Fair use, tweets and screenshots
A strange and interesting case concerning fair use/fair dealing has played out over the last few days at TechDirt, a group blog that’s been around since 1997 and that has a large online community. A Wall Street journalist claimed that her public tweets were not “publishable”, and threatened to sue if someone published them. She in turn has another take on the story, and is reporting that she is now the target of hate mail and being written down by upset people.
What is interesting about all this is the take on fair use, both of quotes and of screenshots reproduced on journalistic sites. Both the Knight Center for Journalism and the Poynter Institute have complied with the journalist’s requests to remove the photo from their screen shots of her Twitter profile. TechDirt’s Mike Masnick is disappointed.
This is problematic in a number of different ways. First, many journalists look to both the Knight Center and Poynter for leadership on ways in which journalists should act. Providing this kind of example runs entirely counter to the kinds of things they should do and the kinds of things they should stand for. They are teaching the wrong lesson. They’re teaching a lesson that says “journalists should give up their fair use rights.”
The use of screenshots is common practice among journalists and bloggers and generally considered to be okay both in the US and Sweden (though a Swedish court ruling from 2012 says otherwise, so this might be changing – note the comment at the end of the linked article about the court ruling being out of touch with common practice).
That one journalist hasn’t grasped this is not surprising, but that these two prestigious institutions hasn’t, sure is. And quoting tweets should be unquestionable.
The journalist has since made her tweets private. They were not at the time that the discussion played out.