Do you own your Tweets?



Have you ever bothered to read the terms of service agreement on the back of a video game book?  I have.  A few months ago out of pure boredom I decided to pop open the case of “my” Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3 and while flipping through began to read the licensing agreement.  In short and paraphrased it essentially said I didn’t own the game but I purchase a license to play the game.  Furthermore it went on to describe all the various things I couldn’t do with “my” copy… so what would this have to do with Twitter at all?

Flash back to October and the Occupy Wall Street movement.  On October 1st 700 people were arrested for “walking onto the roadway of a bridge.”  One of those 700 people was a man by the name of Malcom Harris, a managing editor for the New Inquiry, an internet magazine.  According to Fox News  prosecutors believed that the substance of Harris’ tweets leading up to the road block would show he knew that police had ordered protestors not to go on the bridge’s roadway hence proving his blatant defiance toward authority.

Ordering a subpoena, prosecutors demanded months-worth of tweets by Harris under the grounds that “Harris has no proprietary interest in his Twitter account’s user information and Tweets merely because he has granted Twitter a license to the content as a part of the Terms of Service with Twitter.”

Just as with “my” copy of Call of Duty; the DA was arguing that the tweets weren’t owned by Harris by being granted a license to the content of twitter, and the judge agreed.  Fortunately for Harris’ sake though Twitter themselves stepped in stating “Twitter respectfully submits that this analysis contradicts the express language of Twitter’s Terms of Service.”  It sounds like SOMEBODY decided not to read the fine print on this one.  “YOU RETAIN YOUR RIGHTS TO ANY CONTENT YOU SUBMIT.”

So allow this to be a lesson to all of you out there in internet land; make sure you read the terms of service agreements on these social networking sites!  Luckily for Mr. Harris Twitter themselves stepped in to protect his rights but as one can plainly see attorneys and prosecutors were willing to step all over his rights if given the opportunity.  You do in fact own your own tweets.

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