I’ve been pondering over this issue for some time now – Is Re-Tweeting someone’s tweets essentially a copyright violation at some level? As far as my understanding goes, as a content creator you essentially own the right to your content as soon as you have put pen to paper, or in this case published a tweet. Of course, by tweets I mean those random quirky thoughts that get posted and not the rampant link sharing that twitter is fast devolving into.
So, if by tweeting your thoughts, you automatically own the copyright to the tweets, doesn’t re-tweeting in some way violate that? Of course, the argument against that could very well be that we tweet so that others can re-tweet. In essence, the giving away of some copyrights could even be argued to be implicit to the very act of tweeting.
But what happens when tweeting and publishing books on tweets becomes more mainstream? Already, there are a couple of projects where individuals such as James Bridle have self-published a compilation of their tweets. While this is still at the individual level and geared more towards backing up the tweets than anything else, I wonder what would happen once people start getting book deals. Would publishers insist that tweets be unique and not re-tweeted anywhere else? I’d think probably not, given that a user’s popularity and by corollary potential book sales would in essence be related to re-tweets, which along with followers is a good measure of popularity. But then again given the utter lack of understanding that today’s brick and mortar publishers seem to frequently display about the digital medium, I wouldn’t be surprised if they did.
However, other developments probably call for some sort of copyright enforcement. For example, Nick Douglas, a freelance writer in San Francisco landed a book deal with Harper Collins last year to publish a compilation of other people’s tweets. This seems to be a clear case of someone profiting from content not created by them. And if in the future more such deals surface, I’m sure that there will certainly be some sort of user backlash demanding copyright controls, probably on the lines that Flickr offers or a credible way to share in the profits.
So will the tweet-re-tweet-copyright issue surface in the future? I think it probably will. What do you think?