CrimeWatchMpls owner sues conservative think tank over embedded tweets

(Photo illustration by Chesnot / Getty Images)

The owner of a crime-tracking Twitter account in Minneapolis is accusing a conservative think tank of copyright infringement in a federal lawsuit for embedding her tweets.

Shelley Leeson, who runs the @CrimeWatchMpls Twitter account, is accusing the American Experiment of infringement for embedding CrimeWatchMpls posts on its website, which highlighted rising crime in the state in recent years.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court on Monday, accuses American Experiment of using an embedded feed of CrimeWatchMpls's tweets on its website, highlighting several tweets from September including a fight at the State Fair, a shooting at Bullwinkle's, and a protest at Merwin Liquors and Winner Gas over violence.

The tweets were used on an American Experiment webpage titled "Minnesota is now a high crime state," the lawsuit alleges. The lawsuit includes a screenshot showing CrimeWatch's Twitter feed prominently embedded on the webpage. While there are no advertisements on the site, the lawsuit points out the webpage features a link for visitors to donate.

The lawsuit claims that Leeson's attorney, Nathan Hansen, emailed a draft of the lawsuit to American Experiment president John Hinderaker, who reportedly responded: "[He was] surprised to learn that Ms. Leeson does not want the [Center of the American Experiment] to help publicize her work... I do not agree with your legal theories, but as a courtesy to Ms. Leeson we have deleted the Twitter feed from our page."

During a check on Monday, FOX 9 found the American Experiment had replaced the CrimeWatch feed with tweets from @SafetyAlertMN -- another popular Twin Cities public safety account.

The legal grounding for copyright infringement when it comes to embedding tweets is murky with most legal battles centering around photos or videos – not pure textual content. 

Leeson is seeking $150,000 per violation for the eight highlighted tweets.