I’m the CEO of Flattr. And Here’s Why We’ve Been Blocked by Twitter…

The following comes from Flattr cofounder and CEO Linus Olsson, who’s now dealing with the fallout from an abrupt Twitter pullout.  Flattr focuses on decentralized, fan tipping of musicians (the other founder is Peter Sunde of the Pirate Bay).

quotationmarksTwitter is forcing us to drop users’ ability to flattr creators by favoriting their tweets


We think that we’ve created a beautiful way to support creators by checking what you favorited on Twitter and letting you send a flattr to the writer of a tweet. Twitter did not.

So we are extremely sad to announce that from today (16th of April 2013) at noon CET we will remove the possibility to flattr tweets via the use of favorites, as per instructions from Twitter.

What we do

To enable support for flattring tweets we use two sources of data our users have created. The data about what a user favorited on Twitter, and the data about the tweet that was created. To do this we need a Twitter API key.

What Twitter said

Recently Twitter contacted us and told us that we are violating their API terms citing the second part of a clause (IV. Commercial Use, 2C. Advertising Around Twitter Content) saying, “Your advertisements cannot resemble or reasonably be confused by users as a Tweet.  For example, ads cannot have Tweet actions like follow, retweet, favorite, and reply. And you cannot sell or receive compensation for Tweet actions or the placement of Tweet actions on your Service.”

This is a quite logical clause as it would stop companies to sell e.g. retweets and followers.  It’s an understandable rule to keep the Twitter network clean but in this case the rule is strangely stomping out innovation on their platform.

However, the term Twitter call to is a term about advertisment that states that we can not be compensated. One can argue that we cannot get money based on this clause. Even though we think that is not obvious.

So we suggested to forgo our 10 percent, to not be compensated as a service. This would mean that the flattr donation goes from supporter to creator in its entirety. That did not help.

Twitter said…

“Our API Terms of Service state that you cannot sell or receive compensation for Tweet actions or the placement of Tweet actions on your Service. This includes compensation attached to a Tweet Action sent to either a service or through a service to another user.”

The idea of not letting people use their favorites in the way they want is in no way mentioned in the API terms. We feel that Twitter is reading things into their terms that is not there.

With Flattr you cannot of course pay people to retweet, follow or favorite you. Flattr is the opposite, a way to voluntary reward someone for something that they have created. It’s not possible to use Flattr to pay creators to get a certain result.

Well, the reality is that this was not how Twitter read it.  After mailing with Twitter’s ‘Platform Operations’ about this Twitter replied to us that, “If your service compensates content creators … in a manner that is not attached to Tweet Actions, this would be in compliance with our API Terms of Service.”  To favorite somebody is considered a Tweet Action.

We have tried to suggest different solutions asking for an exception to the terms, even forgoing our cut, etc., without any result.  But, this does not mean that we will give up negotiating with them over this on behalf our users and also their users.

Twitter users create the favorite and just like they own their tweets they should own the result of their action. If you favorite something we argue that you should be able to decide what you want to do with the data you create. If you want to use it to give Flattr donations to other Twitter users you should be the one to make that decision.

What is happening now?

From noon today (the 16th of April 2013) at noon CET we are forced to remove the ability to support creators by favoriting their tweets.  This to comply with their API terms of service.

We are working on other ways to support creators on Twitter, and will keep the discussions going with Twitter towards a more acceptable resolution.

Remember, you can still use our browser extension to flattr tweets.

And, there are still eight great services, a lot of blogs, and other awesome content you can flattr.

Adding YouTube!

Starting today we have enabled supporters to send microdonations to creators on YouTube! Just like on Soundcloud, Vimeo, Instagram etc you just like videos on YouTube to flattr them.

We are on a mission to help creators get paid for their work. It’s their work that makes the internet so valuable to us all.


Image by [email protected], licensed under Creative Commons 2.0 Generic Attribution.

58 Responses

    • FarePlay

      No question this is an interesting dilemma.

      Flattr certainly isn’t the only “seemingly” legitimate business associated with less than desirable partners.

      But, perhaps the tech sector is finally beginning to understand the importance of creative content for their success and evaluating options to stop an abuse that syphons money from artists and abuses their work to make money.

      The current system of take down notices to legitimize these businesses, a practice that places the onus on the artist to protect their work, is not only unfair to the artists, it is devastatingly ineffective.

      Why aren’t habitual uploaders of infringing content fined or risk being imprisoned if they continuing this practice after being warned?

      Or that “legitimate” advertisers are funding sites like Grooveshark to pay for costly legal representation so they can fight a torrent of lawsuites and continue making money?

  1. Visitor

    “We are on a mission to help creators get paid for their work”

    Then why did — or do — you work with Peter Sunde?

    He has stolen more money from musicians, writers, actors, directors, designers and other creators than anybody else on the planet (with the possible exception of Svartholm & Neij).

    • Visitor

      Here, here!! Mr. Olsson – Why would you get into bed with Peter Sunde? Now you’re a crook by association and artists should never use your service until you terminate your relationship with your convicted, artist-stealing, criminal partner.

      • Visitor

        “you’re a crook by association and artists should never use your service until you terminate your relationship with your convicted, artist-stealing, criminal partner.”

        I don’t think it’s possible to determine how much the criminals behind the Pirate Bay are involved in Flattr, the Pirate Bay or any other business today.

        They still owe more than 6 million dollars to their victims — money they won’t pay — so they probably have to hide their current income from the authorities.

        • Pirate and Proud

          Did you know that if Peter were to pay any of that money (which he will never) it would only go to copyright lobby organizations and not a single cent would go to artists anyhow. I don’t believe Peter stole from anyone he helped create a platform for sharing, I can share files in google drive, skype, dropbox, mega, and others. The pirate bay is nothing but a search engine, google lists almost as many “illegal” torrent files as TPB does btw.

          Peter had Flattr in mind years ago but the trial disrupted his life and now he has to stay away from the company he helped create. A company dedicated to helping creators.

          • Visitor

            Hm, why are you proud of being a parasite?

            Pirates & pedophiles have to hide their gross activities behind vpn’s.

            How is that consistent with self-esteem?

            Is your family proud of you, too?

            Why not?

  2. Yves Villeneue

    Another attempt to devalue artists and music in an endless endeavour to profit from it without permission.

    Music is not created for meagre tips. Artists are entrepreneurs at the core.

    • Visitor

      I dunno, there are several musicians that busk for tips…I see them everywhere I go. I don’tsee a problem with someone offering a virtual tip jar service to help musicians earn extra revenue. How does that negatively impact an artist?

      • Yves Villeneuve

        I am not preventing busking… but DO NOT collect tips on my behalf without my permission. I do not want to earn tips.

        I will make this clear to anyone wishing to tip me instead of paying full price for my services or music, as I will not be collecting these tips ever.

        Tipping should only happen after they pay full price for the product or service.

      • BT

        Those are the ones trying to do music. “Musicians” do it not because they want to be musicians but because they are talented5 and have art. The DYI artists ans those who enter this kind of stuff are the ones that will never live from music and will never be real musicians

  3. efemurl

    In these times it is a bad idea to use a large consumer companies api to generate revenues.

    To me is fairly obvious that sooner rather than later the API access will be restricted or shut off,

      • Visitor

        “Or buy a shirt”

        Awesome idea!

        That’ll really help the dudes & dudesses who write the songs we all love…

      • steveh

        “Album aint gonna help that much buddy…”

        And why in God’s name is that?

        Many music creators have their own record label these days.

    • Pirate and Proud

      If I flattr you everytime I listen to your song I would actually likely be giving you more money than if I bought your album.

      I may love your music but I don’t want you album, I just want to support you being a musician.

  4. Yves Villeneuve

    I would like to see DMCA rules enhanced.

    For instance, if YouTube wants to profit from videos it must seek permission from its creators. Meaning they must vet all videos before running ads in that video or page. If ads are placed before permission is received, all ad revenues go to the creators of the video as punitive damages, following a DMCA takedown request.

    How much profit does YouTube make each calendar quarter? Billions.

    If record companies are able to vet the entire YouTube catalog for infringing content on a daily or weekly basis, I am quite certain YouTube can do it as well to reduce its penalties owed to creators. The only reason they don’t is because they temporarily profit from their current practices.

    • hippydog

      Quote Yves Villeneuve “For instance, if YouTube wants to profit from videos it must seek permission from its creators.”

      it does.. read the TOS, read what permissions the uploader agrees too..

      The problem is (via the DMCA)

      youtube just asks the simple question “are you the creater?” yes/no

      if it turns out the people lied, then youtube monetizes it anyways..

      A simple but effective change should be “what percentage of this upload is owned by you?” & “if its less then 75% who is the original content creater?”

      • Visitor

        The author of the work matters very little. It is ownership that determines whether or not someone has the right to reproduce/distribute.

        Also, the ownership percentage can be as low as 1% and you have a right to reproduce/distribute.

        In an ideal situation youtube should ask what is the copyright registration number or at least the name of the author.

        Even if the person uploading the work lies, in theory any revenue collected could eventually end up in the right hands. I say in theory because you are correct the dmca does not require it and as far as I know youtube doesn’t allow auditing to determine where the money went.

  5. Champion

    Here’s a challenge for you, Paul: Try to go an entire week without starting a headline with “I’m” or “We’re.”

    I believe in you!

  6. wurd

    On a mission to get artists paid for their work? Then convince your friend to shut down the pirate bay and redirect the url to sites where you can legitimately purchase music that pays creators instead of asking creators to rely on tips.

    • Ripped off by Pirate Bay

      I dont want your business partner and convicted criminal to steal my music on Pirate Bay and I dont want your dirty hands collecting “tips” for me. I’d rather those folks who like music to go to iTunes or other authorized, legitimate sites to buy my music at the price I set. No thank you Flattr.

      • Visitor

        “I dont want your business partner and convicted criminal to steal my music on Pirate Bay”

        Perhaps these guys are connected to today’s BBC story, too:


        The Pirate Bay founder Gottfrid Svartholm Warg has been charged with hacking into several Swedish companies and stealing personal data.

        He and three other defendants are also accused of attempting to illegally transfer money from a bank.”


  7. Visitor

    What exactly is Peter Sunde’s role on Flattr? He continues to steal millions from artists on Pirate Bay. Only a fool would trust you (and Sunde) to help monetize their music?

    • Visitor

      Peter Sunde owes 2 million dollars to artists after the trial.

      Money he won’t pay.

      So he probably has to stay below the radar and use shell companies and trusts today to hide his current business.

  8. earbits

    Hey Paul,

    These guys seem to spend a lot of time finding places to put Flattr and collect money. Could you get them to share with everybody here all of their efforts to locate people who have money to claim? How much are they putting into those efforts? They sure seem good at closing deals that put Flattr on content sites. They should be equally able to close deals with companies who have relationships with artists to get those artists registered and collecting their tips. I think the community would love to hear about those efforts, or lack thereof.

    • earbits

      In fact, wow, I don’t know that we even need to ask this question. Go to Flattr.com. On a mile long homepage there is not one single mention of collecting money, nor any information encouraging artists to register to collect their money. All of the marketing is about tipping creators, and the footer is full of links for developers and everyone else under the sun, but I don’t see a single link that clearly says, “Collect Your Tips” or anything like it.

      These guys, until they can demonstrate otherwise, have not said one thing about their efforts to pay these monies out.

      • Visitor

        Sadly, the non-music technology press its reporting Twitter as the bad guy and not the criminals behind Flattr.

    • Hello

      earbits and others,

      Flattr does not hold on to money. Flattr’s unclaimed system was designed to avoid the issue of holding on to money.

      An example might be the best way to explain this system:

      A user has a monthly budget of 5 dollars. That user flattrs 5 things in a given month. One of those 5 things was an unclaimed thing. At the end of the month, the 5 dollars is divided up by 4 and distributed. The unclaimed thing does not collect money. If in the next month, the user flattrs 5 (claimed) things, and the unclaimed thing from the month before is now claimed, the 5 dollars is divided up by 6 and distributed.

      There are different ways to claim a thing. Connecting accounts and using the unclaimed catalog are the most common.

      • #Flattrisascam

        What is “unclaimed”… money that fans donated because they thought it would go to the ARTIST… So if an artist is not registered for Flattr, you give money from my fans to someone else and keep a percent for yourself, right? Wow – this is such a scam. Artists do NOT want Flattr anywhere near their content. Artists should NOT want Flattr and/or the Pirate Bay team fooling their fans into thinking we have a relationship with you or your criminal partner.

        • Pirate and Proud

          You don’t get it.

          Flattr doesn’t keep any pending payments, they never leave the users accounts. It is best to think of them a pending division of the users monthly buget. Nobody on this thread who hates the Pirate bay and Flattr is likely to be under 25 years old because people under 25 understand what is possible with new technology while people older than 25 are morelikely to cling to outdated modalities. Remember, people called edison a pirate when he invented the phonograph.

      • David

        You say (in another comment) that you don’t work for Flattr, but you seem to know more about their operations than is available on their website. I do not see anything there to say what happens to your money if either (a) you do not ‘flattr’ at all during a given month, or (b) you do ‘flattr’ some artists in a month, but none of them have Flattr accounts. Case (b) is hardly a remote possibility, as there seem to be fewer than 600 accounts in the ‘music’ category (and some of these are not artists at all – they even include Grooveshark, who feature prominently in the Flattr publicity !) As far as I can see, in these cases Flattr will hold onto your monthly subscription until you do make a ‘valid’ Flattr. Meanwhile, Flattr will doubtless be earning interest on the subscriptions. Moreover, it seems from Flattr’s FQAs that they take money from users’ credit cards (etc) at the end of each month, but do not pay it out until 10 days later. That means that if they bank it quickly (and I’m sure they do) they get 10 days’ worth of interest each month. With interest rates for large deposits at (say) 4% per year, that means they are getting an annual return of over 1% on their subscriptions from interest alone. This is, incidentally, relevant to their dispute with Twitter. They say that they would be willing to waive their usual 10% ‘deduction’ for ‘donations’ made through Twitter, but they would still be raking in the interest. As for their claims to be trying to help artists, I think the fact that they are publicising Grooveshark says it all.

      • Hello

        Ok.. I still don’t work for Flattr. I use the service and have asked these questions before. It’s really that simple.

    • Yves Villeneuve

      I’ll just let those artists using your service know they are no better than you are ie thieves profiting from artists trying to earn an honest living without resorting to desperate tactics that ultimately devalues artists and music.

      I still don’t trust your accountant. What country is your company incorporated and do you report its earnings for income tax purposes? Or are your books hidden from everyone, including the government.

      If you are collecting tips on my behalf without my permission, I will find a tipper to file a class action suit to recover all those tips you collected in my name without my permission.

      • Hello

        I don’t work for Flattr and can’t give you answers beyond basic functionality. Again, Flattr does not hold on to money as suggested by some comments.

        • Yves Villeneuve

          In addition to a class action against you and your company, I will personally sue you for collecting money in my name without my permission.

          Attempting to hide major tenants of your operation in an End User Agreement or at the bottom of a very lengthy promo page won’t likely hold up in a court of law. But why would you care, because you’ll hide this money so no one can see or access it.

  9. Visitor

    Linus (author of this article and CEO of Flattr)- Assuming you are reading these comments, please respond to the question in the first post. It will answer a lot of questions about your service. Otherwise, you silence speaks volumes.

    “Are you still associated with Peter Sunde or other criminals?”

    • gaiapunk


      I work for Flattr,

      Linus would love to answer but he is busy at the moment,

      No, we do not hold onto artists money on their behalf as others have explained in this thread. When a user creates a pending flattr it is a pending division in their monthly buget. If a artist claims that Flattr it is given in the month it is claimed. If it goes unclaimed then it never leaves the users account. We want all pending Flattr’s claimed because are mission is to support creators. We are working currently working on a extensive outreach campaign to this end. Some of our biggest and most innovative fans in the music biz include Amanda Palmer and Rob Sheridan.

      Flattr is based in Malmo Sweden where the tax authorities are very, very, strict.

      Peter Sunde is not involved in the day to day operations of Flattr whatsoever but when he is invited to give talks he sometimes mentions Flattr since it was his idea. If you ever meet him in person you would find he is a very nice and smart fellow.

      Thanks all,

      Evan @gaiapunk

      • David

        Can you clarify what you mean when you say ‘if it [a flattr] goes unclaimed then it never leaves the user’s account’? Do you mean that no money is taken from the user’s bank or credit card account? This seems inconsistent with the information on the Flattr website, which states that a fixed monthly ‘budget’ amount (which you choose when you start your account) is deducted each month.

        • Hello

          The flattr, not the money, continues to be associated with the user account. If an artist, etc. finally claims a thing, the flattr that is still associated with the user’s account is then used to divide that monthly budget up.

      • David

        And incidentally, if your ‘mission is to support creators’, why are you promoting Grooveshark?

      • Visitor

        “If you ever meet him [Peter Sunde] in person you would find he is a very nice and smart fellow.”


        You openly defend one of the most notorious criminals in the world…

        Are you aware that he still won’t pay the millions of dollars he owe to his victims?

        No artist in her/his right mind will ever support Flattr again after your weird comment.

        Here are a few facts that should be of interest to you and your criminal friend:

        The price of piracy

        10 billion Euros and 185,000 European jobs in 2008.



        58 billion dollars and 373,000 American jobs in 2007.


        Siwek, Stephen E.,The True Cost of Piracy to the U.S. Economy, report for the Institute for Policy Innovation, Oct. 2007.

      • Visitor


        You sound like a good guy and I wish you well. Your response, however, is not consistent with Linus’ description of the service. Here’s a hypothetical: I have $5 in my account. I really like five artists. I flattr them each $1. Of the five artists, only 1 is registed and claims the flattr. Per the article, that artist receives all of my money – the $5. Are you saying that only $1 is deducted from my account and given to the one registered artist?

        As noted in an earlier post, expect to receive numerous Cease and Desist letters and ultimately a class action lawsuit for intentionally trading off the good will of artists without any authority to do so.

        Finally, despite Sunde being a “nice and smart fellow,” he is despised in the music community and no musician worth his salt should ever support Flattr because of its mere association with Sunde. He is a criminal that stole and continues to steal from struggling artists.

        • Visitor

          I truly and honestly think it’s wonderful that people like you wish to support artists.

          Here are four absolutely safe ways to do so:

          1) Come to their gigs.

          2) Buy their music on iTunes and Amazon.

          3) Watch their videos on YouTube.

          4) Tell your friends about them.

          That’s what the artists wish…

        • Visitor

          This is excerpted from another of DMN’s article today. It details the latest from Sunde’s other cofounders.

          “Pirate Bay cofounder Gottfrid Svartholm Warg, aka ‘anakata,’ has now been indicted on a string of hacking and fraud charges by a Swedish court. Warg is accused of orchestrated three separate hacks that included a crack of the massive commercial database Infotorg, as well as Logica, a firm contracted by Swedish tax authorities. The celebrity pirate/hacker was actually detained last year on the charges, after getting deported from Cambodia.”

          And we should trust Sunde with money dontated to artists – what a joke.

  10. Yves Villeneuve

    To be honest, this business model is not a very good one.

    If I love a song, I am going to spend money to own it and not bother tipping.

    If I merely like a song, I am not going to bother tipping.

    The reason people tip buskers on a street corner is because they believe the artist is financially struggling, there is a much greater direct human connection in a live performance.

    There is barely human connection with an Internet stream. It’s more a physical product than a human service.

  11. Mr Madoff

    I suppose Linus is still too busy to respond to the many issues referenced above. Nonetheless, we should trust him and Sunde to find the time to properly account for and pay us money…. Flattr sounds more like the ole pyramid scam to me.

    • gaiapunk

      Hey this is Evan again,

      You can read in our FAQ about how exactly pending Flattr’s work. You can also look in our catolog to see artists being supported by Flattr currently. Amanda Palmer, Rob Sheridan, and others in the music biz are fans of what we’re doing. You can also join Flattr for free to see how it works. We’re creating a system to support creators that didn’t exist before and we hope that you like it, we do our best.

      that’s all for now,

      thanks folks,

      Evan (at) Flattr.com


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Verify Your Humanity *