Twitter has begun to honour takedown requests from users complaining their jokes have been lifted wholesale and shared by others, passing them off as their own.
Certain tweets have begun to be replaced with copyright notices and a message saying “tweet withheld”. The blocked tweets offer users the chance to “learn more” via a link to Twitter’s policy on DMCA takedown notices.
A statement on Twitter’s policy page asserts:
Twitter will respond to reports of alleged copyright infringement, such as allegations concerning the unauthorized use of a copyrighted image as a profile photo, header photo, or background, allegations concerning the unauthorized use of a copyrighted video or image uploaded through our media hosting services, or Tweets containing links to allegedly infringing materials.
Users who are subject to DMCA takedown notices have 10 days in which to appeal, according to Twitter. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) is a US legislation targeting the avoidance of digital rights management that protects copyrighted work.
In the US, the law is assessed on a central four tenets which comprise fair use: the purpose and character of use, the nature of the copyrighted work, the amount and substantiality of the portion taken, and the effect of the use on the potential market.
Twitter says that it will make a “good faith effort” to contact those whose content is removed under copyright claims, and the claims will be passed on to ChillingEffects.com, a database of online removal requests.
It appears Twitter’s policy of removing tweets that have been reported for copyright infringement is a new development in the past few days. The social network has always had rules around copyright, but these appear to be the first instances of users being referred to as “original authors” and “copyright holders”, as well as the removal of tweets for this reason.
The Verge website reported that one freelance writer, Olga Lexell, had tweeted about the DMCA takedown request she filed after the content of her tweet was taken without credit.
I simply explained to Twitter that as a freelance writer I make my living writing jokes (and I use some of my tweets to test out jokes in my other writing). I then explained that as such, the jokes are my intellectual property, and that the users in question did not have my permission to repost them without giving me credit.
Plenty of Twitter accounts, with thousands of followers, many similar to each other, comprise solely of lifted jokes and media. Some accounts have even joined together to form businesses, and the owners are making a lot of money.
Tweet theft and content appropriated without credit has been happening since the dawn of the social network. In 2013, a minister from South Carolina, Sammy Rhodes, who became famous for his witty tweets, was found to be lifting them from famous comedians. Even comedians themselves, including British star Keith Chegwin, have been found to have copied.
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.
Twitter has not replied to requests for comment.
This article was written by Hannah Jane Parkinson, for theguardian.com on Monday 27th July 2015 14.33 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010