Can I take a screenshot of your tweet?

This evening I got an email telling me about Lazyscope a new immersive twitter desktop client. I downloaded the beta release and gave it a go and have to say I like the way that you get a preview of the urls that peeps include in their tweets and in the right-hand column you can actually read the site.  There’s also an option allowing you to subscribe to a site if it has an RSS feed. The pop up notifications also include the url preview and you can see at a glance whether the link might be of interest without having to click and wait to for your browser to load.

I posted a few tweets about Lazyscope and thought I’d take a screenshot and tweet this and then remembered reading on ReadWriteWeb yesterday about new Twitter guidelines. One section of the article looked at how you could now refer to tweets without needing to consult your lawyer.  It seems that we’re not supposed to use screenshots of other people’s tweets unless we have their permission.  Checking the guidelines on the Twitter help centre confirms this.  I then tweeted this and a couple of people tweeted back saying they hadn’t heard about this before and that it seemed a bit silly.  As I haven’t asked them if I can display their tweets I can’t show you them here.

In some respects it’s nice that someone might ask you for permission to take a screenshot of one of your tweets, but is this Twitter guideline a bit over the top?  Tweets are in the public domain, they are also googleable so does someone really need to to ask my permission to take a shot of my tweet.  Many of us working in education frequently take screenshots of applications and websites to use in educational resources and we also make screencasts showing people how to use various tools including Twitter.  Does this now mean that if we want to make a screencast for our students or colleagues that we need to get permission form everyone that’s tweeted into our Twitter stream whilst we were recording!!!

So what do you think?

As for Lazyscope it’s worth giving it a try.  Here’s a screenshot, which is a bit cropped and only shows one of my tweets, but hopefully it will give you an idea of how you can view links in tweets.


  1. “Tweets are in the public domain, they are also googleable so does someone really need to to ask my permission to take a shot of my tweet” – I would have thought not.

    The only proviso I would add is to remove the screenshot if the OP asks you to.

    I agree, the rules seem a bit over the top.

    1. Thanks, I’d agree with your proviso. I shouldn’t think anyone would have a problem with removing a screenshot in these circumstances.

        1. That could be right Joel. You’d think that most people would respect that and take it for granted that you wouldn’t publish a private tweet. I had one response on twitter, which said that if they didn’t want people to see their tweets there would be a padlock next to their name.

  2. Surely it’s “fair use and criticism”? The thing is, I and other colleagues in academia need to quote tweets – some quite profound things are said on Twitter! But as the timeline is not seemingly stored forever, the only way to archive is to take a screenshot.
    Imagine if no one had ever been able to quote anyone without permission, half our knowledge of human history would be gone… It’s all based on quotes without permission!

    1. I agree. Also this reminds me that a couple of months ago I sent a screenshot of a tweet enthusing about some of the work one of my colleagues was doing which he’d been presenting on. My colleague isn’t on twitter and so would never have seen that someone enjoyed his presentation but was also impressed by the approach he was taking to support student learning. As you say you think fair use would be the sensible guidance here.

  3. What a bizarre restriction!

    I can understand that taking a snapshot of your own feed could potentially be a problem as, if you are following people who have set their updates to private, they might not be too happy if their tweet effectively becomes publicly available.

    However, when it comes to public tweets (e.g. a snapshot of a search page), I can’t see a problem – there are lots of tools out there using the Search API (I created one myself!), and a cursory glance at something like SnapBird or even Google will throw up tweets from longer than the 14 days that tweets show up within Twitter’s own search function. So, I can’t see what difference it makes if an old tweet shows up in an image or on Google. Indeed, it’s likely to be less accessible within an image, as (unless the alt text is extremely descriptive) individual tweets within the image won’t be indexed, and thus it would be difficult for any old Joe Bloggs to find them.

    And what about retweets? That’s possibly more of an issue, as you have a many to many situation where people repeat what other people have said ad infinitum, without any form of restriction (even if the person has set their tweets to private, it only takes one person to RT a particular tweet for it to become public a million times over). Yet, I’ve yet to come across anyone who has said “Please stop retweeting my tweet” in a Wet Wet Wet/Love Is All Around “stop buying our record” way!

    1. It does all seem a bit ridiculous. When I first posted this I had a Twitter conversation with a fellow tweeter and suggested that Twitter should have some sort of licensing tick box system. This could link to your profile and then it would be clear to everyone whether you were happy to have your tweets reproduced under a creative commons licence. I wouldn’t have thought this would be too difficult.

  4. Arrived here because of a RT from @amcunningham on 22 May 2011


    It does sound nice if it’s just reminding people to be careful with protected tweets but seems unworkable if it’s aimed at anything else. Google Realtime lets you find tweets going back as far as March 2010, plenty are stored in the Internet Archive (although these are likely to be isolated random pages from your Tweeting history). Google cache and Google Realtime won’t show you protected tweets (possibly they will if someone protected after a particular date though)

    Tools like @Storify let you drag a tweet from the timeline into a panel and create a story (I’ve not investigated what it does with private tweets – theoretically you might be able to see them as you use Twitter to log in) and it will keep a tweet in a story that’s been deleted, see

    Freezepage will also store tweets (see the mention of Freezepage in the link above) although again I don’t know how it will handle protected tweets. I suspect that if you can see them on your page (as happens when you’re logged in to Twitter obviously) then they’ve loaded into your browser and can be saved.

    Certainly I think it’s probably better to be polite and ask though 🙂


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