Twitter gets tough on copyright laws

In a clear illustration of what has become a long-term trend in social media, Twitter deleted a number of tweets for the copyright infringement of a joke. What implications does this have for content producers?

The tweet in question:

“Saw Someone Spill Their High-End Juice Cleanse All Over The Sidewalk, And Now I Know God Is On My Wide”.

One would hardly have guessed that it would be this short quip by Olga Lexell, an LA-based freelance journalist, which would spark a storm in the social media world. Nonetheless, following a formal complaint by Lexell under the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA), at least five copycat tweets have been deleted by Twitter “in response to a report by the copyright holder”, raising serious questions about how far this Act can be applied in the defence of intellectual property.

Such DMCA notices are hardly an unusual occurrence, with Twitter receiving more than 25,000 last year. However, most have tended to relate to pirated music, pictures or videos attached to Tweets, rather than the short 140-character Tweets themselves.

The event is indicative of a more long-term trend, whereby major internet players have become less tolerant of unoriginal or low-quality content. This has partially been for legal reasons – Google receives up to 12m URL removal requests for copyright reasons per week. It has also, however, been motivated by business concerns, as these websites aim to filter out the low-quality content clutter in favor of high-quality original content, to the benefit of their users.

Just as Google’s ‘Panda’ algorithm changes since 2011 have helped to reduce the search engine visibility of the so-called “content factories”, so too the actions of Twitter (if continued) may help to crackdown on the hundreds of Twitter accounts mindlessly reposting tweets from other accounts – to the advantage of original content producers.

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