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The dust is still settling.

Who Owns Your Twitter Handle? Why Jason Castillo Should Not Demand Too Much for @Qwikster

September 20, 2011

As you probably have already heard, Netflix is splitting into two companies. The first, Netflix, will handle just the streaming side of the existing services. The second, a new company called “Qwikster,” will handle the DVD by mail.

TechCrunch pointed out, however, that the people at Netflix forgot to get the Twitter handle for the before they announced the new company. Jason Castillo, the guy who currently holds the name @Qwikster, has caught on, and is hoping to cash out.

Via TechCrunch

It’s my opinion, though, that Castillo shouldn’t be too unreasonable during the negotiations. While the simple way for Netflix to acquire the @Qwikster name is to buy it from Castillo, there is another way.

The Twitter Terms of Service state:

We reserve the right at all times (but will not have an obligation) to remove or refuse to distribute any Content on the Services and to terminate users or reclaim usernames. [emphasis added]

The bottom line, is that you have no individual property interest in your Twitter account. It’s like a locker in a high school. You can put your stuff in it (or on it), but at the end of the day, the principal (or Twitter) can kick you out of it.

So instead of making an offer to Castillo, Netflix could just approach Twitter with a similar offer. In fact, they might be inclined to do just that. Negotiating with another enterprising internet-based company is probably a much more streamlined process than negotiating with a pot-smoking Elmo.

Update: Castillo has changed his avatar from pot-smoking Elmo to the Barcelona futbol club’s emblem.


Update 2: The Twitter site rules actually forbid selling a Twitter user name:

Selling user names: Unless you have been specifically permitted to do so in a separate agreement with Twitter, you agree that you will not reproduce, duplicate, copy, sell, trade or resell the Services for any purpose, where “Services” is defined as follows: Your use of Twitter’s products, services and web sites (referred to collectively as the “Services” in this document and excluding any services provided to you by Twitter under a separate written agreement) is subject to the terms of a legal agreement between you and Twitter.

By selling the account, he would obviously violate the rule. Then what? Twitter would reclaim it? Seems more and more that Netflix should just make an offer to Twitter directly. Gizmodo has a potential work-around: Netflix could hire Castillo.

Twitter, however, isn’t talking. According to Kashmir Hill at Forbes:

Spokesperson Carolyn Penner says: “Beyond [posted Twitter rules], we don’t comment on specific accounts, for privacy reasons, and it’s not productive to get into a theoretical discussion.”


Today is a good day

September 19, 2011

Florida Bar Exam results posted today. It looks like I passed. Soon I will be a full-fledged esquire.*

Appropriately, September 19 is also the day the :-) emoticon was born.

:-) is arguably the first marriage of art and Internet. As simple combinations of ASCII characters,  :-)  :-(  ;-)  and the like can convey a lot in a tiny space. Today is a good day ;-)

*- This site will -still- not be legal advice, even after I am an attorney.

Sunday #Law Summary: 7 Stories I Didn’t Have Time to do Justice

September 18, 2011

Twitterlogical: The Misunderstanding of Ownership. California attorney Brock Shinen examines, in depth, the copyrightability of individual tweets.

Many people believe they own everything they post online, be it Tweets, Facebook status, or whatever. The truth is that most people are most likely incorrect in their assumption.

Museums Make Some Art Available, Free of Charge. Clancco Art + Law posts about LACMA’s decision to make high-resolution images of some of its holdings available online, free for use and re-use by the public.

Don’t get too excited. Most, if not all of the works, are already in the public domain…

Burmese Photojournalist Sentenced to 10 More Years. PDN Pulse reports:

Burmese photographjournalist Sithu Zeya, who was sentenced last year to 8 years in prison for violating Burma’s immigration laws and “Unlawful Associations Act,” was sentenced yesterday to an additional 10 years for violating the country’s “Electronics Act” …

Before Facebook censors us, we’ll do it ourselves. The Art Newspaper covers a Swedish gallery’s decision to censor images containing nudity posted to Facebook.

The move was partly to stop Facebook removing the images, but also “to trigger a debate”.

No Beatles for you! EU adds 20 years to music copyrights. The EU has extended copyright protection for sound recordings by 20 years, moving the term of protection from 50 to 70 years. Just as the U.S. Copyright Term Extension Act, passed in 1998 (perhaps to protect Mickey Mouse), the extension applies retroactively. ARS Technica reports:

The long and winding road to this point actually began in 2008, when the European Union announced a plan to extend musical copyrights to 95 years. The stated objective was to “help aging session musicians” who had been making small amounts of money from these recordings for 50 years but were about to be cut off just when the rigors of old age were taking their toll.

Complaints prompt museum to cancel exhibit of kids’ drawings. The Newseum’s First Amendment Center posts this AP story about an exhibit at Oakland’s Museum of Children’s Art. The exhibit was closed after complaints by the community.

The drawings, done by children between the ages of 9 to about 11, showed bombs being dropped, tanks and people getting shot.

“They are pictures of what these children experienced. It’s their experience,” said Barbara Lubin, executive director of the alliance.

If a Kid Grabs Your Camera and Snaps a Photo, Who Owns the Copyright?. Answer: Probably the kid. What’s interesting about this post at PetaPixel is really the the gross misunderstanding of copyright law demonstrated by some of the comments. Don’t believe everything you read. Example:

In Canada and the US, I believe copyright belongs to /whoever develops, or pays to develop the roll of film/.

That’s it for this week. I’ll keep an eye out for good #Law content.

deviantART Artists Preparing to Fight Serial Copyright Infringer

September 15, 2011
via Alexiuss on deviant Art

Most artists and photographers who share their work on the internet are familiar with deviantART. The social network is a huge site with13 million registered members and 35 million unique visitors per month.

In August, an artist using the screen name Alexiuss discovered a “massive copyright infringement” scheme.

The scheme centers around a website (now defunct) called Art4Love and its founder, Chad “Love” Lieberman. Lieberman is a self-proclaimed celebrity who also claims to be both a relative of Senator Joe Lieberman and a friend of Paris Hilton.


Lieberman is also a content thief. Art4Love sold paintings and prints supposedly by Lieberman for a few hundred dollars a piece – only Lieberman didn’t create the paintings, he plagiarized them from deviantART artists.

deviantART is aware of the situation and issued this response.

The list of artists affected by this scandal is continuously growing, and a few of them are talking about filing an infringement suit.

As pointed out in this article at Plagiarism Today, most of the artists will likely be hindered by the formalities required by the copyright act.

Prior to filing any suit, they must begin registering their copyrights.

More importantly, though, they must have registered their works within 3 months of publication and before the infringement. If they failed to do so, they will not be able to recover any statutory damages – the big money in copyright infringement suits – or attorney’s fees to recover the costs of litigation.

Of course, registration isn’t required for basic copyright protection. The artists can register today, and still be able file suit for infringement. They will bear their own costs during litigation, and probably will not recover them. They will probably also be limited in their recovery to actual damages, which would be, at most, the money Lieberman made from sales of the stolen works.

Some of the artists seem to be international, though, and may find more favorable treatment in their home countries’ copyright laws.

If enough of the artists follow through, hire an attorney, and pursue their claims, even small damage awards add up. If the goal is to drive Lieberman to bankruptcy, a “death by a thousand cuts” strategy is as good as any.

#Law Tag #Copyright Primer Part 2

September 15, 2011

In the second installment of my primer on copyright law for content creators, I look at the benefits of copyright protection. Specifically, I answer the questions: What does Copyright Give Me? and How Long Does My Copyright Last?

Keep in mind this is not legal advice and is provided purely for informational purposes.

More to come! Please leave a comment here you can think of additional topics I should cover.

#Law Tag #Copyright Primer

September 14, 2011

I am putting together a primer on copyright law for content creators. It is a broad overview. If something seems wrong, or needs to be changed, please comment.

Keep in mind this is not legal advice and is provided purely for informational purposes.

The first two portions of the primer focus on obtaining a copyright. The first answers the question: How do I get a copyright in the U.S.? The second post looks explains why you should register your copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office.

This is just the beginning, and the list of topics on the primer’s main page are just suggestions. Please leave a comment here you can think of additional topics I should cover.

Your Rights as a Photographer in Public Places

September 13, 2011

Via BinaryApe on Flickr

The ACLU has put together a pretty good summary of photographers’ rights to take photos in public places within the U.S. The guide overviews rights in different locations and what to do if stopped by police.


Police officers may not generally confiscate or demand to view your photographs or video without a warrant. If you are arrested, the contents of your phone may be scrutinized by the police, although their constitutional power to do so remains unsettled. In addition, it is possible that courts may approve the seizure of a camera in some circumstances if police have a reasonable, good-faith belief that it contains evidence of a crime by someone other than the police themselves (it is unsettled whether they still need a warrant to view them).