are MEANT to be passed along . . . I say, there’s no copy RITHT and only copy WRONG in claiming an ownership interest in gossip.

    Comment by Vickie Pynchon -

  60. If you publicly criticize the ref’s no matter what they are going to fine you. If I had the grade the ref’s in the league I’d give them a B- … They are very inconsistent and at times they can determine the outcome of a game without question. I believe the Heat vs Mav’s series was the worst Ref’d series I’ve EVER seen. (in any sport) The Mav’s outplayed the Heat in every game except for game 6. It should have never gotten that far anyways.

    Regardless at this point criticizing the ref’s day in and day out doesn’t gain you anything whether its on facebook, twitter, or directly to Bob Costas. I think the NBA gets too butt hurt over anybody involved with the league criticizing officials but the fact is that you know the system. When you say something on twitter its no different from saying something with a microphone infront of your face and a camera. You can’t beat the system by blogging your criticism. Your a owner of a team not a fan. The rules for a fan don’t apply for you unforunately but thats the name of the game.

    Comment by key2life -

  61. Pingback: Twitter Law: Are Tweets Copyrighted?

  62. Pingback: Copyright And Libel Questions Hit The Twitterverse | SolidWebs

  63. One thing to consider as to fair use is how much of the whole is being quoted. ESPN may have legitimate journalistic purpose in quoting Mr. Cuban, but how much of 140 characters is a fair amount? Is ESPN supplanting Cuban’s own Twitter market? Jounalism not give a blank check for copying. See for example http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harper_%26_Row,_Publishers,_Inc._v._Nation_Enters.

    This is why fair use is tricky. Words like “fair” are very subjective and it is not easy to clearly determine how any court might rule.

    Comment by Paul G -

  64. Is a tweet copyrightable ?
    Yes

    Is a tweet copyrighted by default when its published ?
    Created after 1978, fixed in tangible medium of expression.
    Tangible medium… hmmm. Fine. I’d say yes.

    Can there possibly be a fair use exception for something that is only 140 characters or less ?
    Blogs can be considered commentary, sometimes criticism.
    So, yes, there can be fair use exception.

    So when an ESPN.com or any other outlet republishes a tweet, have they violated copyright law ?
    Good question.

    Is twittering the process of publishing in 140 characters or less, or is it a private communications to those that follow you ?
    Even if you dont block outsiders from seeing it ?

    It seems to me that the question here is about private communications and whether those are copyrighted. I believe they are. A book does not need to be published in order to be copyrighted.

    You could also extend this to Facebook.

    Do you own your status update ?
    Interesting.

    Is it a private communications between you and friends, or is a published work ?
    Good point. If I am using the phone and communicating to friends using audio communications, then that is not copyrighted. If I speak to friends in person, then it is not copyrighted. Should electronic communications be copyrighted? My opinion on this is no. IANAL. Check out the electronic communications act. There are some restrictions and protections for electronic communications there.

    If a newspaper or website wants to publish your status update, do they need permission first ?
    Good question. Maybe they do not, but I bet they might ask.

    All great questions. Are tweets copyrighted?
    Not if you use the GFDL or Gnu Free Documentation License!
    :)

    Comment by Marcia Wilbur -

  65. Yes it copyrighted BUT , the media has the right to use excerpts from it as long as they attribute the source back to you.

    It’s no different than an 8 year old kid writing a report for class and citing what you wrote and attributing the quote back to you in their “Works Cited / Bibliography” section.

    What becomes interesting is if you can prove that someone has directly profited from you copyrighted tweets, because that’s a no-go.

    Comment by Micheal -

  66. Pingback: SLAM ONLINE | » Mark Cuban Wonders About His Twitter Rights

  67. Pingback: links for 2009-03-30 « Brent Sordyl’s Blog

  68. P.S. — using a copyright notice as one commenter suggested doesn’t create copyright rights. If the tweet qualifies for protection, it is protected. If it doesn’t, the notice won’t help.

    Comment by Seth Greenstein -

  69. This is not susceptible to a pat answer, and you need to consider the facts in context.

    Whether a tweet is protected by copyright depends on whether the tweet shows the requisite originality. While one commenter is right that short phrases or slogans cannot be protected by copyright, the most famous William Carlos Williams poem, “The Red Wheelbarrow,” is about 90 characters long and no one would doubt its copyrightability. If you remember the ad campaign of some years ago, “I Love New York,” the jingle consisted of four notes, and was protected by copyright.

    As to whether quoting a tweet is fair use, another commenter was correct to apply the four factor analysis. In general, if the tween was quoted for purposes of news or commentary, it is more likely to be fair use. If it is republished for purposes more properly classified as commercial, e.g., on a “celebrity tweets” page, it is likely to not be a fair use. Another question is whether the user used too much of the tweet for the stated purpose. Some examples of when uses of text are/not fair use are collected at the helpful Stanford law web site, http://fairuse.stanford.edu/Copyright_and_Fair_Use_Overview/chapter9/9-c.html

    Comment by Seth Greenstein -

  70. To tweet or not to tweet that is the question?

    In my opinion I feel it is copyrighted and more of a personal outlet. Like a phone call or an email.
    Is there no place you can discuss your ideas without getting fined.

    Facebook has already cost one eagle employee his job for writing about the eagle’s management.

    Interesting concept, I guess that is why Stern hasn’t fined you yet. If he could he would.

    Speaking of Espn I am a regular on the poker site.
    If you play poker you should check it out.I play under the name Whitewoody In the top rooms. I am the top poker player there. Anyway come check it out, I will give you a million chips so you can play at the round table.

    Whitewoody

    Comment by Mark -

  71. Mark,

    Your tweets fall under fair use because it’s in public domain. It’s the same thing when Curt Schilling posts on 38pitches.com. He writes on there knowing that sources like ESPN, SI, etc are going to quote him on it. As long as the tweet was attributed to you, there’s no problem with it.

    My college newspaper has taken quotes from Facebook groups and profiles before, all of which is perfectly legal. I would think that Twitter falls under the same category.

    Comment by adam1309 -

  72. Wow. My head is spinning from all of this cerebral activity.

    These are all great points of discussion, a discussion that reminds me there is still intelligent life out there, but the one about Shaq was the most golden of all apples this day. Okay, back to random key-punching.

    Comment by typing monkey -

  73. I would need to know a) were you given credit for the quote? b) Did it add or contract to your bottomline? Please note that I did not know you existed until I saw your twitter URL on Channel 7 sports news.

    I’ll follow you because I think you’re a geek!

    Comment by KaRi from LBCTelevision -

  74. Jeff, I believe that the circular you cite is designed to recognize a carve out for trademark law. Tweets aren’t much like trademarks.

    Fair use is a losing defense here because the whole tweet can’t be subject to fair use. One of the tenets of fair use law is that the amount of text used has to be relatively small compared to the whole of the copyright. 140/140 is not a small proportion.

    An answer I haven’t seen is that tweets are not protectable for the same reason that facts in news reports are not protectable — i.e., because of the lack of “originality” under *Feist*. But this argument too would depend on the tweet. Tweets of game scores, for example, would probably not be copyrightable subject matter under *Feist*. Tweeting commentary on a particular play probably is still eligible.

    The damages issue is not necessarily relevant. Maybe he wants an injunction.

    Comment by Michael F. Martin -

  75. Pingback: Ben Barren - Confessions of a Mad Man » Halfway to 70 Longroom Day + The End of Excess.

  76. My personal opinion on the matter is that you need to be careful WHAT you tweet! Celebrity or not what you say is being broadcast to many. Even if in private can be and will be ReTweeted to the world especially if you are a noteworthy person! Copyright laws are not up to date with the times, and really hard to prove these days because of the information overload that exist! Case in point before I was following MCuban on twitter I knew that you got your hair cut recently. Not sure why the people that told me thought I would care about the length of your hair, but the information was there for me because of twitter secondhand!

    Another thing that is going to be of issue soon, if not already…
    fake celebrities! There are many people that are faking a celebrity status because of the anonymity of the twitter world!
    How can they prove YOU were the original source?

    I think you are being held to a higher standard than others associated with the NBA. It is like they are lying in wait trying to find anything they can yell AHA! about. Sad really. Let’s face it, talking “smack” is a big part of the game and what makes it fun! For the record I haven’t heard anything you said that wasn’t true or I didn’t agree with!

    Comment by Jeni Richardson -

  77. Yes. Anything you write falls under an automatic copyright and is protected. Since Twitter seems like it can pretty easily track whether or not someone who copied your tweet had access to your original tweet, there is protection in that. Registering it will help solidify your case. But it’s like any form of published work. Pretty cut and dry.

    It’s like suggesting Earnest Hemingway’s famous six word story wasn’t copyright when he wrote it. It was. It was just written with other tools.

    Here’s my recollection of the Hemingway story below, might be off by a word or two:

    For sale. Baby shoes. Never used.

    Pretty intense…

    Comment by Max -

  78. I’m not a lawyer, but I would think the answer would be, yes. Like someone else pointed out, Twitter is merely a ‘micro-blogging’ platform where the usual copyright laws apply.

    http://www.google.com/blogger_dmca.html

    Though on the other had, I think anyone that quotes a tweet is protected under the fair use doctrine.

    How much of someone else’s work can I use without getting permission?

    Under the fair use doctrine of the U.S. copyright statute, it is permissible to use limited portions of a work including quotes, for purposes such as commentary, criticism, news reporting, and scholarly reports. There are no legal rules permitting the use of a specific number of words, a certain number of musical notes, or percentage of a work. Whether a particular use qualifies as fair use depends on all the circumstances. See FL 102, Fair Use, and Circular 21, Reproductions of Copyrighted Works by Educators and Librarians.

    http://www.copyright.gov/help/faq/faq-fairuse.html

    Comment by Jesse -

  79. As has been mentioned, you’re not likely to get too far with this sort of plan as long as your tweets are open. While they’re openly available, even people without Twitter accounts can see them by going to twitter.com/mcuban. Thus, all ESPN is doing by rebroadcasting them on their website is saving people the trouble of doing that. Also, they’re providing them as quotes with attribution, so I think you’d have a tough time going after them for that. However, if you were to lock your tweets, you’d have a much better argument; in that scenario, you really are providing information only for those you’ve selected as followers. That would probably reduce your Twitter popularity, though.

    Comment by Andrew Bucholtz -

  80. Circular 34 http://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ34.html published by the United States Copyright Office. This document clearly sets forth “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.”

    It would be hard to convince me that a Tweet can be copyrighted.

    Comment by Jeff -

  81. Mark…First off being in Seattle I’m soooo happy you voted against the Sonics move to OKC…but yeah maybe you should ESPN.com..if you win maybe you could run it..First thing to do fire Skip Bayless and Rick Reiley.

    Comment by Babyyao -

  82. You could always add this tag to your tweets — © Mark Cuban 2009, all rights reserved.

    Except that’s 39 characters . . .

    Comment by Ken Carpenter -

  83. Thats is a very interesting proposal. Oh boy, the answer. Not me I’m afraid. Not an attorney. Have an entertainment attorney in Beverly Hills who looks out for my interest. What I’ve learned and mistakes I made. Be very careful when you sign that “release.”
    Instead of negotiating, I hurried my “stupid” signature on a release contract that covered the late night network talkshow that I was writing for, from A to Z. (I’ll forward Brian C. the copy of the contract for laughs if he wants to take a look/or rep me personally on other interests. In other words, any material that is re-aird, I receive NO residuals.
    In terms of Tweets. Be careful, just be very careful that what you say in 140 characters of less is protectedif what you type happens to be the answer for solving cancer or winning the Mega Millions lottery. Otherwise you will get notta!
    Personally, I haave gone private on my posts. My attorney advised that publicly discussing my new sci-fi screenplay on the web, ie…Twitter, anywhere for taht matter is subject to theft. Copyrighted stealing. Even though it is registered at the Guild in Hollywood. As much fun as it is shouting your project or intentions out loud, consider withholding any personal information. Before you Twitter.

    Comment by patrick -

  84. Mr. Cuban:

    There is a Klingon proverb that reads, “If you do not want something heard, do not say it.” Since the NBA love for you to donate to the retired owners fund, anything you publish in any format anywhere will be scrutinized by the NBA.

    If I may be so bold, do you still match dollar for dollar to charity the amounts that the NBA fines you?

    Comment by Alan Balthrop -

  85. @J

    It’s not a 1st amendment issue. Granted the NBA can be overzealous to an extreme on this sort of thing. It’s like if a employee of Budweiser or whatever criticised the company on his blog, the company could punish him. Now obviously Mark isn’t an employee of Stern but the NBA owners collectively grant power to Stern to enforce these rules (however petty) for the good of the league. I just get annoyed when people drop the term “1st amendment” at the bat of an eyelash, isn’t it mainly to stop the government from jailing people for critcising them? It’s not a free pass to say whatever you want with no consequence.

    Comment by HJ -

  86. Whether it’s illegal or not, Stern’s obvious misuse of power will always seem to find it’s way to your pocketbook. I’ve witnessed the bias and hyprocritical rules from the NBA for years now and I’m honestly surprised that you are so willing to continue to take this b.s. But in response to the original question, it appears to me that twitter is no different than most conventional blogging sites but again it is a moot point as long as the NBA somehow has the ability to override your 1st amendment rights of free speech.

    Comment by J -

  87. Mark, please post an update on this, it is a good question and I’d like to see the conversation continue.

    Comment by sirshannon -

  88. The damages would be if someone uses a tweet in a commercial manner. The originator of the tweet is entitled to compensation if the quote is not public domain or is creative commons with a no commercial attribute.

    Comment by Dave -

  89. In the US, yes. Upon publication, copyright is granted.Yes the internet is a public venue and satisfies the requirement of publication. That being said, good luck pursuing any sort of claim. Its not the money, or even the time, but you have to ask yourself, are you gonna be the guy that is going to stop the exchange of information across the web?

    twitter occupies that ugly space that photographs do for purposes of exclaiming a Fair Use exemption, due to its brevity. Twits like photos have a hard time being used in part for commentary as the whole is usually required to make any sort of commentary that may make any sense, not that sense is a requirement for either authorship or commentary in the universe of 140 characters,

    You can shoot DMCA Notices to everybody in the interwebs, probably using your Magnolia Lawyers, but do you want to be that guy?

    Speaking of that guy, your copyright notice has no standing for this reply, as it is of ‘foreign authorship’ and is mine. However not to be that guy I grant you a license to publish it on this blog. All other rights are reserved ;)

    Comment by flopoke -

  90. I think they are copyrightable, but what would the damages be?

    Comment by MSC -

  91. Pingback: Are Tweets Copyrightable? | Real Central VA

  92. In direct response to the question, you can creative commons license your tweets at http://www.tweetcc.com/.

    From the site, quoting twitter:
    “We claim no intellectual property rights over the material you provide. Your profile and materials uploaded remain yours.”

    “Twitter also […] encourages users to contribute their creations to the public domain or consider progressive licensing terms.”

    Comment by Bruce -

  93. The fact that this stuff is copyright is fine, just like any other writing or graphic design that someone creates; it’s copyright that instant of creation. However, there better not be anyone suing someone for their Tweets… or Facebook status… that’s just ridiculous. Copyright law is in a bad state right now, and it badly needs an overall.

    Comment by James Stevens -

  94. Sadly, when you put something out into public space like Twitter/Facebook/LinkedIn, you are allowing others to see it, especially the media. I just saw an article in the Express-News where a reporter went to a person’s web site to give some perspective to the article. As this guy is awaiting a conviction on a possible court-martial for murder, the writer turned to his Facebook page to provide perspective on him.

    And, sadly, you Mr. Cuban are what the media term as “good copy.” So, if they can find your Twitter account, then it would only be natural that they would follow you, especially the folks in San Antonio who remembered your well-deserved criticism of our dirty little river.

    Comment by Matt Scherer -

  95. Copyright law protects works of authorship – and it fits under literary works, so you get it when you write it.

    But, it is entirely under the fair use provision of copyright law to be used by a news organization, or for criticism. Now since fair use is a ‘we’ll know it when we see it’, there’s a chance that it wouldn’t be fit. But this is unlikely.

    http://www.citmedialaw.org/blog/2008/primer-copyright-liability-and-fair-use

    Private letters are also covered by copyright law, even if they are unpublished. Fair use would follow because of this. You writing these same 140 characters into a letter, and mailing it to 5 friends would face the same problem if it fell into the hands of a news organization – they are given wide leeway.
    If you apply the 4 fair use factors, you would likely have a problem declaring that a news organization or critic could not use it, for those purposes.

    Comment by Dave -

  96. You can always make your tweets private, but when you say “I tweeted to the people who follow me,” unless they are private your posts will likely get retweeted all over the place on Twitter — and beyond. Now, did you give those retweeters the permission to use your text in their retweet on Twitter? And come to think of it, why should someone on Twitter be able to quote you via a retweet but not a newspaper?

    I do not know the answers legally, but I think anything up on Twitter is going to spread in Twitter and beyond, and it will be a hard fight to stop that. Even if you have legal rights to sue ESPN or some other commercial site quoting your tweet without permission, you will not likely earn too many fans in the process.

    So, one question is, “Is it legal?” but maybe a second and more important one is, “If it is illegal, who dares try to enforce it? And when will the lawsuits end?”

    Comment by SorenG -

  97. It would be very difficult to tweet something that does not fall under the fair use exception to copyright rules.

    Comment by Brian Cuban -

  98. I think quoting a single tweet reasonably falls under “fair use.” Let’s consider the four factors under the fair use provision.

    1: the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
    2: the nature of the copyrighted work;

    For these two, quoting a tweet seems no different than quoting a blog post or interview.

    3: amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole;

    This seems to be the only valid argument against fair use: the “work” was duplicated in its entirety. I think a better argument is that a single tweet is part of (to abuse a horrible terminology) “the conversation” and that each 140 characters is really just a part of the “work” which is the entire feed. Mavsplaybyplay is a really great example of this: quoting “04:50 [DAL] Wright Substitution replaced by Carroll” seems to be reasonable (while pointless) but copying an entire game feed is clearly outside “fair use”. Still, “typical” Twitter usage (i.e. Shaq staying up all night and posting gibberish) involves clusters of related messages.

    Even unclustered, I think the context of 99.99% of tweets constitutes fair use. Suppose on the way into the locker room, Dirk tells Michele Tafoya, “I am going to score 43 points in the second half” and heads off. It is very reasonable for Sportscenter to replay the entire conversion and they are not stealing his “performance” of the halftime interview.

    4: the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

    You would know better than I, but I can’t imagine that even the most famous celebrities (like yourself) can really argue that any individual tweet directly translates to any real financial gain. For example, how much money is Shaq making his tweets “shhhhh shhhhhh dats what aggggh shhhhhhh shhhhhh” or “Stay tuned-prepare for SHAQ to ‘enlyten’ you!!!” (However, I must admit, Shaq’s tweet “I’m watchin the maury povich show, I’m not the father, schwwwwww” is pure gold.)

    Here is one last toy example that I think proves my point:

    One example of short works that are protected from fair use is poetry. Suppose I started the account PoemSkillzByAlex and posted a sequence of deep, insightful 140 character works of art. Maybe I could claim that each was separate work and it would not be fair use to duplicate an entire poem. However, to claim the poems had value, I would probably need to publish a coffee table book full of them (and that is a lot of short poems). But then, it seems I am back to a case where the poems should be judged a single work. Also, it appears to clearly be within fair use for a reviewer to quote a few entire “poems” while recommending my “Poem Skillz” to the world.

    Comment by Alex -

  99. Let’s say that you are in a TV interview and say something – a short phrase, a joke, whatever. I think that it’s reasonable to assume that the press will be able to quote it literally under fair use provisions (but they have to credit you as the author). Fair use usually applies to small selections of material,but for short texts there’s no distinction between a citation and the full material.

    Now, if someone just copies what you’re saying without giving credit, they’re clearly violating you IP. However, there are a few problems with tweets. First, it’s possible for a short text to be deemed as “obvious”. It may be the case that someone wrote something very similar to what you wrote. And someone else (and individual, I mean, not a professional journalist) may “re-tweet” you without credit, misleading the publisher as for the original source. So I guess that’s is not clear or easy to prove any intention to violate your IP in this case.

    Comment by Carlos Ribeiro -

  100. Pingback: Mark Cuban’s Twitter Bill: $510 a Word | Peter Kafka | MediaMemo | AllThingsD

  101. Well it would seem that ESPN is entitled to quote your tweet under fair use without much of a stretch. It’s a public statement by you and you are relevant to much of what they do (ie: covering sports and you own a major franchise). So long as they are commenting on it or contextualizing it in some way it’s fair game. They probably could not, for example, post a feed of your tweets on their site.

    Comment by Noah -

  102. “Copyright protection subsists from the time the work is created
    in fixed form. The copyright in the work of authorship
    immediately becomes the property of the author who created
    the work. Only the author or those deriving their rights
    through the author can rightfully claim copyright.”

    http://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ1.pdf

    Comment by Michael F. Martin -

  103. Well, they are just publishing a 140-character quote of your tweet… :-)

    Comment by Francisco -

  104. I joined Twitter recently and brought up this exact question. Honestly, I hadn’t even thought of copyright and Fair Use issues. I basically viewed the tweet as a public utterance and asked whether quoting someone else’s tweet on a blog or outside Twitter was considered bad form. The people who follow me responded that tweets aren’t private and they can be quoted.

    Comment by Scott Macaulay -

  105. Is this really an issue?

    Comment by Bronx Baseball Daily -

  106. Copyright belong to the author

    http://twitter.com/terms

    Comment by Erik Schwartz -

  107. Yes it is copyrighted by law,Twitter says what you write is yours. You might want to register it with the US Copyright Office but since you have up the Copyright Notice you might win in court without registering the work.

    Twitter Copyright Policy

    We claim no intellectual property rights over the material you provide to the Twitter service. Your profile and materials uploaded remain yours. You can remove your profile at any time by deleting your account. This will also remove any text and images you have stored in the system.

    http://twitter.com/terms

    US Copyright Information

    The original authorship appearing on a website may be protected by copyright. This includes writings, artwork, photographs, and other forms of authorship protected by copyright.

    http://www.copyright.gov/help/faq/faq-digital.html#website

    Comment by Steven -

  108. I would say that you’re one of the only people who could pursue this legally to find the answer. You just have to ask yourself how much it’s worth to answer this question.

    You could also read the terms of service of Twitter to see if there’s anything about copyright in there. You probably give Twitter a licnse to use your content in whatever way they see fit, meaning that even if you don’t give permission, Twitter might.

    Comment by Rob Blatt -

  109. Pingback: Are Tweets Copyrighted?

  110. Yes. It falls under the same legal framework as a blog or blog post does. Twitter is nothing more than a ‘micro-blogging’ service, juiced up on social networking. Length of content has never been the particular determining factor in copyright law (poetry can be very short, for instance). If you wanted to sue someone over a copyright violation relating to Twitter content, you’d have to prove the value / substance of the information or post being ripped off (in other words you still have to prove damages of some sort; and that doesn’t really change whether it’s 140 characters, or 1400, or 14000). Another particular issue that makes this definitely the case is: the content is associated with your identity / character. In order for ESPN to republish one of your tweets, they’re going to normally identify the source as being you.

    Comment by Jonathan Ruff -

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