Branding/Marketing/PR Content Marketing Social Media

Can you copyright a Tweet

Written by the Editorial Team

by Kara Buffrey

It’s a tale as old as time (2006). The introduction of Twitter to the online social scene was a revolutionary one, allowing people to share their immediate thoughts and desires at the touch of a button, breeding non-inhibitive creativity.

That’s where the problem starts, creativity. Have you ever wondered at what point a Tweet can become copyright property of the author? It may seem like a boring topic but trust me, it’s not.

After researching the topic, I came out battered and confused with no real answer (spoiler alert). However, I have to admit the journey was a thought-provoking one. Read ahead for pure useless knowledge euphoria.

Firstly, it is important to initiate an understanding of what can and cannot be copyrighted. Understanding of this in the public domain is blurry so let’s stay simple. It may be easier to understand what cannot be copyrighted:

  • Idea’s Methods, or Systems
  • Facts
  • Names, Titles, Short Phrases, or Expressions
  • Choreographic Works
  • Fashion (the actual item design, not prints etc)

With that in mind, is it safe to say that a tweet is generally based around fact or expression. I’d say so. Case closed, or so you thought…

November 7th, 2017 was a significant day. No, not the fact that Trump urged North Korea to make a deal around nuclear arms. It was in fact the day that Twitter increased their word limit from 140 to 280 characters.

It has been suggested that blog posts can be protected by copyright because of the substance of the post (as long as it’s original). So, does the increase in word count allow the potential to compose creative, original content. I think so, so technically that is copyright protected. Ah, now I’ve got you.

We are confused now so what should we do? Let’s ask Twitter! Twitter says:

If you believe that your Content has been copied in a way that constitutes copyright infringement, please report this by visiting our Copyright reporting form (https://support.twitter.com/forms/dmca)

Well there we have it, straight from the horse’s mouth, surely if you can report copyright, your tweets must be copyrighted (PLEASE). But no… Twitter also states:

You retain your rights to any Content you submit, post or display on or through the Services. What’s yours is yours.

Let’s think about that for a second. What do you actually tweet about as a business? Progress reports, company information, statistics, your office dog and how cute they are. All of this is (arguably) the recitation of fact. Fact cannot be copyrighted. Boom, mind blown.

So basically, we are nowhere nearer the truth. I’m sure if you were to approach a copyright lawyer regarding a particular case they may be able to give you a straight answer and a really thorough understanding of copyright law, not just the copyright act (yes, they are different) is required.

All in all, I wouldn’t worry too much about it (not that you were before reading this). A tweet at the end of the day is not a piece of literary work, and if it is and you want to protect it may I suggest writing it down. One thing that you could get in trouble with in that word limit is a haiku, so perhaps be poetically mindful.

Also, please remember slogans are not protected under copyright, they will need a trademark. So, tweet and retweet responsibly. Wait a minute, is retweeting a copyright infringement…?