Who Really Owns Your Tweets?

    September 15, 2009
    Chris Crum

Twitter has made some revisions to its terms of service, to address issues like advertising, tweet ownership, APIs, and spam. There’s not as much news in this as one might expect, but there are some things worth noting, namely, Twitter’s stance on who owns tweets. Are your past tweets important to you? Tell us.

Biz Stone"The revisions more appropriately reflect the nature of Twitter and convey key issues such as ownership. For example, your tweets belong to you, not to Twitter," says Twitter Co-founder Biz Stone.

With regards to advertising, they’re leaving "the door wide open." Stone says they want to "keep their options open." So nothing concrete there.

As far as APIs, Stone says developers using Twitter APIs authorize Twitter to make content available. There is a separate set of guidelines for APIs that can be found here. It is still a work in progress. Current guidelines are as follows:

– Identify the user that authored or provided the Tweet, unless you are providing Tweets in an aggregate form or in anonymous form in those exceptional cases where concerns over user security and anonymity are involved.

– Maintain the integrity of Tweets and not edit or revise them. Tweets may be abbreviated for display purposes and as necessary due to technical limitations or requirements of any networks, devices, services or media.

– Get each user’s consent before sending Tweets or other messages on their behalf. A user authenticating with your application does not constitute consent to send a message.

– Get permission from the user that created the Tweet if you want to make their Tweet into a commercial good or product, like using a Tweet on a t-shirt or a poster or making a book based on someone’s Tweets.

Spam guidelines are the same and can be found here.

The Tweet ownership stuff has already received some criticism for further clouding an already unclear subject. "If Twitter can do what they want with ‘our’ tweets, including reproduction for their own (financial) gain, what do we actually ‘own’?" asks Shéa Bennett at Twittercism. "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?"

Twitter’s terms of service are not necessarily finalized though. Stone made it quite clear that they are still open to feedback, and will make adjustments if they deem them necessary. There is even a feedback link right on the terms page. So if you have concerns about anything within, don’t hesitate to let Twitter know.

Would you miss your past tweets if you no longer had access to them one day? Tell us why.