After reading about who owns the content on different social media sites, what really caught my attention was the fact that tweets are usually not protected by copyright laws. In fact, according to FAQ page of the country’s copyright website you can’t copyright names, slogans, titles, or logos (but you can trademark them for a fee). The reading went on to say that if you do somehow fit copyrighted material in your tweets, then you own it.
This peaked my interest because I know that several stand up comedians tweet their jokes.
What’s to stop other, less scrupulous comedians from stealing these jokes? I mean isn’t the point of copyright law to inspire more creation?
I asked my friend Ron Lechler, who is a stand up comedian and a MFA student here at UNT (you can follow him here, he’s pretty funny. I promise) about this issue. His response was that even though there were no real legal ramifications that could come from stealing jokes, there are professional ramifications. He told me that if someone does steal jokes, especially from other people’s twitter accounts, then they’re viewed as a hack and not funny. It’s also hard to regain your reputation after those accusations.
This is different than retweeting a post, because when you retweet something, it gives the original poster credit for it. From what I gather, it’s more of an honor thing and reputation thing than anything else. Here’s the story of a British comedian who’s come under fire for stealing other people’s jokes on Twitter.
This also gets into the realm of reposts on Reddit. When people get caught reposting or stealing material from someone else, there is almost always a huge public backlash against the user reposting the old material.
For example, there was this user who posted several paintings, claiming that his wife painted them. The posts got lots of upvotes, until another user realized that the paintings where really made by someone else, called out the poster, and posted proof. The person who got caught in the lie eventually deleted their account after being spammed with downvotes and rude messages.
Personally, I think it’s really neat that even though there is nothing illegal about stealing people’s tweets and posts on Reddit, there is such a huge self-governing body on the internet that some of the perpetrators get caught and punished. I’m not saying that every one who steals material from other people’s twitter posts get caught, but when they are caught, the are punished swiftly.
What do you think?
Should there be some sort of legal protection for tweets?
Is there an obligation of people to call out people stealing tweets or posting work that isn’t their own and claiming it is?