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For example, if you want to tweet a humorous riff on a certain William Carlos Williams poem, would that actually be legal?

Examples (though I don't mean to single anyone out): https://twitter.com/mathewkumar/status/307557968864489472?s=20 https://twitter.com/sannewman/status/937718586096979968?s=20

The website poets.org includes this copyright notice under the poem

Copyright © 1962 by William Carlos Williams. Used with permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation. All rights reserved. No part of this poem may be reproduced in any form without the written consent of the publisher.

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Generally, a short quote from a published poem would constitute fair use (if in the US) or fair dealing (if in the UK or much of the EU). so would a parody or other altered version of a short quote.

In any case, even if his is beyond fair use/fair dealing, any copyright issue could only be enforced by the copyright holder filing an infringement suit against you, which is in my view quite unlikely in the situation described.

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