Sorry, joke-stealers: Twitter is on to you

Followers stealing your jokes? Turns out Twitter might be willing to acknowledge that you're the copyright holder, and delete copycat tweets. 

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Most of us have long given up on the idea that our stuff is safe on the internet. Posted a photo on social media? It could end up on someone else's fake profile. Written a furious Facebook rant about the Game of Thrones finale? Your "friends" will screenshot it for viral distribution. Tweeted about your cat's visits to the local kebab shop? That story now belongs to the internet

But in an unlikely turn of events, it seems that Twitter has come out on the side of content-producers. Earlier this month, Olga Lexell, a freelance writer who tweets as @runolgarun, tweeted this:

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

For reasons that aren't terribly clear, a load of other accounts proceeded to tweet the same thing. Then, on Friday, user @PlagiarismBad noticed that something peculiar was happening: 

In a later tweet, Lexell explained that she had asked Twitter to remove the copycat tweets:

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."

She later told digital news site The Verge that she's reported copycat tweeters before. 

Anyone can report copyright infringement on Twitter via this online form, though the site's policy on copyright focuses on videos and images, plus "links to allegedly infringing materials". It seems, though, that the site's moderators, who check through copyright infringement reports on a case-by-case basis, were convinced by Lexell's reasoning, and other tweeting comics or writers might expect the same treatment. 

Of course, this isn't the end of the story: since other users and news sites picked up on the removed tweets, even more accounts have copied Lexell's original tweet, and she has since changed her account settings to private. Oh, the irony. 

Barbara Speed is comment editor at the i, and was technology and digital culture writer at the New Statesman, and a staff writer at CityMetric.