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This article was published on July 27, 2015

PSA: Twitter hasn’t just started removing stolen jokes

PSA: Twitter hasn’t just started removing stolen jokes

Tweet theft gets people very annoyed. It often seems like the idea of two people independently coming up with a labored pun is inconceivable to them.

But, of course, some Twitter accounts do outright steal other people’s jokes regularly – Will Ferrell ‘parodies’, I’m looking at you – and PlagiarismIsBad has been calling them out for some time.

Over the weekend, that account spotted that a number of accounts had seen tweets removed because they had lifted this vaguely funny observation about juicing:

Saw someone spill their high end juice cleanse all over the sidewalk and now I know god is on my side

I can’t embed that tweet because the originator, @Runolgarun (aka Olga Lexell), has protected her account. Before she did, she explained that she had submitted a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) request to make a point about stealing jokes on Twitter:

I simply explained to Twitter that as a freelance writer I make my living writing jokes (and I use some of my tweets to test out jokes in my other writing).

I then explained that as such, the jokes are my intellectual property, and that the users in question did not have my permission to repost them without giving me credit.

That’s great and the ensuing hassle from Twitter’s less understanding denizens probably explains why Lexell had to lock down her account. Her profile now reads “Writer who brought up a point about intellectual property.”

But while, Lexell’s stand is valuable – and she has made successful requests to get stolen jokes taken down before – the response to it has been deceptive. Twitter hasn’t just started applying its DMCA/copyright policy. It’s been doing that for years.

When we contacted Twitter for comment, it offered up this straight-forward response: “We don’t comment on individual accounts, but our copyright and DMCA policy is explained here.”

While the social network isn’t keen to go into more detail about how it implements its policy – beyond its published documents – it’s clear to me that it will continue to be reactive rather than proactive in cases of alleged plagiarism.

Attempting to police originality on a site that feeds on puns, memes and gave birth to the retweet, would be a fool’s errand and Twitter knows that. If you show proof that your joke was ‘stolen’, it’ll take action, but it’s probably not worth your effort.