Disney has been accused of trying to claim media ownership of popular hashtag “MayThe4th” on Twitter.
The company’s streaming service, Disney Plus, encouraged fans to share their favourite Star Wars memories using the hashtag on Monday.
It followed up with a legal warning suggesting any user who tweeted the hashtag was agreeing to Disney’s terms and letting it use their content.
It backtracked after a huge protest by fans and widespread mockery.
The hashtag – a play on the franchise’s phrase, “May the force be with you,” has been used for years to coincide with the made-up fan holiday.
“Reply with your favourite #Star Wars memory and you may see it somewhere special #MayThe4th,” the company said in a tweet.
Many fans rushed to share their confusion over Disney’s tweet.
“You can’t just scream a terms of service agreement into the void and then assume anyone who does something falling in line has seen it and agreed,” replied one user.
Another user joked: “By having my tweet in your thread you hereby waive all your copyright to the public domain.”
Disney later added that the wording applied only to specific tweets in the original thread.
“The above legal language applies ONLY to replies to this tweet using #MayThe4th and mentioning @DisneyPlus. These replies may appear in something special on May the 4th!”
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Aaron Wood, IP lawyer at Keystone Law, said due to the popularity of the hashtag, it was unlikely Disney’s tweet would have been seen by everyone who used it.
“It is a little risky and presumptuous that all tweets copying them in with the hashtag will have read their terms, or know about them,” he told the BBC.
Twitter’s policy states that users own the unique content they post on the social media service.
“A user can give permission to someone else to use their tweet,” added Mr Wood. “However, Disney’s risk is whether users who simply use the hashtag are really giving them that permission.”