Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Copyright and Twitter

Alex Hillman, founder of (among other things) ChoiceTweets, spent some time on Twitter yesterday lamenting some copyright arguments he had throughout the day and summarized them here. I love the gray area that is copyright in the digital age and as a photographer, I am acutely aware of how easy it is to violate a copyright and how many people do so everyday. [Aside: my wife had to persuade me not to call my cousin and her sister to ask them to remove photos which I took and they posted to Facebook]. I re-looked at Twitter's terms and found them to be very favorable to the author. Alex's comment about CNN using tweets and Facebook statuses in their broadcast set off a lightbulb in my head. I say CNN, Skittles and others, are infringing (a re-tweet is also an infringement), but that's not the issue. The issue is, do updates on Twitter really warrant full copyright protection. Most posts on Twitter are either inane personal updates or links to another website which has the material that really warrants copyright protection. I think there is/was a guy who was tweeting a book 140 characters at a time, so I could see him wanting protection, but 99+% of twitter users probably don't need it. The true power of the copyright comes through when we protect the right things.

I also find it interesting that Twitter's terms of service are inspired by Flickr's. Flickr provides an option for images to be given varying level of copyright by the poster. Full rights, any Creative Commons license, and public domain are available with a license of the user's choice set by default. I wouldn't be difficult for Twitter to implement something similar. My idea would be to append the license at the end of each tweet: (c), cc-by, cc-by-nc-nd, pd, etc. The longest license is 11 characters. Why not raise the character limit to 151 and reserve the last 11 for the copyright, which could be set by a drop down on the website, or software. SMS updates would just get the default.

Until something like that happens, I've registered my tweets with TweetCC under a Creative Commons Attribution license. If I have something to say and I want more protection, I'll post it here and link to it.

1 comment:

  1. sms updates could have number placed at the beginning of the message to denote which copyright will be used. Or if your profile you could have a blanket copy right so that no characters are being used in your tweet for copyright and everything is covered just in case you forget to choose a copyright.

    the default should be that everything you type is copyrighted unless you opt in to creative commons or what ever the alternative copyrights are.