ImageI’m a firm believer that it’s little use inflicting a punishment if the wrongdoer doesn’t understand why they did wrong.  Or even that a punishment has been inflicted at all.   My view is backed up in the world of children’s moderation where best practice is tell the young users why they broke the sites terms before imposing any kind of bar, ban or gag. Which is why Twitter’s new #transparency over copyright infringement makes a lot of sense to me.

Previously, when they upheld a copyright complaint, the offending item would just be removed from the account holder’s stream. <Pouff!> it was gone, and no more said. Leaving the offender, the plaintiff and anyone else who had favourited, retweeted or  in any way marked the tweet a tad confused, and with no means to defend themselves against the accusation of copyright infringement.

Since their announcement last weekend:Twitter copyright tweetthis process has changed. If they decide to remove – or disable access – to the offending material, Twitter will now notify the affected user (s) and provide them with a copy of the complaint made, along with instructions of how to file a counter-claim. You can now see the copyright notices which Twitter has upheld in this way at the independent Chilling Effects website. Chilling Effects offers a form to build a counter-notice if you wish to defend the claim.

Under the new policy Twitter will replace the withheld tweet with the wording:

“This Tweet from [username] has been withheld in response to a report from the copyright holder. Learn more: [link]“

The link then takes the reader to a copy of the copyright holder’s complaint, on Chilling Effects website.  (Interestingly, there is a privacy issue here: the complaint is accompanied by the plaintiff’s details with a US address referred to only as a town and 5 mains digits of a zip.  But in the UK they use the FULL postal code – which can refer to as few a couple of residences.  I hope that’s sorted quickly.)

In an email to Gigaom, a Twitter spokesman explained the change in policy this way:

[W]hen we get a valid DMCA request, we withhold the tweet until such time as we get (if we ever do) a valid counter-response from the user. In this case, if someone with the permalink tries to navigate to the tweet, they’ll see that it is being withheld for copyright reasons. We also send the requests to Chilling Effects for publication. Our prior policy was to delete the Tweet without any language explaining the takedown, then manually repost the Tweet if/when we got a valid counter response.

Should Twitter ought to be removing links to copyright material -  or to be going after the source material itself?  From their Copyright and DCMA Policy, it seems clear that links alone will be considered infringements:

Twitter will respond to reports of alleged copyright infringement, such as allegations concerning the unauthorized use of a copyrighted image as an profile photo, header photo, or background, allegations concerning the unauthorized use of a copyrighted image uploaded through our photo hosting service, or Tweets containing links to allegedly infringing materials.

It is made clear on Twitter’s Copyright and DMCA Policy what ‘evidence’ the person reporting an infringement needs to provide:

Twitter’s new process continues to be compliant with the notice and take down required by the DCMA regime, which protects a publisher from prosecution provided that they remove the material promptly when requested to do so.  The process is also more in line with some aspects of the draft UK Defamation Bill which allows a platform such as Twitter to stay legally protected and yet permit legal debate as to the merits of a claim between the person posting and anyone claiming defamation.

Perhaps the requirements for reporting an infringement, and Twitter’s warning above, may possibly help stem the tide of complaints which result in knee-jerk take down reactions from publishers, because it’s felt safer to pull down content immediately rather than check the validity of a claim?  Or perhaps not …

If you want to report copyright infringement to Twitter by the way, here’s the link to use.