Twitter: Jokes Are Copyrighted, Stolen Jokes Being Removed

Twitter is making it clear that jokes are copyrighted, removing “stolen” tweets and replacing them with a message stating that “This tweet… has been withheld in response to a report from the copyright holder,” according to a report from Engadget.

As the Inquisitr has previously reported, this is certainly not the first time that the subject of stolen jokes on Twitter, and whether they qualify as protected by copyright has come up. Several instances of Twitter joke theft came into the public eye in 2013, including Kain Carter’s (@HotDamniRock) theft of material from late comedian Patrice O’Neal, and South Carolina minister Sammy Rhodes’ (@prodigalsam) stealing Twitter jokes from, well, everyone. Rhodes, who stole Twitter jokes from everyone ranging from the obscure to Patton Oswalt — who called Rhodes out publicly (as per Salon) — didn’t see anything wrong with his actions.

“Part of what I think has happened in terms of the tweet theft accusations is that for years now I’ve been doing tweets that are pretty clearly inspired by the tweets of my twitter heros.

“[L]ife gets busy and I don’t have time to write any new jokes. So I put on an old one [on Twitter]. There are different philosophies about this. Some people think it’s super lame to ever repeat a tweet. I get that. But I disagree. Even my favorite shows play reruns, both because of reason #1, and because they need a break but don’t want to leave their audience hanging. So to me a recycled tweet is like a rerun: if you’ve seen it, you don’t have to watch it again. Unless you loved that episode, and, well, then enjoy it one more time!”

Today, when Twitter celebrities are a real, visible thing, Twitter finally appears to be taking a stand. Although as TechCrunch reports, Twitter has declined to comment beyond pointing at the Twitter copyright policy, “stolen” tweets are starting to be removed. The copyright policy doesn’t mention jokes specifically, but after freelance writer Olga Lexell (@runolgarun) reported a stolen joke to Twitter as a copyright violation, the tweet was taken down and replaced with the “this tweet has been withheld” message.

To be clear, Twitter’s copyright policy is not new, but this is the first confirmed instance of a joke theft reported to Twitter being addressed and of the original author being called a “copyright holder.” It represents an important milestone for those who make their living writing comedy on the internet; plagiarism is a regular fact of life for online writers, and there is often very little to be done about it. Twitter says jokes are copyrighted, and their enforcement of their copyright policy on Twitter joke thieves and bots is a big step forward.

[Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images]