Can you copyright a tweet?

With the rise of Twitter it was inevitable that intellectual property issues would surface regarding “tweets” (information snippets under 140 characters in length).

Some are concerned that copyright might stifle the ability to reproduce tweets for collaborative projects. Twitter itself states, “We claim no intellectual property rights over the material you provide. Your profile and materials uploaded remain yours.”

So the website tweetCC has decided to take action, and create a list of Tweetsters who have agreed to license their tweets under open terms, using the creative commons license.

Here is the result of my own search:


The anti-Creative Commons

A few weeks ago I was part of a panel on intellectual property controversies at Michigan Tech. One of the comments I made on the panel is that most intellectual property law innovations have been developed by regular people taking intellectual property law into their own hands. For example, Creative Commons, Science Commons and Open Source Software are all innovations created by information creators and users, not lawmakers on Capitol Hill or the judiciary.

A reader recently submitted the website:, which I’ve dubbed the anti-creative commons. Like the legal innovations listed above, this is yet another resource that allows creators to engage their online i.p. and the law in a user-friendly way.

The difference, a big one, is that the myfreecopyright site allows you to notify others of your copyrighted content and allows you to register and date the work through their database. This is achieved in three steps: 1. Upload the work by allowing the site to subscribe to your content; 2. A digital fingerprint of the work is created; 3. The work is registered on the database.

Why go through this? Here is what the myfreecopyright site says:

“You should provide evidence of your Copyright on all public displays of your original creations so that nobody can claim they thought your creation was part of the public domain. The Public Domain consists of original creations available Copyright Free to the whole public. Copyright Infringers often claim the public domain defense, and can be let off the hook, if no public display was with your original creations defining your Copyright.”

What I find so interesting about this is that the Library of Congress is the official place for authors to register federal copyrights. Authors obtain copyright when they create the work in a tangible medium, but they can register it. Authors register their works to have the right to sue in federal court and obtain the high damages stipulated by federal laws. The myfreecopyright site does not register your copyrights in the Library of Congress, and does not help you locate and pursue infringers. It does (as mentioned above) put everyone on notice that you have claimed a copyright and have registered it in a public database, which hinders unauthorized users from claiming the public domain defense. This is another private technology solution to intellectual property law. In this way, it’s another example of how everyday folks are innovating and engaging their intellectual property, participating in what I call law 2.0

Copyright Criminals!

Hi everyone. In this post I’ll talk about Kembrew McCleod’s lecture as part of the recent “Intellectual Property Controversies” series held here at Michigan Tech (see previous post).

I first heard of Kembrew a few years ago when he played a prank on the i.p. (intellectual property) system. To make a point about how copyrights and trademarks are used by corporations to limit the public’s free speech, Kembrew registered “freedom of speech” as a federal trademark. He later made headlines by asserting that trademark against AT&T, since they tried to place an ad in a local newspaper that used the tagline “freedom of speech”.

Kembrew is about to release a film he co-produced with Benjamin Franzen, called “Copyright Criminals“. I saw the film as part of a free sneak preview screening at Michigan Tech. The film does a nice job of interviewing hip hop artists like Chuck D. who, in the ’90’s, sampled key sounds from music legends like George Clinton and Clyde Stubblefield.

The sampling was done as part of a massive creative excercise to further the emerging Hip Hop and Rap music genres. Little did the artists know that, once they had beguin to make some money, they would be flooded with letters from the music studios that viewed the sampling as massive copyright infringement. Hence the movie’s controversial title, “Copyright Criminals”.

The sneak peek was followed up by Kembrew’s talk, which focused on how he viewed the entire copyright system as broken. Kembrew called on a massive engagement in the public consciousness on how copyright laws limit expressions and creativity. 

That insights is an important one, I believe. Copyright really does touch everyone. Anyone who consumes media, software or information engages copyright. Right now, I am creating copyrights as I type. Right now, these copyrights are being distributed over fiber cables all over the world, often without my express permission. It’s o.k. I won’t send any cease and desist letters! That reminds me, I need to post a creative commons license on this blog to put everyone on notice it is o.k. to post, re-distribute, and copy this blog anywhere for any purposes, as long as attribution is mentioned.

For the next post I’ll review the next lecture speaker: Danny Obrien from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). The EFF is a civil rights organization that ensures companies don’t use intellectual property to quash your civil liberties, like privacy and freedom of speech.

In the meantime, please keep an eye out for “Copyright Criminals” and support them by buying some merchandise!