Maybe it’s because I just coughed up $400 for a State Bar membership I don’t really use much anymore, but I feel compelled to combat this bad legal advice, which is getting repeated around the Internet. You absolutely can copyright a Tweet.
I’m going to quote this smart guy from Stanford Law because otherwise I’ll waste the entire rest of the day going through caselaw to prove that someone on the Internet is wrong (calamity!) and we all know what a bad idea that is.
[This is] the most insightful guideline for the protection of short phrases: a literary phrase must be so idiosyncratic that its appearance in another work would preclude coincidence. What produces this idiosyncrasy? In an epigram, it is the demonstration of a highly structured creativity.
In order to guess how protectible a phrase may be, the question must be asked — as in the protection of characters — has enough development gone into the work so that a line can be drawn separating the author’s expression from that which is in the public domain? If an author has created a uniquely suggestive phrase, then the courts will protect it under copyright. But if an author’s literary phrase is merely a trivial variation on that which already belongs to the public, copyright will not extend.
To paraphrase Liana Maeby, if “you spend more time on your Tweets,” you have a pretty strong argument for copyright protection.
The rumor I always heard was that Carly Simon wrote “You’re So Vain” about Mick Jagger, and then he wrote “Ruby Tuesday” about her in response. Kind of like the whole Biggie/Tupac thing from the 90s, but with more guitars and fewer bullets.
So today it comes out that David Geffen is actually the vain one. Another mystery pointlessly dissolved. But, wait! The Gods will not stand for such disappointment! On this very day in 1967, “Ruby Tuesday” became the #1 song in the United States, a position it held for a week. Put that in your mystery box and smoke it.
Has anyone out there registered an Internet video series with the US Copyright Office? Please email. We’re having difficulties with the submission guidelines.
ericspiegelman at gmail