Twitter has reinstated a tweet of mine that was deleted after Bank of America Merrill Lynch claimed it constituted a copyright violation.
The tweet — which included a screengrab of a small portion of a BAML analyst note on Volkswagen stock, with my commentary on top — was deleted just before Christmas.
Twitter sent me an email informing me that two of my tweets had been deleted for alleged violations of the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act. If I continued to collect DMCA complaints, Twitter said, it would suspend or delete my entire account.
However, I appealed to Twitter, using the company’s copyright policy complaint process.
I argued — apparently successfully — that because I tweeted only a small portion of analyst Teo Lasarte’s note to clients I was covered by the exemption to copyright law for “fair use” in news stories. The fair use exemption (which exists in both US and UK law) allows anyone to quote, or show a snippet of, a copyrighted work to illustrate a point in published news or criticism. That’s why TV shows can show brief scenes from movies without paying — but not the whole movie without permission. If I had tweeted out a PDF of the whole BAML note for anyone to download, BAML would have had a decent copyright violation claim.
About 10 days after I responded, BAML apparently did not pursue its complaint and Twitter reinstated the tweet. Twitter sent me this email:
In response to your DMCA counter-notice, we’ve restored the removed material to your account.
The other tweet wasn’t by me, and appears to have been challenged by mistake. Twitter declined to comment; BAML did not respond to multiple messages requesting a quote.
On the one hand, this is good news. The Twitter system works! I challenged an abusive, frivolous copyright claim and my challenge was successful. The record is now restored.
However, there is a greater principle at stake. Investment banks apparently have the power to censor journalists on Twitter, at least temporarily, simply by asking.
Also, challenging a deletion is tricky because after it was deleted, I could not read it. I had to guess what BAML’s objection was really about. The experience of appealing against a punishment when you don’t know the details of the accusation against you is a slightly Kafka-esque.
And then there is the triviality of the whole affair. My tweet wasn’t exposing some awful scandal at BAML. Rather, it was simply underlining analyst Teo Lasarte’s love of puns (“smog … visibility … cloud,” geddit?).
Here is the restored tweet, in all its glory: