On August 5, 2015 I had a DMCA complaint denied by Twitter. I had complained because another Twitter user had clearly copied a joke I wrote. I provided links to both my original and to the copy. (See below)
There was no clear reason given for the denial other than that I had failed to establish copyright. Since I knew at that point, Twitter had recognized copyright in jokes in the case of Olga Lexell (@runolgarun) and another Twitter user (@smethanie), I asked them what was missing from my complaint that meant my joke was not — in their view — subject to copyright.
As you will see Twitter’s response has been simply to repeatedly stonewall polite and legitimate inquiries by firing off boilerplate and refusing to address the important issues they themselves have recently raised.
I wrote and posted this joke exclusively on Twitter on 6/22/14
On 9/27/14 another user @mr_pastry copy/pasted it verbatim on Twitter:
I know you’ve taken down other stolen jokes so I feel I have a right to know why you saw copyright in those jokes (by @runolgarun and by @smethanie) but not in mine.
Please tell me what I need to do differently?
Background, I am the anonymous the Twitter user mentioned in this article in the Atlantic:
“On July 25, a Twitter user noticed something strange. The site has long suffered from joke theft—usually involving spam accounts that copy and paste other user’s popular tweets in a cheap bid for attention. But it seemed like, for the first time, one comedian’s stolen jokes were being quietly deleted and replaced”
So as you can see I can quite invested in this.
So I would just like to know why I have failed to establish copyright in my joke, while the other complainants were able to establish it in theirs?
Within 45 minutes I received the following form response from Twitter:
Thank you for your report; Twitter takes reports of this nature very seriously.
We reviewed the account and content reported and are unable to take action given that we could not determine a clear violation of the Twitter Rules (https://twitter.com/rules) surrounding abusive behavior. We’re happy to revisit our decision if circumstances change or if you can provide additional context. If you have additional information to share that would improve our understanding of the situation, please send it our way.
Although there will be no action taken at this time, there are tools you can use that are designed to help you control what you see and what others can see about you on Twitter. This help article lists those tools as well as information about how to use them: https://support.twitter.com/articles/20170134.
If you feel threatened or are in danger, please contact your local law enforcement. You can direct the local law enforcement to our Guidelines for Law Enforcement here: https://support.twitter.com/articles/41949.
At 12:56 I sent the following response adding just a small amount of text at the top:
I would very much appreciate if a person would respond to the questions in my mail. Why is my joke considered not copyrightable when others are. I think that is a very reasonable request
I know lots of people want to know how to protect their content and by acting inconsistently you are damaging your brand. Simply — what makes a joke copyrightable?
Within 4 minutes (at 1:00pm) I received the same standard boilerplate from Twitter as above.
All I would like to know is what differentiates, in Twitter’s view, a copyrightable claim for a joke from one that is not copyrightable. I think I share that curiosity with many other people. Yet Twitter are clearly feeling little obligation to answer that. And their standard replies are abrupt — if not insulting. But I will keep asking.
ADDENDUM 8/6/15 1:58PM
This is the first Twitter Complaint Denial I received yesterday. It makes clear they were evaluating it as a Copyright issue; not as a violation of terms issue which their subsequent boilerplate messages did:
August 5th, 2015 @ 6:03pm
We have received your DMCA takedown notice regarding copyrighted Tweet text. We have evaluated your claims and have determined no further action is warranted. Accordingly, we will not be removing the reported content at this time. If you wish to appeal this decision, please provide evidence of your copyright(s) regarding the allegedly infringed text.