Mina Lioness was shaking for hours after Lizzo shocked her — and the music industry — by giving her a songwriting credit on her smash hit "Truth Hurts." In 2017, Lioness tweeted the phrase, "I did a DNA test and found out I'm 100% that bitch," which spawned a viral meme that Lizzo incorporated into the first line of her song. The decision caused some head-scratching about whether tweets and internet memes are copyright-protected.
A work protected by U.S. copyright law must be "fixed in a tangible medium of expression and have sufficient creativity and originality," according to University of California, Los Angeles School of Law professor David Nimmer. Single words or phrases are not considered sufficiently creative.
"It can't just be a recitation of some facts or names unless it also contains some commentary about those facts," says William Hochberg, a partner at Greenberg Glusker. Tweets that meet the copyright threshold are automatically protected when users post them. (Twitter's terms of service also specifies that all users maintain the rights to their content.)