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  • Is posting screenshots of other people's tweets a copyright infringement? Here are some things Twitter users should be aware of

  • #intellectual property #Copyright #SNS

  • On Twitter, the "retweet function" is used when quoting someone else's tweet, but it is also common to see people tweeting a screenshot image (screenshot image) of the original tweet instead of retweeting (so-called screenshot tweets).
    However, in December 2021, the Tokyo District Court ruled that "screenshot tweets infringe the copyright of other people's tweets." (Judgment
    In this article, we will clearly explain the key points of this lawsuit and why screenshot tweets infringe on the copyright of other people's tweets.

    What kind of trial was it?

    History of the court case

    In March 2021, Person B and Person C took a screenshot of a tweet posted by Person A and tweeted the screenshot image (screenshot tweet).
    A claimed that the screenshot tweets by B and C infringed the copyright of his tweet and filed a lawsuit against his internet service provider, demanding the disclosure of the sender information of B and C (※).
    The current trial revolved around the question of whether or not such sender information should be disclosed, and the premise at issue was whether or not Mr. B and Mr. C's screenshot tweets infringed the copyright of Mr. A's tweet.

    *Because online postings are often made anonymously, even if a posting contains content that infringes rights such as copyright infringement, the victim cannot claim damages unless they can identify the perpetrator of the posting. Therefore, if certain conditions are met, the victim can request that the provider disclose information about the sender of the posting (address, name, registered telephone number, etc.) (Provider Liability Limitation Act, Article 4, Paragraph 1).

    What was the legal issue?

    In this trial, the following two legal issues became a deciding factor in determining whether Mr. A's claim was acceptable.

      1. Are Tweets considered "copyrighted works"?
      2. Are screenshot tweets considered "quotes"?

    First of all, in order for copyright infringement to be recognized, the most important prerequisite is that A's tweet is a "work." Of course, novels, manga, music, etc. are protected as "works," but are everyday tweets also considered to be "works" in the same way?
    Also, even if Person A's tweet is a "work," it does not constitute copyright infringement if it is used lawfully, such as by "quoting" it.
    Are screenshot tweets considered a lawful use of someone else's tweet as they are a "quote" of that tweet?
    How did the court decide on these two issues?
    Let's take a look at this step by step.

    Are Tweets considered "copyrighted works"?

    What is a copyrighted work?

    Four Elements of a Copyrighted Work

    1. It must express "thoughts or feelings"
    2. It must be a creative expression.
    3. It is something that is "expressed"
    4. It must be "in the realm of literature, academia, art, or music."

    Copyrightability of Tweets

    So, does Mr. A's tweet qualify as a "work of authorship"?
    First, let's take a look at each of Mr. A's tweets that were the subject of dispute (hereinafter, Plaintiff's posts 1 to 4).

    Plaintiff's post 1
    "The login IPs and timestamps of eight Ishin believers whose caller information was disclosed the other day were disclosed. NTT Docomo: 2, KDDI: 3, Softbank: 2, Rakuten Mobile: 1. That's the breakdown. I'm glad that KDDI is in the majority with three. It's annoying that there are two Softbank users. But this is the first time we've seen Rakuten Mobile. How will they respond?"

    Plaintiff's post 2
    "@B @C @D > It's as if Nonkyaria is the same as those people. I'm not saying "it's as if" but that she is "exactly the same" as the bastards who drove Kimura Hana to suicide. In the end, aren't they just cowardly bastards who hide behind anonymity and keep committing illegal acts? Including you."

    Plaintiff's post 3
    "Around this time last year, I was approached by a high school senior who was a believer in the Ishin Party and was blocked without permission. I just saw that kid's tweet and it seems like he's had a terrible year, failing his entrance exams and repeating the year, and the metropolitan plan being rejected. I can't think of any other reaction to that than 'serves him right' (laughs)."

    Plaintiff's post 4
    "@C You're a complete idiot for not having any sense of crisis even though I've already sued you and you're out of luck, but I'm not worried at all. You brought it on yourself."

    (Source) Tokyo District Court ruling of December 3, 12:

    The issue with Mr. A's tweet is whether it meets the requirement of "being a creative expression" of the "four requirements for a copyrighted work" that we identified earlier.

    Certainly, if we consider that novels, manga, music, and other works that are produced through the sweat of one's brow are "creative," then something like a daily tweet on Twitter might not be considered "creative."
    However,Under copyright law, a work is considered "creative" if it expresses some aspect of the author's individuality.It is common practice in courts to interpret this term loosely.

    In this case, the court also interpreted whether something was "creative" or not loosely, stating with regard to each of A's (plaintiff's) tweets that "their composition shows the ingenuity of the plaintiff, who is the author, and the content of their expressions also shows the individuality of the plaintiff, who is the author."Both of these are considered "works of authorship."(Judgment, pages 9-11).

    In this case, the creativity of the flyer's expressions and their combination was denied.

    Are screenshot tweets considered "quotes"?

    What is a "quote"?

    Using copyrighted material does not constitute copyright infringement as long as it is done lawfully.
    One of the uses recognized as lawful under copyright law is "quotation" (Article 32, Paragraph 1 of the Copyright Law).

    Four requirements for a quotation to be accepted

    1. The work must be published.
    2. It is something that is quoted and used (it is clearly distinguished and has a subordinate relationship).
    3. Consistent with fair practice
    4. The use of the material must be within a reasonable scope for the purposes of reporting, criticism, research, or other citations.

    Screenshot Tweets and the Success of Quotations

    So, does the act of taking a screenshot of A's tweet and tweeting it (a screenshot tweet) constitute a case of "quoting"? The issue with screenshot tweets is whether they meet the "four requirements for quotation" mentioned above, that is, "being in accordance with fair practice."
    In order to be considered a "fair practice," it must be "a common practice in the world as a way of quoting copyrighted works, and be recognized as a reasonable practice from a social perspective."This is understood (Kato Moriyuki, Lectures on Copyright Law Article by Article, 2021th Revised Edition (302, Copyright Information Center), p. XNUMX).
    Assuming this understanding, screenshot tweets are actually used on Twitter, including when the original tweet has been deleted or blocked, and such a method of tweeting seems to be appropriate from a social perspective, so it seems to be in line with "fair practice."
    However, in this case, the court ruled differently.
    The Court ruled that although Twitter's terms of service provide for a method known as "quoted tweeting" for quoting other people's tweets, tweeting a screenshot without using this method violates the terms of service and is therefore not considered to be in line with "fair practice" (Judgment, p. 12).

    as a result,Screenshot tweets do not fall under the category of "quoting"It was decided that.


    As described above, in this trial, it was decided that screenshot tweets constitute copyright infringement.

    Some experts have criticized the court's decision, pointing out that it is questionable to uniformly not allow "quoting" of screenshot tweets.

    However, given the possibility of such a ruling being made in court, there is no changing the fact that screenshot tweets pose a risk of copyright infringement.

    Whenever possible, it would be wise to use Twitter's official "Quote Tweet" feature.

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