Concerned? Twitter's New T.O.S.

by Morgan Siem on September 11, 2009

in Uncategorized

Effective September 10, 2009, Twitter has updated its Terms of Service (http://twitter.com/tos). Most of the terms are givens: that Twitter does not endorse your tweeted opinions, that you are responsible for keeping your password secret and that you understand that you may be exposed to “offensive, harmful, inaccurate or otherwise inappropriate” content.

Others, however, make me wonder.

“The Services are protected by copyright, trademark, and other laws of both the United States and foreign countries. Nothing in the Terms gives you a right to use the Twitter name or any of the Twitter trademarks, logos, domain names, and other distinctive brand features.”

Is Twitter finally going to make some money by suing the countless people using the Twitter logo as a “follow me on Twitter” icon? I copied the image of the logo from Twitter’s login page to include in this post as an example, but quickly deleted it out of fear. I’ll wait until that term of service is more clearly defined before I start stamping twitter logos anywhere.

While I understand the effort to protect the brand, I’m not sure that it is in Twitter’s best interest to deter users from using the Twitter logo. When people plaster their online presence with Twitter icons they are doing Twitter’s PR work and driving traffic to you know where. I, for one, am very likely to click a Twitter logo on a Web site or in an e-mail because if I’m interested enough to visit the site or read the e-mail, I’m interested enough to follow. Can I not say “follow”? Is that considered a “distinctive brand feature”?

Another concern crops up when reading that Twitter may:

“modify or adapt your Content in order to transmit, display or distribute it over computer networks and in various media and/or make changes to your Content as are necessary to conform and adapt that Content to any requirements or limitations of any networks, devices, services or media.”

I take it that Twitter reserves this right in order to remove offensive language should they try to share particular tweets on primetime television. Or perhaps they are reserving the right in order to shorten tweets that they wish to retweet. The concern, however, is that meaning will be skewed.

I admit that I have modified others’ tweets in the past. It’s actually something I’ve wondered about…if you RT, should you be bound to leave the tweet “as is.” Otherwise, you are putting your own words and then attributing them to someone else. I’d be interested to hear what other people think about this.

I wonder if we can’t come up with a way to distinguish between a direct retweet and a modified retweet. It’s the same as differentiating between a direct quote and a paraphrase. Either way you give credit to the author, but in one case you use quotation marks. If tweets are “intellectual property,” then stricter rules of engagement may be on the horizon.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Michael Hubbard michaelhubbard September 12, 2009 at 8:54 pm

My guess is Twitter is finally becoming a legitimate company and just starting to dot the i’s and cross their t’s. This is obviously a fun company to continue watching their moves though as they continue to be discussed in the social media world as a strong player!

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Seth Hargrave Seth Hargrave September 14, 2009 at 8:33 am

I’ll reserve speculation on the legalities, but as to your comment about RTs, I have to agree there should be a way to distinguish between a direct quote and paraphrase – particularly when considering the use of Twitter for marketing. Case in point, just this past week I had a client concerned about a tweet highlighting one of their products. The “copy was wrong and confusing” I was told. Although this was not a re-tweet, it’s easy to see how paraphrased RTs could create a bit of gray area for marketers using the medium.

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Ellie September 15, 2009 at 9:18 am

When lawyers want to play, the game just isn’t fun any longer.

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Phil Buckley September 17, 2009 at 12:34 pm

I agree with Michael, I think it’s a case of them getting everything ready to go before they take their next big step, which is apparently enterprise level data mining.

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