Twitter has finally started deleting plagiarised jokes because of copyright

People have been stealing jokes as long as others have been telling them, but Twitter appears to have recently decided it's not on.

Twitter account Plagiarism is Bad pointed out on Saturday that several tweets telling the same joke had been removed on copyright grounds:

Olga Lexell, a freelance writer from Los Angeles, said she came up with the joke, and filed a request for Twitter to take down tweets repeating it because writing material is how she makes a living. The Verge quoted her as saying:

I simply explained to Twitter that as a freelance writer I make my living writing jokes (and I use some of my tweets to test out jokes in my other writing). I then explained that as such, the jokes are my intellectual property, and that the users in question did not have my permission to repost them without giving me credit.

Under the US' Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), Twitter has "safe harbour" from copyright claims over embedded images, audio or links out because they're not actually hosted on the site, but it's much more complicated to try and censor the actual text of a tweet, whether it's an issue related to copyright, libel or anything else.

However, stealing or copying tweets is against Twitter's terms of service, so doing so is reason enough to get your account blocked.

Twitter usually posts all deletion requests on Chilling Effects, but the details of Lexell's case are not up yet. The Verge reports that Twitter declined to comment when contacted about the recent removals.

The move has raised questions about the legal extent of copyright on the site, with some users wondering if this means tweets can be copyrighted:

Sadly for Lexell, her request has backfired: her joke now appears to have gone somewhat viral and has been tweeted thousands of times.

¯\(ツ)

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