The topic of intellectual property and whether a tweet is copyrightable or not; came up in the Daybook for our Weblogs and Wiki class. I was curious to learn after extensive copyright protection research there was in fact, a crazy debate regarding copyright and tweeting. If we just look at facts: copyright law is based on size, content and Scènes à faire issues. According to Consuelo Reinberg in the Article “Are Tweets Copyright-Protected” (WIPOMagazine), with Twitter, for example, while its terms of service clearly state that tweeters own anything they post on the service, the 140-character limit to a Twitter post makes it almost impossible for the work to reach the level of creativity required for copyright protection. In the same vein, titles or short phrases usually cannot be protected since their length contributes to their lack of originality, as defined by copyright law. When it comes to content, it is important to understand that facts are not copyrightable. Like many of learned in school, if it is common knowledge, like presidential birthdays or specific dates in history, you do not need a source. Reinberg writes facts are what tweets are mostly about – from talking about the weather to communicating what one had for dinner the night before, to complaining about the morning traffic. Whether one expresses them in a funny or unique way does not make a difference. One can potentially protect a particular expression of a fact, but one cannot then prevent other people from writing about the same fact. As I was learning more about copyright law, I encountered Scènes à faire. This was a first for me and I had no clue what this was. More ready and searching brought me back to Reinberg’s article which describes a work or part of one that is not copyright-protected because the elements used to describe a particular “scene” are indispensable, standard or naturally occurring – and that scene cannot be expressed in any way other than through those elements. So the Question still remains is a Tweet Copyrightable?
The facts of the existing law would say, “No.” As technology continues to evolve it is imperative that we are careful with how we define intellectual property and interpret copyright laws.