Teri Buhl Followup: “Libel…no wait, copyright!” (updated with two more theories)

 Posted on February 05, 2013 in Uncategorized

When Tim Cushing at TechDirt wrote about Teri Buhl's "unpublishable tweets" and her attempts to bully Gideon with lawsuit threats, then me with veiled threats of a libel lawsuit, Buhl left a comment:


Then she asked Jim Romenesko to post her response to the TechDirt article:

I can say silly things some times and I'd like to apologized for my knee jerk reaction to Gideon.Of course I can't sue him/her because I don't even know the person's real name.

You see, threatening Gideon is not wrong because there is no basis for a lawsuit, nor is it wrong because threatening a lawsuit is a thuggish thing to do; threatening Gideon is wrong because she doesn't know who he is. (If she knew his real name, she could threaten him, sue him, maybe even publish his private journal.)

Buhl implies that the tweets I republished were from a protected account, claiming, "My tweets were protected for a long time" but not admitting that the tweets between her and Gideon were public.

In the same screed, having realized that her libel theory will go nowhere, Buhl advances a copyright theory:

Asking fellow journos (or bloggers) not to publish my tweets is about a copyright issue for me.* * * * *As far as Mark Bennett (the lawyer blogger) – I would like to sue him and see how copyright law relating to tweets and photos in tweets would be tested. If can [sic] afford to do it I will.

Buhl had also vehemently ("separately, she asked Tim to provide my phone number, and she called our corporate line multiple times this morning") sought to comment with Techdirt, and then sent TechDirt the same statement she sent Romenesko. As well as the Romenesko statement,

[s]he also provided an "off the record" statement, saying that the background photo on her Twitter profile is covered by copyright, and demanded that we take down the image of her Twitter profile because "as a tech blogger I hoping you will respect copyright laws."

So here, for those keeping score at home, is a summary of Teri Buhl's theories to date:

  1. That republishing tweets designated "not for publication" can be the basis for a lawsuit.

  2. That she hadn't written the tweets I republished ("Mark did you fact check my twitter feed to make sure I tweeted what you published?").

  3. That I libeled her.

  4. That retweeting "protected" tweets can be the basis for a lawsuit ("I think the question is if tweets are protected are they public").

  5. That republishing her tweets violates her copyright.

  6. That republishing her background photo violates her copyright.

[Update 2/9/13: Buhl has theories #7 and #8 (in comments here): that (7) I didn't use Twitter's embedding to republish the tweets; and (8) while the tweets were not protected when they were screen-captured, they were protected when they were republished:

Mindful of Rule 9, I will not press the issue further if Buhl stops now and claims that she has succeeded in starting a discussion on the copyrightability of Tweets.]

Changing theories is always a good indication that the person threatening a lawsuit has no good reason to sue: if you have a reason to file suit, you know it.

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