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  • partly cloudy

    Twitter Announces New Policy On Copyright Complaints

    Adam Holland, November 05, 2012

    Abstract: On Friday November 2, in a Tweet, Twitter announced a new policy regarding how it would handle tweets regarding which it received a copyright complaint.

    Twitter has announced a new policy with respect to tweets about which it receives a copyright complaint under the DMCA. Upon receipt of a complaint, Twitter will now replace the tweet with a message reading "Tweet Withheld. This Tweet from @Username has been withheld in response to a report from the copyright holder." Tweets containing media will be dealt with similarly. Unsurprisingly, Twitter may also suspend or block repeat offenders. the complete new policy can be found on the "Copyright and DMCA Policy" page in Twitter's help Center.

    As it already does with other requests to block or remove Tweets, Twitter will be sending these new DMCA reports to us here at Chilling Effects.

    You may be wondering, as I was when I first heard about this, how it would be possible to infringe copyright in 140 characters. Surely such a small snippet of text is fair use? And isn't Twitter all about the retweet? The answer is that Twitter clearly does not expect literal infringement, via copying, by the text of tweets. Rather, infringement will take place through links or attached media. To wit:

    "the unauthorized use of a copyrighted image as an profile photo, header photo, or background, allegations concerning the unauthorized use of a copyrighted image uploaded through our photo hosting service, or Tweets containing links to allegedly infringing materials."

    As has been the case recently with announcements like this, many Internet users were initially confused, and saw the announcement as one of censorship on Twitter's part. See this Slashdot thread as one example.

    Bleeding Edge Twitter users may also have been confused by this Tweet , which turned out to be a hoax perpetrated by a security researcher who had searched for a blocked tweet but had been unable to find one, so created his own. Others have already followed suit.

    As always, it's worth noting that under the DMCA, a complainant does not need to prove to Twitter that copyright has been violated, or even that they hold a valid copyright in the material in question.
    We'll have to wait and see in coming days if this new policy is used more to withhold legitimately infringing Tweets, or if it becomes primarily a tool for censorship.

    Whichever it is, you'll be able to see and study all of the notices Twitter receives, here at Chilling Effects.


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