Tuesday, April 24, 2012

You Don't Own Your Tweets?

This may prove an important case: Staten Island Judge Sciarrino Jr. has just ruled that an Occupy Wall Street protester can’t complain that the police searched his tweets, not only because they’re public (fair enough) but also because he doesn’t own them. It'll be interesting to see what if anything Twitter says about this ruling. Twitter has previously warned folks when the authorities were reviewing their tweets.

The fact(?) that you don’t own your tweets though, if true, would seem to have potential ramifications for anyone wanting to repurpose their tweets or monetize them. By the judge's logic, do all photographers who upload their photos to Flickr lose ownership of them? After all, this is his flippant regard for the idea that anyone's data has a "home"on the Internet:
As a user, we may think that storage space to be like a “virtual home,” and with that strong privacy protection similar to our physical homes. However, that “home” is a block of ones and zeroes stored somewhere on someone’s computer. As a consequence, some of our most private information is sent to third parties and held far away on remote network servers.

Now, Twitter may not care what you do with your own tweets. Still, this doesn’t seem like a helpful precedent. Does it mean that anyone could publish a collection of someone else's tweets, for example? That might be good news for some people, I suppose.

Also, an interesting side note: Judge Sciarrino was disciplined in 2009 for attempting to friend on Facebook lawyers who were scheduled to appear before him.