Twitter has announced some revisions to their terms of service (TOS). They’re largely unremarkable apart from this section about tweet ownership:
Twitter is allowed to “use, copy, reproduce, process, adapt, modify, publish, transmit, display and distribute” your tweets because that’s what we do. However, they are your tweets and they belong to you.
This is a bit of a double-edged sword. Back in June I wrote about the mystery of tweet ownership and copyright and this update to the TOS from Twitter further clouds this issue. Two concerns remain:
- If Twitter can do what they want with ‘our’ tweets, including reproduction for their own (financial) gain, what do we actually ‘own’?
- If Twitter loses our data, closes our accounts or goes out of business, do we still own those tweets? Or are they retrievable in any way?
At this stage the responsibility for backing up our data rests entirely with us – although there is no way to restore this data on to Twitter should something bad happen – but the issue of who exactly owns what remains puzzling.
Consider this: on Twitter, when your account is suspended, or if you decide to delete your account, all your tweets are removed, too. (For example, there is no way to read @cwalken’s tweets on Twitter.com). If we, the users, collectively decided to delete all of our accounts together, at once, there would be no Twitter. There would be no tweets. There would be nothing. (Spambots aside.)
These are some of the reasons why I feel the issue of tweet ownership needs further investigation, and some debate. Transparency is absolutely key, and even with this revision everything still seems just a little too blurry for my liking.