Yes, Twitter is a public forum. Yes, celebrities who have verified accounts and post photos and thoughts for their fans (and critics) to see put such things out into the ether and can no longer claim ownership for them in a lot of ways. However, that does not grant others the rights to steal them and take credit for them.
I let it go when Jenna Ushkowitz re-tweeted my photo of her and Amber Riley from the Diversity Awards without giving me credit. For all I know, maybe she thought I had stolen it from somewhere else anyway. Besides, in all honesty, I was more flattered she selected that photo as her "favorite" to share with her adoring people. That was a minor infraction, though. She is young and new to stardom anyway. People Magazine, who calls itself a leading journalistic publication, should know better.
Today my friend Jamie tipped me off to a gem of a news item (must be a slow day so far, with results from Brittany Murphy's autopsy taking weeks longer than first originally assumed). People Magazine actually created an article from a selection of Neil Patrick Harris' weekend Tweets. They followed his harrowing journey flying across the country (at one point he says he felt like he was on The Amazing Race) and then decorating his Christmas tree. They top it all off with a reprint of a personal cameraphone photo he posted on his own account!
Now, while I understand all of this is legal, I don't get how the people at People can say this is all "okay." How can they call themselves journalists and feel good about the work that they do when what they're really doing here is just stealing someone else's information and reposting it as if they received some sort of "scoop?" How is this any better than entertainment magazines that read an interview or a breaking news story on one site and then re-word it for their own but end up posting virtually the exact same information? And why can People Magazine simply admit this all came from his Twitter feed and that's the end of it? Why aren't they held to a higher standard when subscribers are paying for their goods and services??
Everyone who has a favorite celebrity is thrilled when that person gets a Facebook fan page and/or a Twitter. And similarly, many celebrities seem equally excited to be able to keep in touch with fans in such simple and easy ways. But in my not-so humble opinion, this is the kind of media action that will discourage celebrities from signing up for such social networking sites in the future (and perhaps have those already signed up consider canceling accounts). After all, there is not really a reasonable right to privacy on the internet, but there should be a reasonable expectation that the media will not pull together personal thoughts as made-up interview quotes!
If I had done something similar on this blog, I feel like I'd be brought up on stalking charges, if not simple ethics issues!