If You Say Something In Public, You Can Be Quoted And If You Say Something On Twitter, That's Public

from the in-case-you-were-confused dept

It seems that plenty of people are still having trouble understanding that most things posted to Twitter are posted in public. Apparently a local newspaper in Michigan ran into some angry community members when a writer for the paper dared to quote some Twitter comments without first contacting the people in question for permission. The newspaper stands by its usage of the comments, noting that they’re fair game, and Caroline McCarthy over at News.com (where I found the original story) makes the point succinctly:

But here’s somewhere to start: If something is public, it’s quotable. If you don’t want to be quoted, don’t say it on the Internet. If you have a public Twitter account and say something, then, yes, it’s public. Should Twitter users expect to be contacted and asked for permission to have their tweets reprinted? Don’t count on it.

Still, as noted, it is interesting to see how people seem to perceive something like Twitter as being more private. I’m guessing that may change over time, but it does suggest the sort of level of intimacy that Twitter creates among many people who use it.

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Comments on “If You Say Something In Public, You Can Be Quoted And If You Say Something On Twitter, That's Public”

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xenomancer (profile) says:

Exposing Privates

Tweet = half way between twat and seat
(use a bad-taste-band-aid if offended)

Hopefully these angry people have learned their practical lesson. Once it’s on the open internet, consider it permanently public, period. This is just common sense. If you want to keep something private, make the extra effort to ensure privacy (and get a gold star sticker) or use a secure medium. I’m sure I’ve said plenty of stupid things on the internet (including in this post), but the price of such a wonderful tool is its very, very, very long memory.

Also, having now read the “tweets” myself… Streisand Effect.

David Liu (profile) says:

Re: Re: Exposing Privates

At best, only used as a courtesy notification (which this reporter did).

If we required people to get permission for everything, we wouldn’t be able to be any sort of commentary, criticism, news reporting, etc. on lots of things because people would just refuse permissions.

That’s why we have fair use clauses in our copyright laws.

Mateo Jose (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Agreed. I’m really tired of people complaining about their privacy being violated online. If you don’t want anyone to see your tweets or photos on Facebook…DON’T POST THEM! Ever! Even if you have a private account.. things can happen. Remember that one day (two years ago) when everyone on Facebook lost their privacy settings? Hmmm?

MrWilson says:

I think there are a lot of people who ignorantly subscribe to delightfully humorous internet mythology, such as security through obscurity, or in this case, privacy through obscurity.

I had a conversation with a customer years ago when I worked a job supporting a website. She asked, “I don’t really need a password, do I? I mean, someone else would have to be on my computer to use my account anyway, right?”

In this scenario, I imagine that they feel like it’s private because they only have 20 followers and they’re not thinking about the fact that more than just your followers can read your public tweets.

anonymoose says:

So this is where it gets interesting...

If the LV papers pull a tweet and print it as a quote in the newspaper without permission of the author, can RightHaven be sued for copyright infringement (as the responsible ‘owner’ of the paper’s published works containing the infringing content)?

Twitter is a form of publishing text to the internet (public, but still original writing protected by copyright). This would be a fun one to test. After all, making a broadcast public, showing a movie in public or putting a newspaper’s content on the internet is all public – shouldn’t that also be fair game for others to quote? If that’s the definition being used for pulling a quote from twitter, why should content lifting only go one way? 🙂

Just seems to be an inconsistent position for a newspaper to take, all things considered.

Christer (user link) says:

How 'bout "direct" messages

A tweet is public from the moment it’s submitted, yes.

But twitter also offers a service they call “direct messages” – and that’s something else.

People may think they have good reason to believe these direct messages are private.

I believe, however, that these are legally the property of Twitter Inc, for them to pass on to whomever they want.

Anonymous Coward says:

Displaying tweets on another platform breaks the Twitter terms.

“Except as permitted through the Services (or these Terms), you have to use the Twitter API if you want to reproduce, modify, create derivative works, distribute, sell, transfer, publicly display, publicly perform, transmit, or otherwise use the Content or Services.”

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Excuse me?

“…you have to use the Twitter API if you want to [blah blah blah]”

Does not imply:

“…that newspapers *should* ask for permission.”

It only implies that they should’ve used the twitter API to reproduce the tweets. Nowhere in the Twitter TOS does it say that you cannot reproduce the tweets, however. In fact, they WARN that:

“You are responsible for your use of the Services, for any content you post to the Services, and for any consequences thereof. The Content you submit, post, or display will be able to be viewed by other users of the Services and through third party services and websites (go to the account settings page to control who sees your Content). You should only provide Content that you are comfortable sharing with others under these Terms.”

Source: http://twitter.com/tos

This seems to indicate that, unless you specifically set the privacy options, your tweets are public (everyone can see them). If they are public, they are “quotable”.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Twitter ToS also states I’m the sole owner of my tweets.

*My* tweets are displayed on a page at the guardian.co.uk, but someone working at the section they appear in had the decency to ask first.

I’m glad more people read what I have to say, AND the guardian is using my tweets with my knowledge & approval.

This local newspaper in Michigan : #lazyfucks

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

Fair Use:
“Notwithstanding the provisions of sections 17 U.S.C. ? 106 and 17 U.S.C. ? 106A, the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright.”

Nothing here nor in Twitter’s ToS dictates that someone copying your tweets must ask for permission to reproduce your tweets in a manner that constitutes as fair use. Calling them lazy fucks when they’re reporting on something that is occurring right at that moment is silly. Public is public. Get over it.

Ed C. says:

What was the point again?

Wasn’t copyright supposed to protect “art”? Conversations on twitter, or any other publicly accessible site, is almost the same as any other everyday speech. The only difference is that a verbal conversation is transient–and thus not copyrightable. However, it’s doubtful that many people would consider a random conversation to be “art”. But now the mere act of recording or transcribing a conversation makes it “copyrighted”. Is any random expression of ideas now considered “art” once it’s been fixed?

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