Who owns the words crafted for the followers of @Charkram?

Charles Kramer, The Levison Group

Although @Charkram may sound like the name of the latest kool-aid sipping cult leader, in actuality it is simply my “handle” on twitter. Those who wish to gain the benefits of the word-limited observations of wit and insight that tumble from my fingers on an irregular basis can do so by simply “following” me at @charkram.

According to Wikipedia, at the height of his power, Genghis Kahn boasted 1,490 followers. Thanks to twitter, Magic Johnson has that beat easily, and even the hoard that follows Brittany outmatch the mongol warlord. Twitter is, apparently, quite popular and successful. @Charkram is in its infancy, however, and lies at the other end of the spectrum. Despite providing a wealth of clearly earthchanging insight, I currently have less than twenty followers, including my goldfish (man, that fish can type!). Those dozen or so persons of good sense and taste, however, have learned in recent days certain items not known to the world in general, such as:

— Once you knew you’d said something important when it was quoted in the newspaper; today it’s when you’re “retweeted” 50 or more times.

— It’s funny how reruns of the original “Saturday Night Live” are still applicable. For example Francisco Franco is still dead.

— After watching the Republican and Democratic National Conventions I was left with one thought. Where is Pat Paulson when you need him?

— Tweeting reminds me of my 3 a.m. shift on my college low wattage radio station, when I used to wonder if anyone was listening, or was even awake.

— If you “follow” less people than follow you, does it show indifference to your fellow man, an inflated sense of self-worth or ?? Just askin’

— The brother of Al Queda’s leader wants to broker peace between the West and Islamists. His plan? You leave us alone, we’ll leave you alone.

— A study in the AMA Journal reports fish oil benefits are not as high as once thought. Did they find squeaky fish or fish w/dry skin?

— An Englishman who claimed to be homophobic/racist to escape jury duty faces prosecution for avoiding his obligation. JURY AVOIDERS BEWARE!

— Remember, retweeting is better than a smile face or thank you note. Share the insight, save the world.

Yep, thanks to the communication giant of the modern era, tweets such as these from authors, celebrities, politicians, athletes and the boy or girl next door touch the lives of the collective millions on a daily basis.

 Of course, being a social media is not without its legal hurdles, and Twitter is no exception. The St. Louis, Mo.-founded phenomenon finds itself in court more often than it would like. What might surprise you, however, are the postions that the global communication facilitator takes in some of its legal skirmishes.
Unlike its friends at Facebook, Twitter does not claim to own everything that happens to be posted to its pages for decimination. Quite the opposite. Twitter says that its users own the phrases they post on the site (so-called “tweets”) and especially own the proposed tweets they craft but decide to delete rather than post.

As of last look, however, the courts have disagreed, holding that Twitter, not the user, owns tweets and draft tweets, and that the individual user has no right to contest a subpoena for records directed to the tweet facilitator.

 In a case pending in New York, the judge denied a Wall Street Occupier’s attempt to quash a government subpoena for his tweets saying it was not his fight. In response, Twitter filed its own motion, claiming that the tweets were in the possession, custody and control of the user, and not itself, and that the user’s objections should be heard. The court disagreed once again, and Twitter has now appealed — on its own dime — arguing that site users have a property right to the information they draft and post and have a Fourth Amendment privacy right to their personal information contained in their accounts.

Twitter claims its users’ accounts should be tweeted, err treated, the same as personal email accounts (which courts have held belong to the account holder even though webaccessbile accounts keep copies of the emails on the service providers’ servers).

While the case is on appeal, the trial judge has refused to stay his ruling and has ordered Twitter to produce the records, but has agreed to keep them under seal until the court rules. So long as the appellate court does not believe the turnover moots the issue, a ruling is expected in November or December.
I wonder who will own the rough drafts of the judge’s opinion?

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Under Analysis is a nationally syndicated column. Charles Kramer is a principal of the St. Louis, Missouri law firm Riezman, Berger, P.C. You may direct comments or criticisms about this column to the Levison Group c/o this newspaper, or direct to the Levison Group via e-mail, at comments@levisongroup.com.
© 2012 Under Analysis L.L.C.

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