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@OMG: Do I Have a © on My Tweets?

With social media growing at unprecedented rates, more and more media users are turning to Twitter to quickly express themselves in 140 characters or less.  But with such short thoughts, the question is raised: does a tweeter have a copyright on his tweets? 

This has become an issue for Adorian Deck who started tweeting under the identity of @OMGFacts about celebrity gossip.  With more than 300,000 followers, Deck signed a contract with Emerson Spartz, founder of mugglenet.com and Spartz Inc., to help launch OMG Facts to the next level and create a brand. 

Now Deck and Spartz are in a federal court battle over who owns the rights to the OMG Facts brand and tweets.  According to Spartz, his company put forth significant effort to launch a YouTube channel for the tweeter, to create a website, and to research and write the tweets.  Since Spartz became involved, @OMGFacts’ followers number 1.9 million.  However, Deck maintains that he wrote the tweets that brought @OMGFacts to where it is today. While it may seem that Deck and Spartz are fighting over nothing and that tweeting is nothing more than an innocent way to stay connected to one’s friends, tweeting actually has the potential to bring a significant income to the tweeter who is able to get paid to endorse products in his/her tweets. 

The Federal Trade Commission even requires Twitter users to disclose if they are being paid to endorse products.  And, with the potential to make money tweeting comes the problem of who owns those tweets.  Because of the brevity of tweets, it can be difficult to get full copyright protection on the way one expressed himself. 

In addition, because Twitter has a “retweet” feature which allows another user to repost someone else’s tweet, Twitter users may be waiving any right to claim that a tweet is their own. The dispute between Deck and Spartz highlights the law’s failure to keep up with the quickly growing social media.  While @OMGFacts tweets are short and concise, the lawsuit between Deck and Spartz is sure to carry on for a significant time as the two battle out new and complicated legal issues surrounding the social media craze. 

If you have questions about social media and the legal implications it may have for you or your business, please contact the Corporate and Transactional Practice Group at Bingham Greenebaum Doll.

To learn more about Meaghan Klem Haller and her practice, visit her profile.

  • Partner

    Meaghan describes herself as an “unapologetic advocate” who will be upfront and honest with clients and thoroughly prepared on the law and facts of her cases.  She focuses her practice on corporate governance disputes, breaches ...

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