Social media is a prevalent part of our society. It is incorporated into both our personal and business lives, but do you know what happens with your intellectual property once you’ve posted something.  We’ve already provided a blog on the January 1, 2015 changes to the Facebook terms and conditions, so let’s explore how Twitter handles the content you post.

Twitter’s Terms of Service pertaining to the content you post reads as follows:

You retain your rights to any Content you submit, post or display on or through the Services. By submitting, posting or displaying Content on or through the Services, you grant us a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free license (with the right to sublicense) to use, copy, reproduce, process, adapt, modify, publish, transmit, display and distribute such Content in any and all media or distribution methods (now known or later developed).


Tip This license is you authorizing us to make your Tweets available to the rest of the world and to let others do the same.

You agree that this license includes the right for Twitter to provide, promote, and improve the Services and to make Content submitted to or through the Services available to other companies, organizations or individuals who partner with Twitter for the syndication, broadcast, distribution or publication of such Content on other media and services, subject to our terms and conditions for such Content use.


Tip Twitter has an evolving set of rules for how ecosystem partners can interact with your Content. These rules exist to enable an open ecosystem with your rights in mind. But what’s yours is yours – you own your Content (and your photos are part of that Content).

Such additional uses by Twitter, or other companies, organizations or individuals who partner with Twitter, may be made with no compensation paid to you with respect to the Content that you submit, post, transmit or otherwise make available through the Services.


We 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.


You are responsible for your use of the Services, for any Content you provide, and for any consequences thereof, including the use of your Content by other users and our third party partners. You understand that your Content may be syndicated, broadcast, distributed, or published by our partners and if you do not have the right to submit Content for such use, it may subject you to liability. Twitter will not be responsible or liable for any use of your Content by Twitter in accordance with these Terms. You represent and warrant that you have all the rights, power and authority necessary to grant the rights granted herein to any Content that you submit.


What this is saying is that firstly, you maintain the copyright to all copyrighted content that you post. This means that you can still sell, license, gift or otherwise control how the copyrighted material is used as long as your usage does not interfere with the license you gave to Twitter.

With your copyrighted materials, you are constantly giving away licenses to people and companies to use your copyrighted material. You still own and control the material, but you’re allowing others to use the material for various reasons. For more information on copyrights, please check out our blog on Copyrights.

Twitter’s License

In the case of materials you post on Twitter, you’re giving a very large license to use and distribute your material. The license is a world-wide, non-exclusive, royalty-free license to use, copy, reproduce, process, adapt, modify, publish, transmit, display and distribute such Content in any and all media or distribution methods.

Breaking this down, world-wide means you’re not placing any geographical limitations on Twitter’s ability to use your material. Some licenses have these types of restrictions. For example, some publishing companies are only allowed to reprint works in a specific country so that other publishing companies can bid for the other countries. A non-exclusive license is actually good for you. This means you can grant licenses to other people on the same materials. If you ever grant an exclusive license to the materials, that would be the only license you’re allowed to have in that scope. The publishing companies, for example, would likely have exclusive licenses in the countries that they purchased the rights to. Royalty-free means that Twitter does not need to pay you a royalty on the reproduction or use of your content.

The list of things that Twitter is allowed to do with your content is fairly all-encompassing. They can use, copy, reproduce, process, adapt, modify, publish, transmit, display and distribute your content in any and all media and distribution methods.

One very very important thing you need to know is that you cannot grant an exclusive license to anything you’ve already published on any of these social media channels because you no longer maintain exclusive use of your content. If you, for some reason, publish you best selling novel on Twitter (140 characters at a time), Twitter is allowed to compile these together and publish the novel.

So, what will Twitter do with your content?

It’s hard to say. Clearly, they’ll be using your content to post on others’ Twitter feeds. Without the license, they’d be unable to show your content to those you want to show the content to. They’ll also be using your content to create advertisements for themselves. Images and other content may be usable in their promotional materials. For example, they may want to show how many times the word “Friendsgiving” was used and show some sample posts and individuals who use that word. Additionally, they’ll use your content to keep track of trends, both your trends and public trends.

Twitter can also sell the right to use your content, meaning if someone were to approach Twitter and wanted to be able to use all of your posts in an publication, Twitter can sell your content and you wouldn’t be owed any royalty.

Can someone other than Twitter use your content?

Unless Twitter gives someone else permission, no one else can take your content and use it without your permission. This is a very loaded sentence. What it means is that either Twitter or you can give someone permission to use your content. Your permission is unrestrained, meaning you can someone unlimited rights to use your content, very close to what you gave Twitter, but Twitter can only give someone as much as you’ve allowed them to. They have the right to sub-license, and their sub-licensees can use the content in any of the ways that Twitter allows them, up to the total allowance you gave Twitter.

To better illustrate this point, Twitter cannot give someone an exclusive license to use your content because you didn’t give away that right. They can, however, allow users to retweet your post.

Can you cancel the license?

Unlike with other social media networks, you cannot cancel the license you grant to Twitter to use your content. Even if you delete your account or the content, Twitter can still use it.

What if you use someone else’s intellectual property?

A copyright only exists if you are the original creator of the content, meaning you have no rights whatsoever if anyone uses something you didn’t even create yourself. Whoever originally created the content has the copyright, or it is public domain. Our blog on copyrights goes into greater detail. The outlines how a copyright is initially created as well as how something enters into public domain.

What if someone uses your content?

If someone copies your content without your permission, you have the right to enforce your copyright against that person. This is different from retweeting, which is allowed. If you believe that someone has used your copyrighted content without your permission on Twitter, Twitter has policies to help remove that content and protect your rights.


For more information, please contact us to set up a consultation by emailing or by calling (919) 912-9640.


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