by Marcel Mutoni

It took a while, but Dallas Mavs owner Mark Cuban finally got in trouble with the League about something he wrote on his Twitter page. Cuban was fined $25K for criticizing the refs following a game against the Nuggets on Friday night.

Cubes took the fine in stride – and even joked about it – but what has him concerned are the legal rammifications of his online writings. On his personal blog, he asks his readers for clarification:

Here is a question for all you legal scholars out there. Is a tweet copyrightable? Is a tweet copyrighted by default when its published ? Can there possibly be a fair use exception for something that is only 140 characters or less?

I got to thinking about this when I tweeted about an NBA game. I tweeted to the people who follow me. While I never asked that they not distribute it to other tweeters, i did not give anyone permission to republish my tweets in a commercial newspaper, magazine or website.

So when an ESPN.com or any other outlet republishes a tweet, have they violated copyright law? Is twittering the process of publishing in 140 characters or less, or is it a private communications to those that follow you ? Even if you dont block outsiders from seeing it?

I’ll leave it to the legally-minded among you guys to figure the answer to Cuban’s question; I just hope Cuban takes this seriously and eventually forces a meeting with a bewildered David Stern to discuss Tweeting.