Elon Musk's Twitter Business Model Idea: Ignore Free Speech Rights And Try To The Charge Media To Quote Tweets - Techdirt

Business Models
As everyone’s trying to read the tea leaves of what an Elon Musk-owned Twitter will actually look like, it’s been reported that in his presentation to Wall St. banks to get the financing he needs to complete the deal, he suggested the deal would be profitable because of some of his new business model ideas. Now, obviously, these are entirely speculative, and my guess is that he hasn’t thought through any of this that deeply (just like he hasn’t thought through content moderation’s challenges, even though he’s sure he can fix it). But, at least some of the banks are buying into the deal based on Musk promising a stronger Twitter business, so we need to pay attention to his ideas. Like this one, that, um, would be effectively impossible under the 1st Amendment.
Musk told the banks he also plans to develop features to grow business revenue, including new ways to make money out of tweets that contain important information or go viral, the sources said.
Ideas he brought up included charging a fee when a third-party website wants to quote or embed a tweet from verified individuals or organizations.
So, like, I don’t want to throw any cold water on the business model ideas of the guy people keep telling me is the most brilliant innovative business mind of our generation, but… it… um… seems at least a little ironic that he’s spent the past month screaming about “free speech” and enabling whatever the law allows… and now he wants to charge companies for quoting a tweet.
Yeah, so, thanks to the 1st Amendment (that he claims to support so much) he’s unlikely to be able to do that successfully. Quoting a tweet (we’ll deal with embedding shortly) in almost every damn case is going to be fair use under copyright law. And, a key reason we have fair use in copyright law… is that the 1st Amendment requires it, or else copyright law would stifle the very free speech that Musk claims to love so much.
In Eldred v. Ashcroft, the important (if wrongly decided) case on the Constitutionality of copyright term extension, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg repeatedly talked about how fair use was a “safeguard” in copyright law to make sure that copyright law could exist under the 1st Amendment, even as it could be used to suppress speech. The crux of the argument is that, because there’s fair use that allows people to do things like quote a 240 character outburst, then there’s no serious concern about copyright silencing speech. This point is often raised in the context of calling fair use a necessary safety valve on copyright to make it compatible with the 1st Amendment.
Given that Musk has claimed (incorrectly, but really, whatever) that free speech laws represent “the will of the people,” and his apparent big business model innovation is to demand that media organizations pay to quote tweets, which violates our fair use rights, which are necessary under the 1st Amendment… well, it appears that his biggest business model idea so far is to try to ignore the 1st Amendment rights of people wishing to quote tweets.
Good luck with that.
Also, under the current terms of service on Twitter, users hold any copyright interest in their own tweets. Twitter holds a license for it, but that wouldn’t allow Twitter as an entity to file copyright claims against any media organization that was quoting tweets in the first place. The only way it could do that is if it changed the terms entirely and required all its users to actually assign their copyrights to Twitter and, well, good luck with that as well.
Now, of course, the report claimed that the fee could be charged if someone “wants to quote or embed a tweet from verified individuals,” and the company certainly could set up some convoluted system to try to make people pay to embed, but that would (a) be fucking annoying for most everyone else and (b) would just lead to everyone screenshotting, instead of embedding, which is a lot less useful in the long run for Twitter, since it would drive fewer people to interact with Twitter. And, again, fair use and (I feel I must remind you) the 1st Amendment would protect all that screenshotting and quoting. Free speech, ftw!
And that’s not even getting into the idea that Twitter might now be effectively selling its popular tweets to websites. I mean, if this plan were to go forward (and somehow got over all the other hurdles), I’d imagine the company would literally need to cut its users in on the deal and set up some sort of “every time the NY Times embeds your tweet, they pay us $5 and we revert $3 of them to you” or some sort of nonsense like that. And, sure, maybe it’ll excite some Twitter users that they could get paid for their tweets (again, assuming any third party website out there ignores its fair use/1st Amendment rights to simply quote or screenshot and chooses to pay instead).
But, this would also likely create a whole world of complications. First, Twitter would need to set up an entirely new kind of operation to manage all of this. Musk also promised in these documents that he’s planning on reducing headcount at Twitter, but he’d need to staff up at least on managing the payments and payouts to tweeters. But, again, this is Elon Musk, so I’m guessing the system will work on the blockchain in Dogecoin and payments will flow automagically. And sure, maybe you could see how that could actually kinda work, if you’re into that sort of thing?
But, now, we get into the next issue: when you add money (even cute dog-meme based money) to a platform where people normally did shit for free, the incentives change. Oh, boy do they ever change. Suddenly you’re going to get scammers galore, looking to abuse the system, and get filthy stinkin’ Doge rich. I guess maybe this needs to be expressed in meme form?
And Elon should understand this better than anyone, given how frequently crypto scammers follow him around and try to scam his fans. Introducing actual money, even of the meme variety, into the mix is going to lead to a lot of scam behavior. And it would probably be helpful if the company had a… what’s it called… oh yeah, trust & safety staff to help think these issues through.
I’m never going to knock anyone for experimenting with creative business model ideas. And I’m all for Twitter trying out non-advertising based business models, as Elon has suggested is part of his focus. That actually seems like a good idea. But, it’s kinda weird when this whole deal is premised on the idea of bringing more “free speech” to the site… and his first business model suggestion when trying to convince banks to back him is to ignore the free speech rights of others and try to force them to pay up.
Filed Under: 1st amendment, business model, elon musk, fair use, free speech, payments, quotes, safeguard, safety valve, security
Companies: twitter
a key reason we have fair use in copyright law… is that the 1st Amendment requires it, or else copyright law would stifle the very free speech that Musk claims to love so much
Then again, when no one can really afford to engage in a long-term legal dispute so they can make use of that defense, Fair Use being embedded in the law means nothing to anyone that isn’t a corporate executive, an obscenely wealthy oligarch, or a lawyer for one of the first two.
One can only hope that enough of the rich creators get bitten by copyright madness (i.e. erroneous DMCA strikes) that some change is effected towards more easily accessible fair use. Looking especially at these pop artists… But then again they are not powerful, astro turfing rights recyclers and all hope may be lost.
Also, mandatory copyright filters do not allow (for) fair use.
I’m sure I’m not the only one thinking that this is just to f#ck around with Twitters stock price…
Like this one, that, um, would be effectively impossible under the 1st Amendment.
A privately owned company has a lot less trouble to hop jurisdictions for tax, legislation, and server upkeep reasons.
With the insertion of appropriate holding companies, the First Amendment stops being an integral concern to the bulk of operations of a globally acting company.
Twitter is still a primarily American company, though. The First Amendment will still matter until that fact changes.
Sit back and enjoy, I found the perfect soundtrack.
I found a better one.
Nah, the first one’s better.
I’m really partial to Anton LeVay playing the circus music for this one, perhaps because I never watched curb your enthusiasm.
This is a great way to stop people from quoting Twitter. I like it. The fewer tweets in the news the better. Time to watch it slowly die.
Looking a bit more at the tea leaves, maybe the goal is some kind of reverse link tax. You know, legacy media organizations seek to extract some loose money for daring to link to their articles on social media. But then these articles are all filled with embedded social media posts! Surely there must be a way to get the lost money back…
One sec, I need to go get the fainting couch so I can collapse in shock that another person talking about the sanctity of ‘free speech’ turns out to in fact only be a big fan of ‘free speech’ when it benefits them.
Setting up a paywall around the most viral third-party content might hinder Twitter’s fair use and Section 512 defenses if Twitter ever gets sued for copyright infringement for those tweets. But I’m sure Musk has thought all of this through
It would do more than that, either they change their terms of service to require copyright assignment, and that removes section 230, or they open themselves to copyright infringement cases from their users, because its the users and not Twitter who can try to get paid for re-use of their tweet outside of Twitter.
…either they change their terms of service to require copyright assignment…
Twitter doesn’t need to, their ToS has given them a licence to use tweets however they want for I don’t know how many years, and they’re still covered by Section 230.
A sites TOS always include licensing to allow them to display user content, and use it and often to promote their site. That is very different from gaining a license to license the use to other parties. The creator of the content is free to post copies elsewhere and license others to use their content. Amy other arrangement, other than full copyright assignment is unworkable, as it enable disputes about how the content was licensed to other publishers.
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“But I’m sure Musk has thought all of this through”
No offense, but have you had your office tested for lead?
I’d hazard to guess that it was sarcasm.
How could Twitter get sued for infringing on tweets when their ToS gives them a royalty-free licence to use them however they want in return for providing the service?
dude, if you’re serious, why are you pitching to banks?
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The only way it could do that is if it changed the terms entirely and required all its users to actually assign their copyrights to Twitter and, well, good luck with that as well.
I seem to remember a bunch of folks chomping at the bit back when youtube first started its monetization program. I have no idea whether such a program could be successful, but a TOS change seems to be a small price to pay, in exchange for getting paid if your tweet gets embedded. The president four years ago would have made a fortune.
Koby, YouTube has ads before each video. That’s how YouTubers get paid. YouTube videos could be embedded almost anywhere or linked anywhere without needing to pay. Elon Musk’s plan, by contrast, wants people to pay money to quote or embed tweets. What part of that sounds appealing to you?
You are confusing his first amendment that allows him to make money and your first amendment that does not allow him to make money, just need to do a bit more research on this topic!
… but I don’t recall anyone saying that 1A is concerned at all about money, and who can earn it. The only confusion here is your inability to see that Musk’s desire to make money via a method that certainly violates 1A will not cut the mustard.
Care to place a wager on which one of us is correct?
Obvious joke is obvious. Woosh!
Fucking what?
I think it was a joke. You’ll get better at handling your autistic tendencies with age (speaking as someone on the spectrum).
If I write a series of pithy and brilliant tweets, why should Elon make any money from that?
If anything, I, as the author/creator, should profit from it.
I as a “verified” creator of “viral” tweets can assign my copyright right of “right to sue” for all those tweets (snarf! you’re late to the game Elon. It’s been tried before: https://www.techdirt.com/company/righthaven/ ).
I’m beginning to suspect this Musk fellow is not the expert on free speech that he believes himself to be.
Musk projects competence, then pays the relevant experts what it takes to follow through with his vision. It will be interesting to see how he fares paying the judges.
Gee, ya think?
I’m also beginning to suspect he doesn’t want to read EVERYTHING that has been said about content moderation and link taxes…
Ideas he brought up included charging a fee when a third-party website wants to quote or embed a tweet from verified individuals or organizations.
*yawn* That’s just a variation on the link tax, and is likely to work out just as well.
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Słychać wycie? Znakomicie! 🙂
Seriously though, what are you afraid of? That the Big Bad Billionaire will destroy your most successful propaganda tube? Because if so, you are correct! Elon will do just that and he will lead us into the new, bright future where there’s no place of weakling with underdeveloped brains, only for the strong, sane, men and women.
Hi Elon!
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Not Elon. Just a Polish poseł. Feel free to Google me if don’t believe me.
That is, white “conservatives”.
That is, the same 73 million that voted for a treasonous Cheeto.
That is, NeoNazis.
He’s not keen on free speech when it involves unions or workers at tesla factory’s, even if this plan worked and they got 10 dollars for each tweet quoted by USA news media it would not even pay the interest on the billions he’s paying for twitter.
And of course how can you say you want more free speech while asking for media to pay money to quote a short tweet, a large part of twiitter is writers linking to articles and promoting their work or linking to podcasts, videos or gifs .
Well, he’s copying Rupert Murdoch’s playbook on certain aspects of this monetization bullshit…
I love how this site which claims to love “Free Speech” all of a sudden is seething that Elon Musk wants to allow “hate speech” on twitter. You are a bunch of sensitive cucks, which would allow corporations to stifle speech, just because they aren’t the government.
Also, I would like to point out that what separates humans from animals, among other things, is that humans have the capacity to hate, meaning that it must have served an important evolutionary purpose. That is because hate is a powerful motivator, and without for example the hate of injustice, there would be no justice.
he’ll be charging customers of ebay a fortune now so he can recoup what twitter has cost him! the trouble with money people, regardless of whether they come from humble beginnings or not is that enough is never enough! it might be money, it might be power, it might be both but it’s always the normal people who make up the customer base that get caned the most and the hardest!! whenever he needs more money, he ups fees or postage or whatever, just like Jeff Bezos!!
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