Twitter Clarifies Copyright, Ads Still Probable

Dennis Faas's picture

Twitter has reiterated that users of its microblogging service retain the copyright to their comments. However, the site has refused to rule out using posts for targeted advertising purposes in the future.

The site has revised its terms and conditions to clarify various legal positions. The move appears to be a reaction to public relations problems experienced by rival social networking site Facebook, which recently declared it had the right to use content even after the relevant user had cancelled their account.

On the face of it, Twitter is using plain language to reassure users of their rights. According to the site's chief, Biz Stone, user posts "are your tweets and they belong to you."

The Legal Right to Modify Messages

However, the site retains the right to "use, copy, reproduce, process, adapt, modify, publish, transmit, display and distribute" messages. (Source:

To some extent that's necessary by the very nature of the site, though many users will be surprised to learn the Twitter is declaring a legal right to modify messages. That condition may simply be there to cover Twitter against technical problems causing messages to be corrupted, but it could open new avenues towards abuse. (Source:

There is also some debate about whether the types of messages posted under Twitter's rules, which limit each post to 140 characters, are substantial enough to be covered by copyright laws anyway. (Source:

Personalized Ads Likely in Near Future

The terms and conditions also make it clear that Twitter could post advertising "in connection with the display of Content or information from the Services whether submitted by you or others." (Source:

At the moment, the site does not carry advertising. However, the conditions mentioned above leave the door open for not only doing so, but for showing users ads which specifically relate to the subject of their posts, in a similar fashion to that used by Google for it's Gmail service.

In theory, placing ads on relevant pages is a good idea. After all, it means advertisers are more likely to get their message to a receptive audience. But, in reality such users may find the advertising venue unwelcoming; furthermore, it's not yet clear whether such advertising would reach users who access the site via independent applications rather than the main Twitter website.

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