Oct 2, 2018

Twitter's terms and conditions gutted in Paris

The Tribunal de Grande Instance ("Paris Tribunal") has meticulously cleared out unfair terms and conditions imposed on users by Twitter. As we all know, nobody reads the terms and conditions displayed on websites. They are long, they are boring, and, generally speaking, nothing we see is going to stop us from using the site. We all assume that if there is some awful term that requires us to hand over our first-born child, some court somewhere would invalidate it if required.

However, the Paris Tribunal has now poured over the T&Cs to identify all of the unfair ones and removed them.

Amongst those terms deemed unfair was one about which this writer was blissfully and embarrassingly ignorant: the automatic copyright license. While the terms set out explicitly that the user retains the rights to submitted content (even stating "what's yours is yours"), they suffixed that with the following:

"By submitting, posting or displaying Content on or through the Services, you grant us a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free license (with the right to sublicense) to use, copy, reproduce, process, adapt, modify, publish, transmit, display and distribute such Content in any and all media or distribution methods (now known or later developed). This license authorizes us to make your Content available to the rest of the world and to let others do the same."

So in reality, if a user uploads a photograph to Twitter, Twitter can do with it what it pleases, including sublicensing it to literally anybody for free. The Paris Tribunal found that to be too vague, and was in violation of France's Intellectual Property Code.

Twitter will now need to redraft its terms and conditions to satisfy French law. In order to do so it may be that a user will have to explicitly grant a license for particular content at the time of uploading it (pop-up box and link to terms, perhaps) or Twitter may have to stop using users' content for its own commercial purposes. That second option, is, of course, never going to happen. That is how Twitter makes its money.

So if there is going to be a more stringent licensing process for Tweets, we ask:

Will the rest of the world follow suit?
Will other social media content-hosts be caught up in the T&Cs issue?
How will users react if they have an extra step to getting content published?
Does the average user even care about their copyright rights?

We will be keeping an eye on how this plays out, as the ramifications could usher in a new wave of law on user-generated content and the obligations of hosts.

If you have any questions on the above, please do not hesitate to contact the team at McDaniel & Co. on 0191 281 4000 or legal@mcdanielslaw.com.


in: Copyright, Digital/Tech, EU/International

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