Twitter Took a Trump Tweet Down, but Should It Have? And Is Nickelback to Blame?

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Twitter has a policy of not interfering with President Trump’s tweets but, in in the early hours of Thursday, the company made an exception: It removed a video the president had tweeted to attack his Democratic rival, former Vice President Joe Biden.

The tweet simply said “LOOK AT THIS PHOTOGRAPH,” invoking a meme based on the much-maligned band Nickelback. Typically the meme involves an image of the band’s lead singer Chad Kroeger holding up a photo frame, saying “look at this photograph,” and Internet users replacing the people in the picture with other images. In Trump’s version of the meme, the framed photograph featured Biden and his son alongside with Ukrainian gas executives.

In an email to Fortune, Twitter says it removed President Trump’s tweet in response to a “valid copyright claim.” Twitter did not elaborate on whether the claim came from Nickelback, its record label Warner Music—who are the likely copyright holders—or someone else entirely.

The incident is remarkable—and not only because it involves the leader of the free world tweeting an image of Nickelback’s lead singer. Twitter has only removed one previous tweet by President Trump, and that too was for violation of a copyright. But this episode even more unusual because Nickelback and its label likely lacked a legal justification to remove the video.

Under copyright law, artists cannot forbid others from using their work in the case of fair use—a doctrine that typically, includes transformative activities like parody, reporting, or commentary. Many scholars regard memes as fair use, and one prominent copyright professor, Pamela Samuelson of UC Berkeley, raised the question in regard to the Trump tweet:

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