Twitter has long taken the position that you own your tweets. When you tweet, you’re giving Twitter a license to distribute your content via its services.
Just because you own the content you tweet doesn’t mean that Twitter is going to protect you if a court wants copies of what you’ve tweeted. Until recently, Twitter took the position that because you own the content, the company didn’t have to cooperate with court requests for copies of your tweets. If you closed your Twitter account, that was the end of it.
However, courts take a different view of the matter. Now Twitter has caved on the issue and has just turned over tweets to a New York court without the consent of the user who tweeted the content.
This is consistent with Twitter’s Terms of Service that provides in relevant part…
You retain your rights to any Content you submit, post or display on or through the Services. 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).
In other words, just because you may own the content you tweet doesn’t mean you get final say on who gets copies of that content. And if a court wants copies of what you’ve tweeted, Twitter’s policy appears to be full cooperation even if that hurts you. Think twice before tweeting something that could come back to haunt you in legal proceedings.