Free speech row as US TV channel forces removal of tweets

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Starz criticised over Twitter takedown of users’ links to news story about pirated shows

A US TV channel has forced Twitter to remove tweets linking to a news story about pirated content – including tweets from free speech campaigners complaining that the social network was removing other people’s tweets.

Starz, the network that airs American Gods, The 100 and Knightfall in the US, sent the takedown requests after the copyright and privacy news site TorrentFreak reported on a leak of promotional copies of those TV shows and others. TorrentFreak’s story did not contain any links to the pirated material, although it did include four screenshots of the content in order to report the alleged source of the leak.

But when TorrentFreak tweeted a link to the news story, Starz sent Twitter a legal demand to remove the tweet, alleging it infringed the company’s copyright because it linked to a website depicting “images of unreleased episodes … and information about their illegal availability”.

TorrentFreak disputed the takedown request, arguing that “our article only includes a single identifiable frame from a leaked American Gods episode, to show the screener watermarks, which are central to the story. That’s just 0.001% of the episode in question, without audio, which is generally seen as fair use, especially in a news context.”

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