Have you ever wondered if you can own a hashtag? The answer is no. Let me first give a bit of background information. The inventor of the #hashtag as we use it today is man named Chris Messina and it began life as a twitter suggestion. Since its humble beginning, we now use hashtags across many social media platforms.
Originally, it was intended as a way to categorize topics and the ironic part is, Twitter originally rejected the idea from Mr. Messina. As we often see, great ideas have a way of organically growing and that’s exactly what happened. The hashtag is now an integral part of the Twitter experience s well as other platforms like Facebook and Instagram.
Chris Messina is one of those people I really like because he understands that some things are better when allowed to flourish for the greater good rather than sucking what profit you can from it. As a result the answer to ‘Can you own a hashtag?’ is a resounding, NO.
After Twitter rejected the hashtag idea, Chris Messina would later tell the Wall Street Journal:
“[Twitter] told me flat out, ‘These things are for nerds. They’re never going to catch on.’”
Messina told Quora that there are two reasons that he let the hashtag remain free to use.
- Claiming a government-granted monopoly on the use of hashtags would have likely inhibited their adoption, which was the antithesis of what I was hoping for, which was broad-based adoption and support — across networks and mediums.
- I had no interest in making money (directly) off hashtags. They are born of the Internet, and should be owned by no one. The value and satisfaction I derive from seeing my funny little hack used as widely as it is today is valuable enough for me to be relieved that I had the foresight not to try to lock down this stupidly simple but effective idea.
While some companies are actually trying to claim ownership of hashtags and even to the rights of content that is posted with those hashtags, that’s not the reality. No one can legally own a hashtag and they certainly don’t own the content associated with said hashtag. So post freely and enjoy this gift from Chris Messina.