*Let me start this by saying I still have a Pinterest account, and still have my pins visible. My research did not cause me to remove anything I had pinned.
Lately there has been a lot of talk on the internet about Pinterest and copyright violations. By now, most of us have read this article about a Photographer who looked at the terms of service, and promptly deleted all her boards. Today I see that Flickr has given users an opt in/out to allow their images to be pinned or not. In the article, it points to a link on Flickr’s forum where users were discussing Pinterest and the use of the opt-out button. Many of the commenters were for the opt-out button, and happy their work wouldn’t be taken and pinned to Pinterest without their consent. Although, as one commenter pointed out, if they post an image to a blog (or elsewhere online), it can still be pinned from that location, which is a risk we all take when posting things on the internet. My friend, Carrie, says, “I like that Flickr is going that route. People SHOULD be able to choose whether or not their stuff is pinable by others. That being said, I (mostly) agree with the person in the article who thinks it’s bizarre that people would view Pinterest as such a huge copyright issue.”
As a blogger, I see the need to protect your intellectual property, and wanting to make sure that you get credit for images you create and that they aren’t used for things without your consent. But as a user of Pinterest who has been inspired by images and who loves finding new things, I find myself torn. I have had my images pinned to Pinterest, and find it flattering that someone wants to pin an image of what I’m wearing, or a DIY I did last year. I don’t feel like people are saving my image to use it maliciously, but because they think “oh great idea, come back to it later.”
That’s what I feel Pinterest is, at its core; a great big inspiration board of stuff you like, with links back to the source. But, it appears that even though that might be the thought behind the uber popular website, it’s not something everyone is comfortable with. I reached out to a few bloggers, a photographer, a store owner, and a general user of Pinterest to get their opinions on pinterest and how they feel about this controversy.
Kara, from Unusual Form, says, “As a personal-style blogger, I’m always incredibly flattered when someone pins one of my outfits. It means that I’ve put together an outfit that someone has found interesting or inspiring. One of the reasons that I post my outfits each day is so that I can be an inspiration to my readers. I find a lot of my own inspiration from other blogs as well, so you’ll see that my pin boards are filled with photos of other bloggers. Isn’t that what blogging is all about? Sharing?”
Kara is one of the Pinterest users I follow, and I’m always quick to repin something she posts that I find inspiring, and I’ve noticed she does the same to things I post. That, in its essence, is what Pinterest is about.
Another person I’m constantly repining is Neeka, owner of AnikaBurke.com. Since Neeka is a frequent user of Pinterest, pinning her deal of the day, lookbook images and inspiration, I thought she would have an interesting point of view on the use of Pinterest. She says she “loves seeing organic pins of [anikaburke.com merchandise and images] on Pinterest.”
When asked if she feels Pinterest is beneficial to her business, driving traffic to her shop, or helping get her store name out there, Neeka says yes. “I find it very beneficial to my business. We are getting more linkbacks to our site without having to pay for them. Pinterest is the second largest traffic generator [for us]. I love Pinterest and can’t wait to see where it goes.”
Interestingly enough, I found many other business on Pinterest, including Karen Kane, Modcloth, Kate Spade and more. Anthropologie has an account, and while they’re following over 4,000 people, they have yet to pin anything themselves. It appears that many businesses are jointing Pinterest, most likely for the same reason Neeka did- free marketing and inspiration.
While all these businesses are fashion-based, I wondered what a different business, such as a photographer would have to say. I found this image from Procopio Photography on Pinterest, and immediately pinned it on one of my own boards.
(Source: Procopio Photography- used with permission!)
Curiously, I followed it back to the website it’s linked to, which then links to the photographer’s website. I contacted them, to ask how they feel about Pinterest. Cicely says they haven’t “quite formed an opinion about Pinterest yet. It’s funny that you are emailing me about it, because our most recent blog post was the first time we added watermarks. We did that so when pinned, more of our images would be tracked back to us.” You’ll notice that the image I fell in love with was posted prior to their inclusion of watermarks, and can only be traced back to the source by clicking through.
Cicely goes on to say she “loves that [Pinterest] is a new source that people can find us, but I don’t like when images are improperly linked, or not at all, to the source.” Well, therein lies the problem that most people seem to have with Pinterest. The problem seems to be less about Pinterest itself, but more about the link backs, or lack thereof.
Much like the writer of the first post, I found myself perusing Pinterest’s terms of service to see what I got out of it. Boy, you’re not going to like it.
According to this passage of the terms of service, when a user pins something, they are accepting that they are the owner of that image, and are giving Pinterest their consent to have it on their website. Well, that seems a little odd, because of the images pinned from my blog, I haven’t pinned any of them. That means whoever pinned them was (technically) giving MY consent for the images to be up there.
But even more concerning to me was this passage, “We may, in our sole discretion, permit Members to post, upload, publish, submit or transmit Member Content. By making available any Member Content through the Site, Application or Services, you hereby grant to Cold Brew Labs a worldwide, irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, royalty-free license, with the right to sublicense, to use, copy, adapt, modify, distribute, license, sell, transfer, publicly display, publicly perform, transmit, stream, broadcast, access, view, and otherwise exploit such Member Content only on, through or by means of the Site, Application or Services.” Basically, by uploading an image, pinning one from whatever blog you’re reading, or pinning your own image, you’re giving Pinterest the rights to do WHATEVER THEY WANT with that image. Meaning they can sell it if they wanted to, just because YOU uploaded it.
“Cold Brew Labs grants you a limited, non-exclusive, non-transferable license, without the right to sublicense, to access, view, download and print any Pinterest Content solely for your personal and non-commercial purposes.” Awesome. So that means that technically I can print off any of the images on Pinterest or download them to my own computer, according to these terms of service. I don’t think anyone knowingly signed up for THAT. I think Amanda from Prim and Propah says it best; “I have read articles that make me worry that people misuse Pinterest/ infringe on copyright laws without even knowing it.”
Now, after having read through these terms, I find myself wondering what I can do to protect myself and protect my images. My answer? Leave the Internet forever. Seriously. If you don’t want your images on Pinterest, downloaded to someone’s hard drive or potentially licensed by Pinterest, sign off right now and break your computer and never return. Carrie, a general user of Pinterest (someone without a blog or business tied to an account), thinks that might be a little too extreme. She equates freaking out about images you chose to put online similar to someone complaining they don’t like cats, while seven cats are climbing in their lap (great mental image, right?) She also goes on to say, “if you don’t want to play on the playground, stay inside for recess. Now kindly get the eff out of my way so I can play Red Rover.”
According to the terms of service, if you pin something you don’t have the rights to, or isn’t a public image, you violate the terms of service. So what does that mean? Does that mean someone pinning an image from my blog is violating the terms because it’s not an image they own, or is it OK because I put that image online for anyone to view? Huge grey area.
Another thing to realize is that sometimes bloggers (and other outlets) use sourced images (like the one above from Procopio Photography) and those images can and are pinned. Look at this screencap of images pinned from my blog.
Did I take all of these images? No. Did I source them on my blog? Yes. I crossed out the ones that are not my images, but ones I sourced in a post.
So what does that mean? Are we in direct violation of Pinterest’s terms by pinning images from sites that are only sourced on that site? Technically, yes. Therefore, everything from Tumblr is in direct violation, in addition to many, many images from blogs, websites, articles and more.
Again, what can we do? Basically, nothing unless Pinterest goes away (doubtful), or someone sues. Of all the people I talked to, no one seems to be concerned or worried, and with the influx of businesses jumping on board, I don’t know if anything will come of these alleged copyright violations. My only suggestion is to be careful with what you pin, and pin thoughtfully. Many businesses and blogs that don’t mind being pinned have links to Pinterest on every page, item or post.
If you’re not sure, ask! The image I found from Procopio Photography I pinned prior to asking them about it, and thankfully, they’re on board with being pinned. They also responded to my email within 24-hours, even though it was only to get information for this article, not an inquiry about their services.
If you choose to delete your Pinterest boards, I suggest you reach out to Pinterest to tell them why. If you choose not to, pin thoughtfully! Personally, I really enjoy Pinterest, and I hope they will respond to these copyright problems and offer solutions to those who don’t want their images pinned, without it having to result in legal action.
What do you think? Do you use Pinterest, why or why not?