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Twitter Changes its Handling of Tweets Alleged to Infringe On Copyright

Twitter’s legal policy manager, Jeremy Kessel, announced on Friday a change in Twitter’s handling of tweets that the social messaging platform receives DMCA take-down requests for. Going forward, such tweets will be “withheld” rather than deleted, replaced by a brief message noting the reason for the tweet being withheld.

According to GigaOm, which first reported the change in policy, a Twitter spokesperson explained the change in policy as follows:

[W]hen we get a valid DMCA request, we withhold the tweet until such time as we get (if we ever do) a valid counter-response from the user. In this case, if someone with the permalink tries to navigate to the tweet, they’ll see that it is being withheld for copyright reasons. We also send the requests to Chilling Effects for publication. Our prior policy was to delete the Tweet without any language explaining the takedown, then manually repost the Tweet if/when we got a valid counter response.

Judging by some of the comments posted in response to the news on various websites that have reported it, the primary question a lot of readers have is “how can you infringe on copyright in 140 characters or less?” The simple answer is that a tweet can easily violate copyright by linking to copyrighted material, particularly if the material is in turn being hosted/served by an entity other than the rights-holder.

While the announcement has been met with some confusion, it strikes me as a sensible approach on Twitter’s part, and an improvement on the prior practice of removing offending tweets sanz explanation.

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