Are twitter comments protected by copyright law?

A former partner and I developed an online comic strip, and had an LLC which has been deactivated. The strip came about from my former partner’s humorous tweets, my development of a fictional character and my illustrations. I would like to continue on solo with the project, am wondering if his twitter comments are protected by copyright, and if so, what do I need to do legally to ensure there will be no future litigation. I have tried contacted him to get his OK on my moving forward, and to delineate any financial percentages he might feel entitled to, but the partnership did not terminate well, and he has not responded after several attempts on my part (I have emails to prove this) to contact him. Please advise. Thank you – Eileen

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Alasdair Taylor's Answer

I’m guessing from your reference to an LLC that you are not in the UK (where I am).  Copyright law varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, and the question of whether a particular work – such as a particular tweet – is protected by copyright is one that must be answered from the perspective of a particular jurisdiction or jurisdictions.

For example, under English law a work may be protected by copyright if it is original and is not de minimis.  The latter requirement is assessed in both a qualitative and a quantitative manner.  In a recent UK case newspaper headlines were found to be sufficiently substantial and original to warrant protection.  So, as a matter of English law, a tweet could be protected by copyright, although clearly not all tweets would be protected.  

To properly answer your question, more information would be needed: e.g. the content of the tweets, the context in which the tweets were created, the activities of the LLC and so on. 

On balance, I think your question is not one that you will be able to get an adequate answer to without instructing a suitable lawyer in your own jurisdiction to advise.  Sorry not to be of more help.

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