Sunday, April 18, 2010

Are Your Words Yours?

For those of you who tweet, are your tweets covered by copyright? You’d probably say, yes. But if that’s true, then are you violating copyright when you retweet the words of others?

You may have heard of the book, Twitter Wit. The editor worked with Tweet authors, asking them to submit their best Tweets for the book. Those tweeters who were included went out of their way to help promote the book and it was a hit.

Now there’s a new book, Tweet Nothings. It’s not getting those favorable reviews. It, in fact, is being torn apart. Why? Because no one consulted the authors of the tweets included. Some of those who were included in the book are calling foul and lambasting the book on Amazon reviews. The editor has issued an apology letter (after the book was published, though). Instead of all the tweeters getting out there and promoting the book the way they did with Twitter Wit, the tweeters in this book are creating havoc.

The publisher, Peter Pauper Press, has ceased selling the book and promised not to resume sales until everyone quoted in the book is satisfied.

That may take a while since some are thoroughly outraged.

Are your words yours no matter where they appear? How about on Twitter, where you agree that Twitter can make such Content available to others? You can find more on this at TechDirt, Kung Fu Grippe, and Amazon.

What do you think?
TweetIt from HubSpot


  1. I had never thought of the Twitter issue before. If I wrote it, then it is mine. If someone wants to use it, they should ask first.

    Interesting post, thanks Helen.

  2. Most people don't read those agreements provided.

    I had a grade school teacher who caught a note to a friend. She read it to the class. The lesson: If you don't want the world to know, don't write it! And that was back way before computers. lol

    Giggles and Guns

  3. Gah, I've never actually thought of this before. Thanks, Helen, for the heads-up! Hope you're having a great weekend.

  4. Food for thought! One more thing to ponder as I delve into the world of social media...thanks!

  5. I never thought about it before, but I would have assumed that your tweets are in the public domain. Very interesting topic for discussion though- thanks for sharing! Now I'd like to see what tweets were in that book! :-)

    Have a great week!

  6. That's really not something I ever thought about (though my tweets are pretty boring and this is not something I would have to worry about). It makes things interesting for those writers tweeting stories 140 characters at a time. No one wants their work stolen, even short clips of it.

  7. I'd have thought that anything that we "publish," even if it's just online, is under our copyright. Interesting! My tweets are purely informational and not entertaining, fortunately. :)


    Mystery Writing is Murder

  8. Definitely not something I had thought about. What about comments you make on various blogs then? Always something new to consider.

    Thoughts in Progress

  9. Technically, when one commits something to paper, it is copyrighted - guess the publisher never considered this fact. Interesting - I'd not heard about this uproar.
    (And confess - I never heard of the other book either. LOL)

  10. Sounds like it'll be something to figure out now that the Internet is so huge. If your words are copyrighted once you tweet them, then is your book already published if you're tweeting it 140 characters at at time?

  11. What worked in terms of copyrights before this new technology was pretty straightforward and maybe some of the same rules still apply.

    What is put out on the Internet is not just free for the taking. If we quote an article or blog, we have to cite the source - just like we did when our research involved books and periodicals. You do a great job with that, Helen.

    Maybe a guidebook that applies copyright to Twitter and Facebook and blogs would be helpful. For example, retweeting is not the same as quoting. And how does copyright apply to guest blogging?

  12. I love the new header!

    This is a lot to think about. By fair use laws, I thought you could only quote a certain percentage of text and you always have to give the author credit. I think I need to read more about this.

  13. That does bring up some interesting questions especially since some authors have even been using Twitter to show their work 140 characters at a time. I'll be very interested in hearing how this pans out. Your question is dead on and goes right to the heart of the situation, imo.

    [Of course some might have taken exception to this most recent book as it will undoubtedly make some people look like doofuses. Not exactly something that would garner all sorts of support.]

  14. Very good question, Helen. I've sold three tweets to tweet markets and made sure I could retweet them myself (which I can do in one market) before doing so. The other market is considering publishing a book of tweet poetry, so they don't want retweets. But how will people know? What's to stop people? (I don't, but...)

    This is all so confusing and so new!

  15. You're right Kimberly. I haven't seen the book, but the title sounds like it wasn't the most complimentary book.

    Maryann and bermudaonion, it may indeed be time for a new look at copyrights. For me, personally, if I quote from an article, I attribute. If an author posts on my blog, I consider her the holder of the copyright for all of her words. If the writing is all mine, I'm the copyright holder (I made a copyright sign, but sometimes forget to add it to the post.)

  16. Conda, if you have a post about selling tweets, I'd love the link. If not, you're invited to post here about it. Frankly, I've never heard of selling tweets.

  17. Wouldn't it be wild to go back just five years and tell someone one day they could make money reselling his Tweets? His confused expression would be priceless!

    Sorry, that just came to me while reading the posts.

  18. Thanks for these links on the issue. Some use the Creative Commons License which entitles someone to use quoted material provided the source is noted and that no profit is to be gained.

  19. Very interesting post Helen. I had always understood the Fair Use laws to apply to any news posting, so that would include Tweets and Blogs of any kind. But what is most facinating here is that the first book was successful, not only because it abided by the rules of permissions, but the unspoken courtesy involved in including all the tweeters. The approvals are one point of your story, but the word of mouth factor in promotion and endorsement is another. The exponential power of the social media is formidable and it can be used for or against you.

  20. I see your point, Lee. I wonder if most Tweeters would consider their tweets as "news" though.

  21. I have never worried about copyrights and ownership to the stuff I write. When I publish a paper in a science journal or an expanded abstract book, I always have to transfer all copyrights to the publisher. An my tweets and blog posts have no value, so not much to worry about >:)

    Cold As Heaven

  22. Interesting stuff! I hadn't really thought about this before :)

  23. Great info. I've heard something about the Library of Congress cataloging twitter tweets. By the way I love your picture. We went to the Bluebonnet capital yesterday - Ennis. Absolutely beautiful fields of wildflowers.
    Ann Summerville
    Cozy In Texas

  24. Ann, I did not know Ennis was the Bluebonnet capital!

    ColdAsHeaven, you may not think tweets have value, but someone does.

  25. Retweets don't make money...

    They shouldn't have made the second book without consulting the authors.

    I'll have to read the rules on Twitter, but I don't see how they could legitimately sneak anything in there about using our tweets for their profit.

    Who buys these tweet books?

  26. My guess, Jenn, would be other Tweeters.

  27. I think it's like film. The producer has to get a release from everyone who's in the picture.

    The publisher should have gotten a release from every one whose tweet it took.


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