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GitHub ordered to identify Twitter source code leaker

A sign attached to Twitter's global headquarters is viewed from a sidewalk on Market Street in San Francisco, California. June 18, 2014. (Photo: Matthew Keys/The Desk/Creative Commons)
A sign attached to Twitter’s global headquarters is viewed from a sidewalk on Market Street in San Francisco, California. June 18, 2014. (Photo: Matthew Keys/The Desk/Creative Commons)

Code repository GitHub has been ordered by a federal court to disclose certain personal information related to an account that uploaded some of Twitter’s source code in January.

The order came after Twitter issued a copyright takedown notice with GitHub last week and subsequently filed a request for subpoena with the federal court in Northern California seeking certain personal information related to the account holder.

On Tuesday, a court clerk in the Northern District of California signed Twitter’s subpoena request. GitHub, which is owned by Microsoft, now has until April 3 to turn over any names, e-mail addresses, phone numbers, Internet Protocol (IP) addresses and social media data related to the offending account.

The account in question was opened on January 3 under the nickname “FreeSpeechEnthusiast,” an apparent nod to Elon Musk, who acquired Twitter in late October and professes to be a supporter of free speech.

According to documents reviewed by The Desk, the GitHub user uploaded files to GitHub that existed within three folders, with labels suggesting they relate to a type of authentication mechanism used by Twitter.

It wasn’t clear when Twitter learned that some of their source code was posted online. Court filings reviewed by The Desk show a Twitter executive in charge of the company’s patents and other intellectual property filed a copyright infringement notice with GitHub last week. GitHub removed the material from its website shortly after receiving the notice.

While subpoenas seeking information about copyright offenders aren’t unusual, Twitter’s request goes one step further, in that it is also demanding information from GitHub about anyone who might have shared or downloaded its source code. It isn’t known what standing Twitter has to demand this information, or if GitHub has any legal authority to challenge it. Officials at GitHub aren’t commenting on the matter.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is a nationally-recognized, award-winning journalist who has covered the business of media, technology, radio and television for more than 10 years. He is the publisher of The Desk and contributes to Know Techie, Digital Content Next and StreamTV Insider. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, the Walt Disney Company, McNaughton Newspapers and Tribune Broadcasting.
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