Tweets: whose words are they, anyway?

Posted on: March 10, 2011

Twitter users are accustomed to freely quoting other’s tweets (particularly when re-tweeting). But where does the law lie on tweets being published in a book?

Extanz document the case of the US travel site zipsetgo, where tweeters became angry when they realised their tweets were to be used in this way.

Apparently this is a grey area where legality is yet to be shaped… it is a question of the book as aggregator – should authors be able to profit from collecting other’s words together? How different is this from Google making money from advertising around collecting words from multiple sites?

All creative expressions are a collection of others’ work in some way; books quoting others without permission is common practice: unauthorised biographies, for example, rely on doing this.

But should there be new laws for publicly accessible social media commentary hitting print? I’d say no – but, as ZipSetGo found out, whether or not it’s legal, community norms may mean developing such compilations without member buy-in is, commercially, a very bad idea.

Whose words are they, anyway? Like in the non-virtual world, fights and squabbles are a part of online communities. After all, bloggers and tweeps are groups of like-minded people who have all congregated together in the vast space of the Web.  As with any group, there is bound to be friction and tension as people interact and connect.  We’ve seen before how bloggers will fiercely defend one of their own against a larger entity, and while bloggers will occasionally pick fight … Read More

via – Integrated New Media Agency

3 Responses to "Tweets: whose words are they, anyway?"

Hi Mariam,

I just LOVE this article, because I feel it is so true. Everything on the web is crowdsourced and no one really remembers who said it first. Funny story that happened in Germany was that they found the Defence Minister to have “cheated” with his dissertation, as he didn’t reference everything correctly. German tweeps went mad and bashed him for a week in every tweet.

I really couldn’t understand that. The era of social media is exactly built on a giving and sharing culture. When it comes to someone forgetting a few references, it’s crime? I don’T think so.

Many thanks for an awesome post. Let Buffer this 🙂

Hi Leon, thanks! Yes, all we write and create builds on what we learn from others – so complaining about quoting publicly available tweets definitely seems a step too far. But I think I’m on the fence with the German example… having just finished my dissertation and gone to great pains to reference properly I think academics really should make the effort. But then again perhaps he didn’t have the luxury of the Control + F function when he wrote his… which I found invaluable.

Yeah, I agree, maybe academics is really a different matter in comparison to public tweets. Otherwise a certain core quality will be lost. Then again, maybe our views will shift here too in the future?
Yep, with the technical help it is indeed a bit simple then it was back then.

Lovely design too btw here. I will be back for sure 🙂

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