Copyright Trumps Trump

The Washington Post reports that the photograph in Donald Trump Jr.’s now-infamous “Skittles tweet” has been removed over copyright infringement concerns.  On September 19, 2016, in what appears to be a sacchariferous twist on former Vice President Dick Cheney’s “One Percent Doctrine,” the junior Donald tweeted (heedless of both political correctness and grammatical standards), “If I had a bowl of Skittles and I told you just three would kill you.  Would you take a handful?  That’s our Syrian refugee problem.”  To both illustrate the point and make the choice more difficult for Skittle-loving Americans, the tweet included an enticing, full-color photograph of a delicious-looking bowl of SKITTLES® brand fruit-flavored candies.  The original tweet can be seen here.

Trump Jr.’s tweet was ostensibly intended to advance his father’s anti-Syrian refugee argument, and as everyone knows, a picture is worth a thousand words (or at least more than twenty-six).  Unfortunately for Trump Jr. (and, by extension, anyone with an equivalently expansive sense of entitlement), he neglected to secure, or even request, a license from the photograph’s copyright holder, British photographer David Kittos.  Upon discovering the misappropriation of his intellectual property by Trump Jr., Kittos, himself a refugee who left Cyprus at the age of six, promptly filed a DMCA Takedown Notice under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which allows copyright holders to compel service providers like Twitter to remove infringing content hosted on their services.  As of this writing, the remainder of Trump Jr.’s tweet still stands, though it is but a candy-coated shell of its former self.

In addition to raising the question of why the son of an alleged billionaire would not simply purchase a stock photograph (and the services of a proofreader) for such occasions (instead of disregarding the need for a license as if it were an obligation to pay federal income tax), this incident also illustrates the perils of assuming that content found on the Internet is free for the taking.  The safer assumption is that you need a written license, and perhaps a copyright attorney, in order to use any content that you see on the web.  Caveat Trumptor!  From The Washington Post.

By David Adam Kess (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], via  Wikimedia Commons .

By David Adam Kess (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons.