Why I Tearfully Deleted My Pinterest Inspiration Boards

Last week another photographer posted a question on Facebook asking if it was okay to pin your own work on Pinterest.  I was surprised to see that many of the photographers who commented back admonished those who pin their own work and even cited Pinterest’s suggested rules of etiquette, which apparently discourage self-promotion.  That same day, I participated in a thread on Facebook in which some other photographers were complaining about people posting their work on Facebook pages without the photographers’ permission.   They were complaining that their copyrights had been violated and one photographer indicated that she was suing the infringer.   Well, this got me thinking.  What is the difference between posting another person’s photographs on your Pinterest page and posting another person’s photographs on your Facebook page?  If the latter is so clearly a violation of copyright why isn’t the former?  Being both a photographer who loves Pinterest (and admittedly had some really great “inspiration” boards full of gorgeous work from other photographers) and a lawyer who, well, is a lawyer, I decided to do some research and figure this out.  And what I discovered concerned me.  From a legal perspective, my concern was for my own potential liability.  From an artist’s perspective, my concern was that I was arguably engaging in activity that is morally, ethically and professionally wrong.


“Liability?  Morals? Ethics?  Wrong?  HUH???” you may be asking?  “It’s just Pinterest! And Pinterest itself discourages pinning your own work – so whose work are you supposed to use?”  Good question.  Unfortunately, the answer is not what I wanted and the analysis in reaching the answer is quite complicated.


I began my inquiry into this by going to Pinterest first.  I figured the creators of the site must have researched this and must have gotten comfortable that use of their site is lawful.  If so, this must be addressed somewhere in their Terms of Use or somewhere on the site.  Well, this is what I found:

 “You acknowledge and agree that you are solely responsible for all Member Content that you make available through the Site, Application and Services. Accordingly, you represent and warrant that: (i) you either are the sole and exclusive owner of all Member Content that you make available through the Site, Application and Services or you have all rights, licenses, consents and releases that are necessary to grant to Cold Brew Labs the rights in such Member Content, as contemplated under these Terms; and (ii) neither the Member Content nor your posting, uploading, publication, submission or transmittal of the Member Content or Cold Brew Labs’ use of the Member Content (or any portion thereof) on, through or by means of the Site, Application and the Services will infringe, misappropriate or violate a third party’s patent, copyright, trademark, trade secret, moral rights or other proprietary or intellectual property rights, or rights of publicity or privacy, or result in the violation of any applicable law or regulation.”  (From Pinterest’s Terms of Use).



Um.  Uh-oh.


“Member Content” is defined as anything you post, upload, publish, transmit, etc. on the site.  This includes pinning from the web and re-pinning right from Pinterest itself.    I immediately thought of the ridiculously gorgeous images I had recently pinned from an outside website and, while I gave the other photographer credit right in my pin (how many of you do that by the way?  Not that it makes it any more legal, just sayin’….), I most certainly could not think of any way that I either owned those photos or had a license, consent or release from the photographer who owned them.  But did I somehow have a “right” to put them on Pinterest?  “I MUST have that right,” I reasoned, “after all, this is what Pinterest is ALL ABOUT!”


So to the legal research I did go.   (Now this is where it gets a little boring, but stay with me).


Federal copyright laws give the author of any copyrighted work (which includes photographs and copyright attaches automatically as soon as the work is created) the sole and exclusive right to publish and reproduce such work.  So, basically, when you see a photograph that you love, you do not have any right to publish or reproduce that photograph unless you took the photo or got consent from the photographer to use the photo.  The copyright statute does go on to say, however, that certain use of copyrighted work may constitute “fair use”, in which case you would have limited rights to use the copyrighted work.  Specifically, 17 U.S.C. §107 states that “the fair use of a copyrighted work … for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship or research, is not an infringement of copyright.”  The “such as” language indicates that this list of uses is not exhaustive  and the statute goes on to list the factors that should be considered in determining whether a use of copyrighted work is “fair use.”   Those factors are:


  1. the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
  2. the nature of the copyrighted work;
  3. the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
  4. the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.


17 U.S.C. §107.


Okay, well that clears everything right up.  Um, not so much.


I could go into the abundance of caselaw where these factors have been applied but nobody wants that, especially me.  There is one case that is important here though and is likely the one upon which Pinterest is hanging it’s stylish hat.    In Kelly v. Arriba Soft Corporation, a commercial photographer sued a search engine site claiming that the search engine’s use of thumbnail images of the photographer’s work constituted copyright infringement.  In that case, the Federal Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit held that copying a photograph to use as a thumbnail in online search results did not weigh against fair use (beware of this tricky legal language which does not mean thumbnails are ALWAYS fair use) if only a necessary portion of the work is copied.  What the what?  What does that mean?  Frankly, it pretty much means that use of low-resolution thumbnail images by an online search engine is probably okay so long as the other factors considered don’t weigh too heavily against fair use.  Ooooooohhhhhh.  Riiigggght.   I cleared that one right up for ya didn’t I?


Aside from the “maybes” and “so long as’s” and the whole factor-weighing thing going on here, the bigger problem in relying on this case as it relates to Pinterest is that Pinterest doesn’t use thumbnail images.  Rather, when you upload or “pin” to Pinterest, you are using the entire, full size photograph in the same resolution that was originally posted by the creating photographer.   The Supreme Court of the United States has already, in another case, stated that when a commercial use basically duplicates the original so as to essentially operate as a replacement for the original, market harm to the original occurs.  In other words, why would someone need to see the original if they can see a duplicate just as good on Pinterest?  With low-resolution thumbnails, the viewer must click through to the original post to view the full work.  With full sized copies, that need is diminished.  Think about it – how many times have you actually clicked through a photo on Pinterest to view the original site?  Most of us just repin and move on.


There is a lot more to the legal analysis surrounding copyrights and fair use but the bottom line is that the law is still evolving and the case law is having a hard time keeping up with technology.  With no clear guidelines from the courts, I was feeling very uneasy so I decided to go back to Pinterest and see what else they say about use of work that isn’t mine.


And this is where I got really nervous.


In several places in Pinterest’s Terms of Use, you, as the user, agree that you will not violate copyright law or any other laws.  And then there is this:



And then, there is this:

“you agree to defend, indemnify, and hold Cold Brew Labs, its officers, directors, employees and agents, harmless from and against any claims, liabilities, damages, losses, and expenses, including, without limitation, reasonable legal and accounting fees, arising out of or in any way connected with (i) your access to or use of the Site, Application, Services or Site Content, (ii) your Member Content, or (iii) your violation of these Terms.”


This “defend and indemnify” stuff means that if some photographer out there decides that he or she does not want you using that photogs images as “inspiration” or otherwise and decides to sue you and Pinterest over your use of that photog’s images, you will have to hire a lawyer for yourself and YOU will have to hire a lawyer for Pinterest and fund the costs of defending both of you in court.  Not only that, but if a court finds that you have, in fact, violated copyright laws, you will pay all damages assessed against you and all damages assessed against Pinterest.  OUCH.  Oh, but it gets better.   Pinterest reserves the right to prosecute you for violations. Basically, Pinterest has its keester covered and have shifted all of the risk to you.   Smart of them, actually since the courts are still deciding whether the site owner or the user should be ultimately responsible.  Rather than wait for the decision, they have contractually made you the responsible one.  And you agreed.  (And by “you” I clearly mean “we”).


So, the next question is “how real is this risk and do I really need to worry about getting sued for something everyone is doing?”  Well, my only response to that is to look at what happened with people who used Napster.  Many users were, in fact, sued by music companies and artists for unlawful downloading of songs.  Users like you and me and a 12-year old girl (not kidding).  Also, if the commercial photographer in the Kelly v. Arriba case above was so willing to sue the search engine, how do you know he wouldn’t sue you – especially where, as here, the site has protected itself and left you holding the hot potato?  I’m a lawyer and I see people suing for really dumb stuff every day.    And, frankly, this isn’t “dumb stuff.”  We are talking about intellectual property rights.  Those of you who make your living as photographers know the importance here.


What’s even more frustrating in all of this is that Pinterest could make things at least a little easier on everybody by at least allowing people to re-pin internally on the site without concern for violating copyrights.  Here is how:  In Pinterest’s terms of use, by uploading photos to Pinterest, you specifically grant a license and right TO Pinterest to use your images on the site.  They specifically state that this license is transferable (on a side note, this grant of license is actually another hot topic causing a buzz in the photography community). It would be so easy for them to simply,  in turn, grant YOU a license to use images on the site that are posted by others, to the extent they hold a lawfully granted license.  But they don’t do this.  Instead, they say only that the user is granted 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.”    “Access, view, download and print.”  The words “upload”, “pin”, “post”, “display” or similar terms are glaringly absent.  Ugh.   So still you have no right to publish work from another photographer even though Pinterest holds a license to all work uploaded to its site (at least to the extent the person posting had a right to transfer such license in the first place).


If you are still with me, and I’m sure you are regretting it if you are, in my humble opinion, the only “safe” conclusion here, for me, is to either get off of Pinterest or pin only your own work or work you have a license to use.  Yep, I realize that is not what Pinterest is intended for and I also realize I’ve just taken all of the fun out of everyone’s favorite site.    Boo, me.  I hate it as much as you do.


Even in light of all of the above, what finally sealed the deal for me  as I tried desperately to talk myself out of deleting my gorgeous inspiration boards, was when I thought of some of the photographers whose work I had pinned from other websites.  Would they want me posting their images?  My initial response is probably the same as most of yours:  “why not?  I’m giving them credit and it’s only creating more exposure for them and I LOVE when people pin my stuff!”  But then I realized, I was unilaterally making the decision FOR that other photographer.  And I thought back to the thread on Facebook where the photographers were complaining about clients posting photos without their consent and I realized this rationale is no different than what those clients argue:  “why can’t I post them – it’s just more exposure for you.”  Bottom line is that it is not my decision to make.  Not legally and not ethically.


So, until Pinterest changes some things or until the law is more clearly established, I won’t be taking the risks involved in pinning other’s work.  Guess my corkboards and tacks and ripped pages from magazines will live to see another day!


P.S.  Because I am a lawyer, I need to add the following:  This article is written based on my review of Pinterest’s terms and conditions and relevant law.  It is not meant to serve as legal advice to you.  If anything in this article concerns you, I encourage you to seek advice from competent legal counsel.  DO NOT RELY on anything contained herein.  Oh, and you have no right to reproduce this article or any portion thereof.  But feel free to share the link!  ;)


P.S.S – Pinterest, I love your site.  Call me.  

FOLLOW UP POSTS HERE: http://ddkportraits.com/2012/02/my-date-with-ben-silbermann-following-up-and-drying-my-tears/  and here http://ddkportraits.com/2012/03/my-top-50-responses-to-your-questions-alpharetta-photographer-responds-to-issues-regarding-pinterest-blogs/ 


NEW FOLLOW UP AND CALL FOR INPUT HERE:  http://ddkportraits.com/2012/03/passion-for-pinterest-and-a-call-for-input-from-photogs/ 







  1. by Marta on February 25, 2012  5:06 am

    Thank you! This was the subject of a conversation in a FB group earlier this week. I think people feel like it has to be legal - they couldn't do it otherwise. But I have a feeling we'd all better be taking this seriously. Most of the time I don't think people pay a lot of attention where an image originally began - they just repin it. Personally, I don't consider Pinterest worth taking this kind of chance with. I'm sharing this with the women in all of my groups.

    • by Woosi on February 29, 2012  8:40 pm

      So, can I pin this site so all of my Pinterest friends know why I deleted my boards?

      • by kythas on March 1, 2012  11:18 pm

        Yes. She explicitly states at the end of the article to "feel free to share the link".

        • by Ben on March 13, 2012  4:01 pm

          But sharing the link is not the same as pinning it. Pinning it would post a full copy of an image from the article (if there were any) to Pinterest's servers. That's the whole issue here. Did you read the article ... ?

      • by harry sack on May 13, 2012  4:34 am

        just because you are paranoid doesn't mean that they are not out to get you...

    • by Juan Garza on March 1, 2012  6:47 pm

      I agree 100%. The one good thing that comes from this is how the company will react to these external threats. If Pinterest can overcome this issue, I think that there is high value in a company that uses the social media platform.

    • by Megan Hyink on March 3, 2012  5:25 pm

      Is there an article by any chance on the lady who is suing the Infringer?

      • by Robert Niece on August 31, 2012  6:23 pm

        megan, I googled kelly vs arriba and got 123,000+/- results. Wikipedia and other sites will expand on the case further.

    • by Kathleen Neff on March 4, 2012  5:02 pm

      Thought-provoking update on this subject which has grown since my first implemented copyrights were registered many years ago. I see an alarming amount of 'sharing'/'pinning' etc. that does not even mention original source. I share my own work on Pinterest that allows only myself to do any pinning because I do not want anyone to confuse my work with someone elses...not to mention that I feel an obligation to 'approve' of what is put there. I have 'open' boards as well, and really have a problem with the photography that is pinned, repinned etc....Whole boards seem to be shared (a concept of which I do not really approve). In your discussion the part about 'comment' &'discussion' being excluded from the restrictive uses...implies that it is for teaching purposes. I have absolutely no problem following this precedent because I DO present examples with comment for discussion almost 100% of the time...whether it is art or not. Reason? because SOMEONE has presented the image before me...therefore I consider that the owner and his site of origin should be recognized. IF I see someone has pinned something to my board I trace the image to it's original source whenever possible. But, because I do not 'tend' these boards 24 hrs a day I am always behind. When notifications are in my email I make a point of knowing who the new follower, pinner, etc. is. The hardest traces are often the photographs because people really do consider that if they have been printed they are there to be seen (and passed along)and thus, they eliminate the credits. I have links to my sales points. Any paintings that I show are low resolution. I try to show my work in a collective grouping,say where it is or was shown and make obvious that it belongs to me by the title and description of my boards. After all that has been pointed out, though...I may change my tune even more.

      • by shan on April 19, 2012  2:55 pm

        if you don't want your work shared through a "social" platform like this, why don't you just limit it to your own site? there are ways of protecting your photos from being shared without your permission.

        • by i agree on May 12, 2012  1:56 pm

          its the internet people! If you dont want your work reproduced, then protect it like smart business people do.

          • by Lori on May 23, 2012  6:04 pm

            I am one that got hit by a company who manage photographer's. Because of the internet and millions of people using it and the millions of unprotected images out there I think it is the responsibility of the photographer or their agents to protect there images from being able to be copied. They should be watermarked or something. How are we suppose to know. It's almost like a set up for these photographer's to make more money suing people for using their unprotected image.

        • by tammy on May 20, 2012  6:48 am

          I agree, protect your own stuff....but I am still wondering who will be at fault? Person #1 pins it off an artist site, then 10000 other people re-pin it...so are we all going to jail?

          • by Joe Hannay on August 15, 2012  6:16 pm

            no one is going to jail... copyright infringement is civil. I think a case of pinning a photo you found on the internet that is not yours may not be an issue if you pinned it with the intent of sharing the picture and not making money off of the pin. There would have to be a damage of sorts to the photographer before a civil case would even be considered. Now if you were using the image to pin and direct to your site which makes money. I think the photographer would have a good case for copyright infringement.

        • by Tony Sleep on May 22, 2012  2:24 pm

          No there is not. There are numerous methods that are trivially easy to defeat.

          The only way to stop people copying photos off the web is to not put them on the web, and hope nobody else does. Stopping leeching is possible, but that is all.

        • by Robert Niece on August 31, 2012  6:44 pm

          The case facts of Kelly vs Arriba are that Arriba took the images from a professional photographer's business website, then went back and removed more images, by Kelly, from his customers websites. There was on social media, such as FB, MySpace, etc involved. I think we all understand that if we post to Facebook, our posts may as well be public domain, but Arriba searched all sites, and took images regardless of copyright. If I sell a stock image for a specific, one time use, I haven't licensed a search engine to distribute that image for free, just because someone uploads it.

    • by Jeannine on March 4, 2012  5:34 pm

      H MArta! I am soo glad that this lovely lawyer posted this long message!!!

      And yes, unfortunately, many people have the same reaction to most things/services in general...''....people feel like it has to be legal-they couldn't do it otherwise.''
      well they put many unhealthy products out there for us to consume....and we do.....and they are bad for our health....and people often say : 'Well if its out there on the shelves, it must be good for me....they wouldn't sell it if it wasn't. '' Yeah, righttttttttttttt!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      Anyway...so glad someone with brains decided to share the information about all this ''sharing'' stuff online!!

      Have a great day.

    • by Amy Lynn on April 29, 2012  12:51 am

      I appreciate you letting the world know that there may be serious issues tied to the use of Pinterest. I too believe there are many legal issues associated with the use of Pinterest that need to be ironed out within their user agreement before the masses should feel comfortable. I just don't think may understand the possible implications of their actions. See my article for more information. http://thelawsoffashion.com/make-sure-you-are-taking-these-3-precautions-or-delete-your-pinterest/

    • by FRENCHILA on May 12, 2012  3:39 pm

      A couple of Ideas. First, ask permission to use it. Their email is usually on the same page as the picture. 2nd, you should be familiar with "Fair Use" rules regarding copyright material.

      • by Janae Wise on June 2, 2012  4:14 am

        Sending an email & waiting for a response for every pin is not a feasible solution. It would take way too much time & nobody would do it. I know I would stop using Pinterest if this is what I had to do.

    • by joanne on June 3, 2012  6:45 pm

      this site is meant for sharing ideas etc. only pin what you don't mind sharing!! people get inspiration from all kind of ideas, photos, diy projects. like everything else in life, if you don't want to share then don't post it!

    • by TT on June 18, 2012  11:11 pm

      It's P.P.S. not P.S.S.

  2. by Emma Stafrace on February 25, 2012  5:27 am

    Thank you so much Kirsten for sharing this, you have shed some light on this whole thing and a big BUMMER but your right best delete my pinterest boards...OUCH that is going to be painful!
    P.S Thanks for the go ahead in sharing this link xo

  3. by Zarah on February 25, 2012  10:05 am

    Wow... Love this. Shared the link on Facebook and hope more people start to think before they pin.
    Kudos to you for (thinking of and) writing this!

  4. by RastaRican on February 25, 2012  11:50 am

    Thank you for taking the time to write this.
    I am not so sure about using Pinterest now.
    BTW, can you make the 'text' a bit darker for these old eyes (you can of course edit this if/when approve the comment)

    • by Emily on March 1, 2012  8:31 pm

      I seriously want to "pin" your gorgeous dreads...alas, I am about to delete my boards :( :(

  5. by Dawn on February 25, 2012  2:23 pm

    It's like everything of the WWW. Everything on it is basically copy write and we don't have any authority to use any of it! Certainly the "small" guys wouldn't care by watch out for Big Brother!

    • by Karen on March 13, 2012  4:06 pm

      I'm a 'small' guy, and I care. My art is my living and if you want to just 'take' it, then you should at a minimum ask me. I use invisible digital watermarks that are embedded into my photographs so that when people 'take' work off of my website and post it somewhere else, I can track it and either make them pay me for using it or sue them if I decide to go that route. Many professional photographers/artists pay for this invisible tracking service, so to those of you that think us small guys don't care? Think again.

      • by Reneeof the jungle on March 14, 2012  12:07 am

        I would like to know how to get these watermarks as I post many pics on my website and would like to know who is stealing them. Thanks so much for the help!

        • by Kathleen Thoma on March 14, 2012  3:00 pm

          If you want an embedded watermark, try Digimarc, they allow tracking and really don't show. It is applied as a filter in Photoshop. It is very easy. Annual fee.

      • by Patrick on April 1, 2012  5:37 pm

        I'm a photographer and not so precious about what I produce that I wouldn't want my images shared socially - even without attribute. Commercially is another thing all together, even if it was just on a blog which earns income.

        It is great to receive credit and even better a link to my website, or contact details, but I hardly expect that to happen after an image has passed through several hands, no matter how well intentioned the 'pinner' might be.

        However, if one of my images was used commercially without permission, then I'd either want to be convinced it was completely good-natured in intent, or I'd be looking for far more than it would have cost for initial purchase.

        The internet would cease to have anything like the value it has, especially the social aspect, if copyright law was enforced in all areas. A massive step backwards in helping each other to learn and expand our knowledge.


        • by Dr Deb on April 14, 2012  7:44 pm

          Thank you, Patrick, for answering as I would if I was a professional photographer/artist! I would not mind if my work was shared, even without my permission, as long as it was not being SOLD by someone else. The Internet is a vast land of shared property, which makes it a double-edged sword: we all love the access to infinite amounts of data and yet there is no clear, inclusive, easy way to guard and police the use (and misuse) of all of that data. I, for one, am standing by my Pinterest Boards for that very reason! I have no intention of selling anyone's work for my gain, or even calling it my own! I merely want to share the image of something I find beautiful and/or fascinating.

          • by Marshall on May 30, 2012  6:30 am

            I totally agree, i don't want to sell, i just find the photo wonderful and like to share. thank you for your information.

          • by Ann on June 20, 2012  12:39 pm

            I think the point made above is a good one: that it is the choice of the photographer. Those who do wish to share for non-commercial purposes can post their work under a Creative Commons license. If photographer wishes to hold on to the rights of her work, who are we to argue that she should share? People weren't making money from music they downloaded from Napster, either. But they were enjoying it without paying for it. It's about ownership of intellectual property, and yes, the internet is making us as a society rethink this.

        • by joan on June 28, 2012  9:11 pm

          Thanks Patrick, for reminding everyone that Pinterest is for sharing.

          • by kirsten on June 28, 2012  10:01 pm

            Nobody disputes that Pinterest is for sharing. The issue is how they promote sharing and whether that "sharing" is legal.

      • by shan on April 19, 2012  3:00 pm

        why invisible watermarks? since clearly most of us don't know or understand why one would post their stuff to a social site anyway, why not just use a big noticeable watermark? so if i reused your pic that i found in say, google images, and without no knowledge whatsoever that it was restricted or protected, you'd SUE me because of an INVISIBLE watermark? what is wrong with you people?

        • by Snooze on April 23, 2012  7:34 pm

          The reason for an invisible watermark, is that it can be placed over the main image. Consider a nice portrait photo with "Copyright Snooze Photography" right over the person's face. If it was on the side of the image, then the copyright notice could be cropped out by someone else. An invisible one is harder to detect, and harder to remove.

      • by bubbles01 on June 5, 2012  5:03 am

        Karen, why do you post anything. Who would "take it". When I say "like" something or "Repin" something, seems to me that it would be a compliment. I'm just trying to enjoy the things that are posted, not trying to steal anything from anybody.

      • by Stacey on June 30, 2012  3:24 am

        I know protecting your work is important, but sad that you do it via this route. Why not use a visible watermark? No one can use your photo commercially with a watermark. And if someone does share it because they are inspired by it, your watermark will let people know who you are and what website to go to so they can see more. Not everyone pinning or sharing pictures do so for their own gain. Many are inspired by pictures and like to share them, it's human nature. Sounds like you are just hoping people will do just that to your pics with your invisible digital watermarks so you can make an extra buck by suing them. There are way too many litigious people in this country. Sad.

  6. by {leah} on February 25, 2012  5:04 pm

    Thanks for taking the time and effort to research and write this. I've had this growing sense of unease over using the site for about a month, now, and this has only confirmed that.

    I started using the site right from the beginning, and feel that there was a change in TOU somewhere along the line. It rings a bell that one day a message came up that the TOU had changed. I read the initial one, but not the changes, which were obviously huge.

    As much as I love it as a place to gather inspiration, I'll have to delete my boards. The risk just isn't worth it. Hopefully one day they'll see and make some changes.

    Again. Thanks for sharing.

    • by donna m on February 25, 2012  11:11 pm

      Thank you for such a well written article. I will be sharing this and bookmarking it. As a photographer I am always leary of people using my work without permission and without paying for it. Its a conundrum. You have to have your work seen to be hired but you fear it being used or stolen when you do put it out there. Even with a massive watermark on some of my work, a person took the time to photoshop it out and pass it off as his own and that sucks. I've joined Pinterest 2 days ago to see what all the fuss is but will be deleting my account due to their TOS. Its also the reason I don't post my work on FB. Their TOS protect my copyright from others but they jointly own my work to modify and use in any way 'in perpetuity'. They also strip out any metadata I add to my work (which I think is pretty underhanded).

      And for the person that asked about the social buttons on our sites, its not so much for you to share our work as it is for you to find where you can talk to us and see us as a person rather than a website. Excellent article.

      • by Becks on March 2, 2012  9:32 pm


        Sounds like you don't understand the nature of pinterest. It's not to "pass as my own work". Pinterest board is something for people to share what's cool on the internet. Think of it as a referral. Say one of your clients showed her friend her wedding album done by you, and say, "see what an excellent Donna she did!" Is that a copyright violation? Will you feel violated? Will you sue her? Pinterest is as disrespectful to your work as your client's referrals. Do you know if people click on the image, they're led back to YOUR site?

        Also, maybe that's how the social buttons on your website work. For the majority of blogs and artists websites, social buttons is for people to share. It's akin to free advertisement.

        People do steal photographers' images and pass as their own all the time. They can easily do it on your site. Do you have a website? If you do you should consider deleting it because people can steal your image too.

        • by Jack on March 3, 2012  3:02 am

          The majority of blogs and sites that have a share button don't copy a post or image in its entirety. When you click "share" the site you're sharing to grabs a thumbnail image and short snippet of the text (like Facebook) with a link back to the original site. That does create traffic, and in turn revenue, for the copyright owner. Pinterest generates traffic for itself, which diverts traffic from the original site.

          • by Princess on March 3, 2012  7:27 pm

            Can you define how Pinterest generates traffic for itself in a way that other forms of sharing don't? It doesn't make sense to me so I thought I'd ask!
            Thanks in advance.

          • by chloe on March 9, 2012  7:28 pm

            Actually the amount of clickthroughs from Pinterest are greater than Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn combined. So obviously people ARE clicking through to the original source. That doesn't affect the copyright issue, but it is erroneous to say that, "Pinterest generates traffic for itself, which diverts traffic from the original site."

          • by chloe on March 9, 2012  7:37 pm

            And, I correct myself - the amount of clickthroughs from Pinterest are greater than YouTube, LinkedIn, and Google+ combined. Although, I would be interested to know how they compare to Facebook and Twitter.

        • by Phil Kendall on March 4, 2012  10:47 am

          This sounds like what I thought it was about..."hey look what I found...perhaps you might be interested...it's cute do have a look for yourself" etc.

          • by Ian on May 20, 2012  5:41 am

            Some are missing the point...yes Pinterest ;yields a mother-load of clickthroughs, but the issue highlighted is that they do not all, or necessarily even half, track back to the original source. This could happen due to one miscreant, or accident, followed by a tidal wave of piggy-backers linking to an impostor.

            For those with images and desires to protect said images, I'm not the expert, but I believe a solution would be available by utilizing server-side vs. client-side methods for delivering your content...client side content can only be protected via illusory measures. A skilled developer could validate or possibly refute that.

            Finally, if Pinterest took the issue more seriously, they could alter their process and cease the upload/download and local storage of media, and instead pull the data from the source at the time of delivery. If the above paragraph isn't entirely accurate, that update would certainly allow for a server side populated website to disallow the direct download of given images.

            At the end of the day, I would suspect that as a community artists would be best served by working to protect their data as mentioned above as this would allow sites like Pinterest to exist while protecting the use of their material. It would seem a shame to pass up such an apparently powerful, and free, vehicle for marketing.

        • by anonymous on March 6, 2012  9:19 pm

          The issue is whether or not it is legal or ethical to do this and concerns the feeling we "Pinners" get that we have permission to pin whatever we want simply because Pinterest exists, not whether or not people can steal images from websites themselves. Right or wrong? Should or should not? Not can or cannot. Of course if you want to blatantly break the law you could go around to different sites and blogs and steal images, recipes, actual written work if you wanted to. What knowledge I've gleaned from this article is that Pinterest allows us to do that without thinking about whether we should or not. Whether it is LEGAL or not. Clearly it is not and there is simply no way around that fact. Anyone who argues against that point is squeezing their eyes shut and holding their hands over their ears in denial. I will miss my boards and the hits I get from Pinterest as well as the exhilaration that comes from seeing that someone liked a photo of mine enough to pin and share it with the world. Deleting. :(

          • by kirsten on March 6, 2012  9:45 pm

            THANK YOU. Finally, someone who actually understood my point. I have heard this so many times: "yeah, it might be illegal, I don't know. It might even be wrong. But everyone else is doing it and I can use it to promote my business so....."

        • by Ron on March 10, 2012  3:50 am

          The nature or designed use of pinterest is irrelevant, it's simply the latest method some bonehead has developed to generate traffic to a website and make money out of ads. Kirsten is quite accurate in comparing it to Napster or other similar systems. Napster was specifically designed to share music and other files but that didn’t make it legal. In that situation the primary punitive costs were borne by its creator Sean Parker, when the lawsuits start flowing in pinterest they’ll be borne by the users.

          One of the core aspects is your comment about deleting a website. You clearly don't understand the difference between the risk of image theft and the ability to do something about it. Yes, a person can steal an image from anywhere, including a website. That's not what the article is about. The artcile is about the legal situation that you potentially place yourself in when you do. On pinterest you have publically identified yourself as someone who has accessed and reproduced someone elses image and then attached your name and identification to it. If someone wants to sue you for copyright violation then you have given them all the evidence that they will ever need to sue/prosecute and you are the equivalent of a fish in a barrel when it come time to 'shoot' you legally.

        • by Courtney on March 14, 2012  11:43 am

          Too many people feel that professional photographers should willingly accept the stealing of proofs or photos from their site. Please understand that this is not only illegal, but has also led to decreased sales. If you were in a store and decided to steal an article of clothing would you justify it to the company by saying it is "free advertising" when you wear it? It sounds ridiculous and it is. Most photos that are lifted are never given photo credit anyways. Taking proofs or photos from a website without permission is theft plain and simple. It is punishable by law, but most of the time photographers do not pursue it.

          So many people justify their actions by saying free advertising is great for the photographers. I've got news for you....free advertising doesn't pay my bills or fill my car with gas. I'll take the sale any day of the week, thanks.

          • by kirsten on March 14, 2012  11:57 am

            Amen, Courtney. All of these so-called "copyright specialists" who have never actually litigated a case in their lives saying that using Pinterest constitutes Fair Use because, among other things, using other people's images in such manner does not affect the market for the original work have obviously not polled all of the hundreds of photographers out there who have been emailing me with stories about how their livelihoods have been negatively impacted.
            Thanks for speaking up!

          • by Levi on March 26, 2012  8:04 pm

            Then you need to embed your images with your logo when placing them online...or better yet, embed them with your contact information.

          • by Patrick on April 1, 2012  5:45 pm

            As a photographer, I have a very different view.

            Unless one is a Herb Ritts or some famous photographer, how many people know about one?

            Pinterest can give exposure that can result in far more business, so free advertising can pay the bills, in fact a lot more.

            Watermark images and sure some will steal, but life is too sweet to focus on the pain, enjoy the pleasure of selling to those who genuinely appreciate the images and want the real thing.


          • by kirsten on April 5, 2012  1:45 pm

            Who is Herb Ritts? haha. Did I just make your point? Seriously though, it's not just about "exposure" and fame. As is demonstrated in these comments (which I understand are way too many to sort through), there are artists who are being harmed financially by the unauthorized use of their work on Pinterest. There are many different types of photographers out there and some who make their money selling the rights to their images over and over again are suffering. Why buy the photo when it's being "appreciated" all over Pinterest (with rights to download and print) for free?

        • by Gina on March 28, 2012  6:06 am

          Unfortunately, as a webmaster whose graphics are pinned over and over, I assure you that I get virtually no referrals from Pinterest. People STAY on Pinterest. They do not follow links through to the original website.

          • by joanie on April 12, 2012  12:58 pm

            I do. I nearly ALWAYS follow through to the original website. What makes you any different than the circumstances you complain about if you spout off certainties without knowledge or proof?

            I think people have too high an opinion of the actual value of their talent or work. People pinning images are by and large providing free advertising. Stop bitching already.

            Oh, and Carl is my hero! Finally a voice of reason.

          • by Carol on May 12, 2012  6:22 pm

            I disagree. I follow back to the originals all the time. It has led to subscribing directly to the websites or blogs and has also led to some purchases.

          • by Tash on July 2, 2012  4:35 am

            I have to disagree, I almost always follow through to the original source and if not straight away to refer to later. I have found so many great websites, blogs and products which I would ordinarily not come across through the course of regular internet browsing and as such has led me to subscribe, follow or purchase . As a very visual person and someone who has an incredibly bad memory I find pinterest a useful way of "bookmarking" all the sites and products that I love and want to be able to go back to in an extremely organised and useful way. I have always struggled with lists and lists of bookmarks where all you see is a name or sentence and trying to remember how I might have bookmarked something or what the site was called etc. Being able to refer to a virtual pinboard with a visual aid is extremely useful for me. As an avid crafter I find it a particularly useful way of cataloguing products that I want to use and keeping track of tutorials showing you how to use all the different mediums etc that are available which ultimately again lead to further purchases. Additionally I go to great lengths to ensure that I blog and give credit to anything really interesting that I find and always provide links back to those sites. It is very sad that there are many that would take advantage of what is potentially a wonderful source or referrals and free advertising. Should it be that the makers of pinterest are looking to take advantage of others work and steal intellectual property, I would be extremely disappointed to say the least and I am disgusted that other pop up businesses are looking to also cash in by printing peoples boards to a book?? To me it kind of defeats the purpose of why I pin and that is that I use it as a way of cataloguing and referencing internet related content for use whilst I am on the internet, its of no use to me in a printed book. If there was a reasonable fee charged for being able to use pinterest in that manner I would happily pay it but from what I understand from this article it is that obviously not everyone uses it in this manner or seeks to do the right thing. The fact that by re-pinning I am claiming the work to be my own and accept legal liability for doing so I was totally unaware of and this does greatly scare me. I guess I will have to review whether I am to remain on pinterest also which is totally devastating.

            P.S. I know that this post called for photographers views regarding this issue but there are a lot of photographers complaining on this site which seem to think that they are the only ones who are vulnerable...you must remember there are many art forms from which people generate an income that is also being pinned and probably have even greater difficulty in protecting such material and therefore are at greater risk but then again if material is going to be stolen there are many alternatives for doing so and this possibility is not restricted just to pinterest. I do understand that the concerns are compounded due to the rate and capacity at which such property becomes exposed.

        • by Carl on April 8, 2012  1:20 am

          Oh my.... 20mins of reading and someone finally gets it. Can't stop laughing. You have to be kidding me! Delete your boards... why... ? Because you advertised for someone else. Sent potential business to me or another photographer? Does anyone understand what it is to infringe on someone's copy write? Or, what it would take to prove to a court that sending my followers to your sight was in someway detrimental to you? Please... for the sake of the rest of us... delete your boards.... Quickly before you get sued.

          PS: If you are a photographer and you sell online, successfully that is, your work is being stolen every single day. It's the price of doing business. Just keep the files small and worry about making art. I have found that most of the people who obsess about their work being stolen only wish they had work that was worth stealing.

          • by Joseph on April 27, 2012  11:28 am

            Here, here! With reference to Carl's statement - Finally the voice of reason and of experience. Pinning someone else's work, as long as the link is maintained for the artist's site within the pin, is no more theft than Google links and thumbnails. And if you want to maintain a high standard of ethics, just don't forget to give the original artist a by-line on the pin.

            Sheesh! Folks, come-on now. The end result is an image that is NO LARGER that the one the artist is hosting on their site. By pinning the work you are NOT stealing it! You are REPORTING it!

            If you're an artist and are afraid of being ripped off, just make the image so small that it would be unusable for anything but on-line display. DO keep in mind, the main task of most any artist is becoming known. Pinterest and all those crazed pinners out there ARE WORKING FOR YOU in this regard. If you don't want your art to "go viral" (which Pinterest is very well suited for), if you don't want your artwork to become the talk-of-the-town, so to speak, then I would wonder if you even realize what art is all about in the first place. Dig this; art is a SHARED experience. If you are afraid to share your art, then you should be doing something else.

            And by the way, the comparisons with Napster are just silly. With Napster you had people "sharing" full fidelity copies of the original work. I supposed, if you are a poster artist, and you started displaying 6000 pixel wide images on your site, then you might have some point of concern. Of course if you go walking around town at midnight flashing hundred dollar bills then you might have some concern about this too, But who does that? Even if you did display your art on-line at 6000px wide, Pinterest does not get anywhere near this size with within their interface, The largest view is 600 pixels (I think), and the thumbs of course are much smaller, but again, this is IF the original art has been hosted at 600 pixels wide to begin with. In any case, the smart thing to do in this regard is just to type your web site addy directly (or by line) into your art files, and then for gosh sake get back to creating art. And DO maintain the hope that your art does go viral on the web by way of Pinterest or some other similar social networking platform.

            If only Pinterest was around in Van Gogh's time, he may have actually been successful selling his work!

          • by Zuzana on June 4, 2012  11:51 am

            Thumbs up, great comment. :-)

          • by Marcie on July 8, 2012  10:32 pm

            Bravo, Carl!

            I agree--If you don't want it shared, don't put it on the web. By all means, use watermarks if you are that worried someone is going to steal your work and present it as their own. Most of us are just looking at stuff we find interesting with absolutely no intent beyond enjoying the image on the screen.

        • by Tom on June 29, 2012  12:18 am

          I have read alot of these posts and for the life of me can't understand when an attorney gets gives his or her views about something, then every body panics. This site is strickly about sharing ideas. Too many attorneys in the world!

      • by Sage on March 7, 2012  10:48 am

        I find this aspect of the dilemma confusing:
        First--You are allowed to use images as long as you are commenting. Pinterest makes you comment on everything you pin.
        Secondly--For me, Pinterest is no different than tearing pages out of magazines and pasting them into idea books (which I've done for years), except that it is displayed publicly--and if I was doing it with images on the internet, I would have to copy and paste things into folders. I know that if I want to "use" any of these images in academia, I must properly site the sources, etc. etc. If I don't properly cite the sources when I tear them out of the magazines or copy and paste things on the internet, then I can't use them publicly. Period. But no artist is going to come to my house and demand that I pay them for using a page torn from a magazine that I used as an idea for an unrelated project. As other people have said--how is this any different than calling my friend over and telling her to look at a cool article in the NYTimes?? Except instead of being in the same room, we are cities apart on our laptops.
        Thirdly--Is part of the problem that our boards are public?? Because HONESTLY, I would rather that my boards be private. I don't like the fact that you can't block people who follow you--what about stalkerish exes?? (mine, for example.) Who KNOWS who is following your boards. I would be happy to simply use the pin button so that I can pin things PRIVATELY.
        And Lastly--What if you blog about everything you pin? Does that count as commenting? Because I actually DO blog about several things I Pin.


        • by Ron on March 10, 2012  3:55 am

          The exact law varies from country to country but in most situations Copyright violation occurs when you reproduce or publish an item without permission to do so,
          So, while cutting/tearing out a magazine picture is not generally a Copyright violation, if you then scan and post the same torn-out image then it becomes a Copyright violation. The posting of items on the internet has long been considered publishing and the legal precedence is well established in virtually every country that observes Copyright law.

        • by Vlad on April 17, 2012  10:56 pm

          Tearing out pages of magazine to put in idea book ...... fine.
          Photocopying said pages for friends . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . not so fine.

      • by Dee on March 11, 2012  1:50 am

        i use pinterest to research and study beautiful things. Does that count as fair use? Just kidding, sort of. i'm considering pulling away deleting my boards. It will make me sad. Just wanted you to know I have purchased two photos I discovered via pinterest. Neither copyright owner had a problem knowing how I found their work, in fact they were thrilled.

  7. by Sandra on February 25, 2012  5:34 pm

    The question I have is this--if a site you are visiting has a link to FB. twitter, Pinterest, would you be safe to assume they are inviting you to reprint their posts?

    • by Jennifer S (Family Musings) on February 25, 2012  9:06 pm

      I had the same question. If the blogger, photographer, artisan, etc... puts a 'pin it' button on their site, is that then granting us the right to pin their items, freeing us from legal liability?

      • by kirsten on February 25, 2012  9:46 pm

        How do you put a "pin it" button on your own site? I know how to install it on my browser but I haven't seen where you can put one on your own website. But I'm not an expert on using Pinterest by any means, so can you explain how that works?


        • by Grumplestilskin on February 26, 2012  3:33 am


          Scroll down until you hit “Follow Button” for Websites.

          That might help.

        • by Carly on February 26, 2012  8:28 pm

          There's also a great WordPress plugin:


        • by Janet on February 27, 2012  5:09 pm

          You can add a Pinterest button to a WordPress blog (on a post or a page) using a number of WordPress plugins. You can add one to a regular website using javascript.

          With either approach, when your "Pinit" button is clicked, all the images on that post (or page) are "presented" for a possible pin.

          You can also use a WordPress plugin that enables you to choose the specific image from the post (or page) that you want pinned.

      • by Leeanndra on March 1, 2012  12:59 am

        I was literally just saying this aloud to my husband after reading this article. Most sites that I pin from have installed a button for you to "Pin it." I do try to follow the proper Pinterest etiquette and make sure that the Pin links directly to the original post. So, I do believe I am giving credit where credit it due. I appreciate the article, but I think getting scared and deleting your boards is unnecessary.

    • by kirsten on February 25, 2012  9:37 pm


      If a site has a link to those social media sites, that site is simply inviting you to view their pages on those sites. It's never safe to assume that any artist is giving permission to reproduce his or her work. The only time you would have the right to do that is if that artist grants you consent, a license or your reproduction falls within one of the exceptions to copyright protection, such as "fair use."


      • by Kathy on February 27, 2012  12:51 am

        Just wanted to clarify that there are two different ways in which sites are using social media links. Countless blogs and websites include links on every post to enable readers to "like" the post on Facebook, tweet it on Twitter and pin it on Pinterest. I think the social media links you might be referring to are a different type - the ones that appear at the top or in a sidebar, inviting people to join their communities on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc. I'll speak for myself (but probably for a lot of folks whose photography is not their end product)- when I add a "Pin It" link to my post I am inviting everyone to pin it. :-)

        • by kirsten on February 27, 2012  1:03 am

          I would agree that if someone invites a link, a pin or says "hey, feel free to upload and share!" that would be a pretty good argument that the person gave you permission to share the work in that manner.

          • by Lisa on February 27, 2012  5:13 pm

            While it may be a safe assumption that if an artist puts a Pin It button on their web page for artwork/photography that it infers they are inviting users to share it, there is the sticky area involving online sales venues that host web pages or shops. When a venue (such as Etsy, etc) decides to put Pin It buttons in the coding so that all shops and all items automatically offer the Pin It button, that venue is the one who invites the copying, not necessarily the artist. If the assumption is that the existence of the Pin It button equates to granting rights, then you have venues granting rights to works that they don't own, via their coded buttons. If venue users can't opt-out of having that Pin It button placed on their hosted pages, then users who don't want to grant those rights are forced to leave the hosting venue to protect themselves. And I suspect the venue sites also have TOU wording that claims immunity from such lawsuits.

          • by Rich Haslam on February 29, 2012  6:13 pm

            I'm confused. If, by placing a share button on your site equates to an invitation to share the content and pictures (or does it?) does that mean it also invalidates your comment at the bottom of the article, ". Oh, and you have no right to reproduce this article or any portion thereof. But feel free to share the link! " or does your comment invalidate the share button. The share button shares your link, a snippet of the article and sometimes a picture.

          • by JG on February 29, 2012  6:49 pm

            Kirsten, I agree... as long as it is their image to share in the first place, and not something they have already 'borrowed' from another source! The thing is, how can you tell they have the right to give such permission to share?

        • by Barbara | Creative Culinary on February 27, 2012  7:53 pm

          I'm with you Kathy; that seems a pretty clear indication that it's OK. Users can also opt out of Pinterest if they choose by installing some code on their site which will circumvent someone pinning their images. I pin mostly food from sites that want their food and posts given more exposure

          I do have to chuckle at the etiquette that says we should not pin our own photos that is contradicted it seems by the Terms of Use indicating we should post only what we own. Huh?

          • by ebony robinson on March 2, 2012  7:47 pm


          • by Gail on March 21, 2012  9:10 am

            Why should people with websites have to attach HTML to OPT OUT when they are already protected( or should be) by copyright. It should be OPT IN not OPT OUT! Unless you have written permission from the owner of the photo....and some have been bought from stock sites and are limited for the use of that person, you are stealing someone else's work. It is really very simple.

            I am pleased Kirsten has drawn the legal implications to people's notice. It seems many either don't read the small print, or don't understand what they are getting into.

        • by Ron on March 10, 2012  4:08 am

          The legality of that invitation is entirely based on whether you have the legal right to make it. You may well do, photographers often signoff on all rights to images that they have produced under commission, for example.

          Increasingly these days though they grant full usage rights but retain copyright, so even if you commissioned the images you may not actually own the copyright to them (always worth clarifying the situation when you commission the work)

    • by Geradine Ciulla on February 25, 2012  10:23 pm

      That is a really good question about the button right on the site. This seems like very tricky stuff...

    • by Valerie G on February 27, 2012  10:04 pm

      Not necessarily... Fairly recently, Etsy added a "Pin it" button to all of our shop items, without any kind of public announcement or agreement with us. I'm extremely annoyed with that, since there is no way for us to deactivate it, and I do not want my art on Pinterest at all. I have a friend who had her work pinned twice, and both times, some outside person had written a tutorial as to how to recreate her work! Yikes! You might want to check with shop owners on Etsy before pinning their work...

      • by Becky on February 28, 2012  5:06 pm

        It is so sad to me that people "steal" others ideas. I have pinned multiple items from Etsy on a board for my family members to look at to get gift ideas on stuff I want. I know for a fact had I not pinned a beautifully made bracelet there I would not now be the lucky owner of said bracelet because my husband wouldn't have known where to look for such a thing.

        In my opinion Pinterest isn't necessarily the problem, but people who don't respect others' intellectual property is. It is wrong to re-create someone's ideas and then post tutorials. It is wrong to make knock off items then sell them. But most people don't look at this as stealing and make use of these tutorials or buy the knock offs because they are so much cheaper. I think there is a larger issue here then just posting items on Pinterest or Facebook.

        One more thing I've noticed on Pinterest is that some pins don't go to anything but other pins... I know somewhere in the PInterest documentation it recommends that users not pin pins, but look for the original blog post or content creator prior to pinning. It pains me that others do not care enough to make sure the original poster gets credit.

        • by Chris on February 29, 2012  2:38 pm

          Read the TOS/TOU again...Pinterest IS the problem. 1. Encourage people to lie about owning the work they are pinning. 2. Pinterest takes ownership of all images pinned. 3. They have the right according to their TOS/TOU that anything pinned can be modified (bye bye watermarks, logo's, metadata and ownership info in the file) 4. Finally, as per the TOS/TOU, they have the right to sell anything that is pinned including images. That's evil.

          • by Sherhonda on March 8, 2012  9:26 pm

            These are the issues that concern me, too. I've emailed Pinterest to ask them to reassure us or explain or something. But if none of you have heard back, maybe it's futile. Pinterest is a great way to find products and crafty ideas -- I've bookmarked countless sites so I can go back to them to shop or to revisit crafts as I decide to do them. That's the beauty behind the idea of Pinterest. But Pinterest should revisit the terms of use. The site is not "fun" now that I understand the pitfalls with some of its terms of use and it greatly concerns me. Those who are poo-pooing these concerns just don't want to give up something they love, but, as was said earlier, remember the McDonald's hot coffee lawsuit. How that one got to court still baffles me, but it did and the woman won her case. Don't ignore the warning. If you still insist on pinning, maybe in your comments you make sure to put the website link and say: "This is not mine, I don't own it, but go to this site if you want to see more..."

          • by Ron on March 10, 2012  4:14 am

            Sneaky, as of course the 'pinner' has no legal ability to enter into those TOS/TOU with pinterest in the first place.

            I can potentially see that the pinner could not only be sued by the Copyright holder but then subsequently again by pinterest for fraud, Maybe that's the whole point of pinterest.

            I do predict that there will be a huge upswing in copyright suits against individuals very soon. It is inevitable that a photographer or smilar business will simply turn to suing copyright violators and settling out of court for undisclosed amounts - in fact there is already news articles of both a UK and an Australian company that are doing exactly this for people who have illegally downloaded porn.

            These 'internet security' companies are apparently using the embaressment factor associated with publicising the downloading of porn to force settlements with individuals.

            Because of the mechanisms introduced to track internet illegal downloading, the process is both straightforward and it's perfectly legal. Someone, very soon is going to follow the same idea into the mainstream and when it happens pinterest will hang all the users affected out to dry, then the site will just vanish like mist.

          • by Debbie Gallagher on April 30, 2012  8:28 pm

            So right on. This is the insidious part about Pinterest's set-up that concerns me the most. Does Pinterest or it's Company have a blog or panel that's addressed a few of these more blatant issues publicly anywhere? I wonder. I need to research this aspect more!

          • by Laura on June 7, 2012  11:51 pm

            I was all set to help a photographer friend set up some Pinterest boards featuring her gorgeous photos (which are for sale)—until reading this dissection of the Pinterest TOU from @Chris. "Pinterest takes ownership of all images pinned"? "Anything pinned can be modified?" "They have the right to sell anything that is pinned including images"?? Between the potential ripping off by pinners and Pinterest itself, there's NO WAY I would ever recommend a commercial photographer to put up their work on this site. But we'll see what SHE says about it. (All her friends are asking why she isn't on Pinterest.)

          • by kirsten on June 8, 2012  2:01 pm

            A lot of photographers have found issue with that language, Laura. Many others choose to ignore it with the thought that it is just "legal form language" that every online site uses in order to protect itself.

        • by Topher on February 29, 2012  6:50 pm

          First of all, we need to let go of this notion that just because you have an idea it now belongs to you and no one else is allowed to use your idea. Unless it's a patentable process or a copyrighted work, then you don't own it. You can never own an idea, and believe me you wouldn't want people owning ideas anyways. Our free market and the idea of healthy competition is built upon the supposition that ideas can never be owned. Imagine if only one person could own the "idea" of a computer. Imagine what that one person could charge you for a computer. So your bracelet example is a bad one. Just because someone has an idea for a new type of bracelet doesn't mean that they own the idea of that type of bracelet. They can own a process of producing that bracelet, someone can own the picture of that bracelet, but no one owns the idea of that bracelet. It's the same with art. If someone is using that copyrighted picture in order to create some sort of educational tutorial to explain how to make that type of art, this falls precisely into a fair use category. I see nothing wrong with it legally or morally. I think it's fantastic to learn new things and we should encourage people to understand how to do and make things themselves. Real artists will never be threatened by that, they know that their capabilities and talent allow them to be creative and industrious without any "big secret." It's their talent that sets them apart.

          However, Kirsten is absolutely correct that if your use does not fall into this fair use category, then we cannot assume that every artist wants their material posted and reposted ad infinitum. At the same rate though, I've always found it interesting when people post things to the internet and then get in a big huff when their posted materials are distributed. Seems hypocritical to me. The internet is a massive sharing tool, that's what it's designed to be, a way for people all over the world to share massive amounts of information at relatively no cost for distribution. While I agree that materials should not be posted without an owner's permission, I question the sanity of any individual who places their work on the internet and then gets into a big fit when that material is disseminated just because it didn't get distributed "the way they wanted it to." That's akin to getting into a cab, telling the driver you want to go to a destination and then getting angry at him once you've arrived, insisting that you never instructed him to drive on those streets, you never told him to make those turns, you just wanted to sit in the cab and magically arrive at the destination. How dare he take you through the process of arriving at your destination. You got in the car, you know how this thing works, you know it's gonna have to drive on some streets. You know the internet, you know how it works, you know what happens to copyrighted materials you post on it. You can't put your material on the internet so others can see it and then get angry when the way people arrived at your work was different than you intended. I mean you can, but boy do you sound crazy.

          It's pretty well understood that sweeping reform is necessary when it comes to internet law and the nature of our legal process is that it's meant to be slow and cumbersome but that just makes it very difficult to keep up with the pace of technology. Basically, we need the law to be changed so that it recognizes the internet as more of a public free-for-all type of environment and less of a location to try and hide proprietary information. The law should be something along the lines of (paraphrasing of course): you post it, anyone can use it. That way the public isn't running around scared of stepping on someone's copyright toes every time they touch something in this inherently public, want-to-be-touched forum. That way the artist's or owner's decision (because those two can be very different) is an easy one: if I post it to the internet, anyone can use it on the internet. If I don't, then it's all mine and can only be used by those I give express permission to. If you give it to the internet, you should assume that it's going to be used all over that internet, because someone will always find a way to make your work easily available. Always. So let's stop with all of the silly "but I put a security measure on it" or "I put a warning on it." Don't get mad at the taxi driver for taking you to the destination you obviously wanted to end up at when you posted it to the internet in the first place. You know that every security measure is hackable, you know that some punk college kid will find a way through your DRM. Stop acting shocked when it happens, you knew it was a possibilty and a probability when you posted it, but you posted it anyway. Get in the cab or don't, just don't act like you didn't want a ride.

          • by Chris on February 29, 2012  9:31 pm

            If your version of Internet Law ever became law, the internet would die as we know it. Period. You post it you loose it to the masses....please. Who in their right mind would ever post anything?

          • by Dalila on March 1, 2012  1:57 pm

            After reading the many replies to this thread, I was elated to find answers to questions in one simple reply, YOURS! Many thanks.

          • by Mary on March 2, 2012  3:29 pm

            Yes, finally, someone who gets it! I have always shook my head in wonder that anyone could think that they "control" anything they post on the internet. Except maybe for content that is behind a paid access wall, but even then, it's online = it will be used. To get into a snit about people doing the same thing to something online that they do to a magazine picture they like is ludricious. If you are that protective of your work, show it in a museum, not online.

          • by jen on March 3, 2012  8:14 pm

            Thank you. This was very enlightening!

          • by Lisa H. on March 3, 2012  9:16 pm

            I am very intrigued by your response and have never heard someone express an opinion on this subject quite the way you have. I am pretty much in agreement with what you have stated and I cannot for the life of me understand why people get so upset, when they are the ones that put themselves or their "creation" into this situation.
            I am not saying that I agree that it is okay to steal other peoples ideas or creations, but the intention of the internet is pretty much to "share" content.
            If you want to charge for it, that is fine also, but set up your site in a manner that will allow for that and don't post things openly that you don't want shared.
            It doesn't matter that it might be "wrong" to take other peoples ideas, photos, creations, etc...the reality is...it WILL happen on the internet.
            In reality, most people are not evil and are not trying to make a buck off someone else's idea, they just get excited about all the cool ideas they see and want to try and re-create them...at least that is how I see it in the crafting and homemaking circles I follow.
            I personally pin a lot of stuff, but never take it as my own or try to pass it off as my own.
            Even if I use it for inspiration and create something similar on my blog, I give credit to the original place I found it and link to their blog or site.
            I have even e-mailed or tried to contact some of these people to get their permission to post where I found the idea and most of them never e-mail me back).
            Many of the crafty sites I visit love to have people use their ideas and then just ask you to "link" back to their blog, which I always do.
            Some of the blogs I follow have some "freebies" and some stuff they sell, and I can tell you for a fact that I have purchased from them many times after "trying" one of their freebie downloads.
            So, like you said, a "true artist" won't feel threatened by this, because their work will sell itself.
            For instance, if you see a beautiful photograph on a website and would like to see it hanging in your home somewhere...no logical person is going to try and print out that photo on their home printer, frame it and hang it on the wall. It's going to look like crap, especially if the photographer has only posted thumbnails or low res photos on his site.
            If they like the photo and the price is reasonable, they are going to BUY it!
            This photographer http://www.stuckincustoms.com/2012/03/01/go-ahead-steal-this-photo-and-make-prints/
            actually posts full resolutions photos on his site and has commented a lot on the internet and copyright issues.
            He wrote this article: http://www.stuckincustoms.com/2012/02/13/why-photographers-should-stop-complaining-about-copyright-and-embrace-pinterest/
            specifically about Pinterest, Photographers and copyright issues.
            Thank-you for your well versed reply on this subject Topher. I really would like to "pin" your reply to a board I created called "Pinterest Copyright Issues". I don't know how to get in touch with you to ask your permission to pin it, but if you see this and can reply to me, let me know if it's okay with you.

          • by Cher on March 8, 2012  12:33 am

            THREE CHEERS for some common sense! I totally agree - if you don't want people distributing your works, don't upload them to the web...or be prepared to spend the rest of your precious time investigating and filing lawsuits. Or perhaps that's WHY people upload their stuff...so someone WILL distribute it...then they CAN sue - sounds like a recipe for success in a world where suing someone is as commonplace as cleaning your teeth morning and night! We surely do reap what we sow, don't we?

          • by Janna on March 8, 2012  6:10 pm

            I want to 'Like' your post!

          • by lisa on March 9, 2012  9:26 pm

            hallelujah! i completely agree and thank you for writing this! i am an artist- i have work up on the web, i have work on etsy, i have work on facebook... and i would be a FOOL to think that any of it is safe from being shared in countless ways. there are means to protect yourself and your work if you are that hell bent on not letting anyone share it. i have used pinterest a little bit and i have come across pages that must have been coded in some way to keep the images from being re-posted b/c it just kept telling me "no image visible here". but the bigger question comes back to just what you were saying... why would you put something on the internet if you wanted such control in the first place? it's just impossible and ridiculous. i *will* say that i do not agree at all w/ the idea that pinterest becomes the owner of the images that are pinned and/or that they have the right to modify any of them and/or sell any of them. that seems outrageous and i will certainly be taking a much better look at the pinterest TOS/TOU ... but just in terms of the internet in general- if you don't want everyone to see it- don't put it out there!

          • by Ron on March 10, 2012  4:30 am

            Topher, I'm sorry but you are being three kinds of naive. Things are going to get much, much worse, not better in these areas.

            In the modern age the potential for deriving income from an act of creation is fundamental to the process of capitalism. The Americans, in their legal and economic system, have created a state where the actual and potential value of a created work, or an idea is just as strongly protected as owing a diamond and significantly more protected than individual rights to safety or protection. Then they have exported that system to every other capitalist country.

            The huge resources deployed by the movie and recording industry have resulted in these legal conditions becoming even more entrenched in law and the penalities becoming even more significant (The Law of Unintended consequences strikes again). Hardly anyone in general society knew about Copyright prior to the recording and movie industries getting on their hobby horses.

            Now the act of Copyright violation has moved from simply being a civil issue (one party suing another) to being a criminal one. I don't have to sue you for violating my Copyright, I can just have you arrested and charged. In fact I can do both.

            Unless there are significant law changes and reversals (and all indications are that the laws in the US will become more draconian, not less) you aren't ever going to see ideas being freely tradeable unless their creator wants them to be,

          • by Bridge on March 21, 2012  8:49 pm

            I totally agree with you Topher. If you don't want it for the public to view and share, don't put it on the internet!

          • by H. S. Hicks on March 27, 2012  5:59 am

            You are assuming that people have chosen to post material on the Web. Just because something appears on the Web does not mean that was placed there by the owner. I have had articles I produced scanned and posted without permission. And yes, it was further copied - again without permission.

          • by Nick Marshall on April 12, 2012  2:39 am

            Topher's comment is plain common sense. The internet has introduced a new way of doing things and has, more or less, called into question all the rules of copyright. It is the new frontier. Its a bit like the way settlers ran roughshod over the North and South America or Australia in the 16th-19th centuries. There was no way to stop them. They may have been transgressing laws - the British came up with the concept of Terra Nullis for Australia which was a pretence that there was no prior ownership or right to the land - but, law or no law, there was no stopping what happened. The internet is similar. Napster might have closed down but there is still a huge amount of "stealing" via torrent sites. There are no laws which will stop that because this new frontier is just too big to police adequately. Technology has not come up with an answer yet either. The music business and the selling of music has been changed for ever as a result. Photographers can complain and talk about their copyright protection but this is the new wild west - if copyright protection cannot be enforced then it does not really exist. If you don't like this new frontier country , then stay out but you will be missing out on the huge leverage that can be gained from exposure in this free-wheeling new land of opportunity.

          • by Robert Niece on September 4, 2012  4:27 am

            Robert @ Topher your inital premise is, unfortunately, confused. Any copyrightable image, or text is isimply the manifestation and expression of an original idea. Any patentable product, design or process is the expression of an original idea. The only ideas that cannot be copyrighted, or patented are some one else's ideas. neither you, nor I can copyright Huck Finn, because Sam Clemens did, we can copy, or use it today only because he died years ago and his rights have lapsed. To try to argue that no one can own an idea, then make an exception for all original ideas, is foolish. The US economy has always worked under the principal of intellectual property rights. The concept that anyone has the right to market any idea in a free market dates only to the 1960's and the perversion of Ayn Rand's ideas. Your opening premise reminds me most of wading thru Karl Marx's labor theory of value in college: A is A, except when it is B, or maybe C, sometimes D or E, but it ought to be A.

        • by Debbie on March 24, 2012  7:04 pm

          Hi Becky,

          The problem isn't in your good intentions for your pin boards. The problem is in, do you have permission in the first place to pin that image, to your pinboard. In terms of Etsy, I would ask the individual store owner on Esty, If it would be okay to pin her or his images. It looks like Etsy wants to get in on the Pinterest bandwagon, without checking with individual store owners.

          I own my own websites, and have put a lot of work into them, so I would like the option of giving permission for people to take content or images to put on Pinterest. Not only that, I may have images on the site, that I have permission to use either because I am an affiliate, or I have license to use by the image creators, but this
          doesn't transfer to someone who saves that image from my site, so they can pin it to their Pinterest pin board,
          even if they give credit.

          Since I create web graphics, what I have done is find sites that allows for the graphics to be used because the original owner of the graphic lived 80 to 100 years ago, and the work has been placed in the public domain, because the copyright has expired, or the image owner has released the image to be used for either personal or commercial use, or sites that have images that are all in the public domain. I always read the Terms of Service or Terms of Use for images, before I even think of using them.

      • by Marcella on February 29, 2012  1:19 am

        Is there anyway of knowing if things have been "pinned" by someone else directly from Etsy? I handspin yarn, so I'm not worried about someone recreating it, and I've pinned my own listings on Pinterest [which I see now is morally wrong?], but I would just be curious to see if others have pinned from Etsy before...

        • by Linda on February 29, 2012  2:56 am

          Yes you can find out what's been pinned using this link:


          Simply change the yoursite.com to your Etsy web address.

      • by A on March 13, 2012  1:58 pm

        If it was easy enough to write a tutorial for, was it original? I've seen lots of quilt patterns that should be in the public domain, but because someone added a minor change...

        • by Debbie on March 24, 2012  8:11 pm

          Hi A,

          Being that I am always on the lookout for public domain material, for my website graphics, I run into a lot
          of people who think, that just because they make a minor change to something, they then own the copyright
          to it. Not necessarily, because a pattern in the public domain, would have to be changed up quite extensively
          so you practically didn't recognize it, from the original, for someone to claim it is an original work.

          A food recipe can't be copyrighted where it concerns the ingredients and method of fixing the food, but how one writes the recipe can be copyrighted. It is the same as the quilt pattern you mentioned. the materials and the method can't be copyrighted, unless they changed up the method to reflect something original they came up with.
          which wouldn't make it the same public domain quilt pattern.

          When I do my graphics, I create a derivative work around that public domain image, and I even do some modifying of the image, by perhaps creating a new image by adding another public domain image to it,
          that sort of makes it a new image derived from the original images. I create an original work around the
          public domain image, but I don't claim copyright to the public domain image itself, I claim copyright to the
          derivative work. Anyone could go find that public domain image, and do something themselves, with it
          I can't tell them they can't do that.

          All Walt Disney did was find old public domain fairy tales, and then changed them up to reflect a new work,
          he could copyright. He gave the Seven Dwarfs distinct original personalities and faces and names. The images were all original. Pinning an image from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, could get someone in BIG trouble. I wouldn't want to tangle with Disney's legal team. LOL but anyone could take that public domain fairy tale and do their own thing with it, as long as it was all original, and nobody could say or do anything about it.

          Anyway, these thoughts are from my own experience and certainly are not to be construed to mean I am a legal expert, because I am not. It is always best that one does their own research and ask a lawyer! lol

      • by Doris on March 13, 2012  5:10 pm

        Maybe Etsy has changed or already included something in their TOS/TOU that says, like Facebook, they have partial or full ownership/whatever to whatever you post on their site....

      • by Amelia on March 15, 2012  5:00 am

        From the U.S. gov's copyright page on Fair Use:
        "Copyright protects the particular way authors have expressed themselves. It does not extend to any ideas, systems, or factual information conveyed in a work." Someone can rightfully offer info on techniques. It might be annoying, but it's not copyright infringement to do so.


    • by Ron on March 10, 2012  4:00 am

      I would think that they are expecting you to pin if they provide the means to facilitate doing so but it isn't full 'immunity' from legal action, more implied. It would be safer for everyone if they explicitly stated that they allowed you to do so - that's the only way that you'd be completely safe.

      A limited reproduction licence or a Creative Commons Licence is the normal means for photographers and others to allow restricted reproduction of their work without completely giving away all control of it.

    • by Candice on April 2, 2012  3:24 pm

      I have an etsy shop and never once said I'd allow pins but the button is there for people to use without my permission.
      Just because the button is there, doesn't mean it was put there by a shop owner

  8. by Brandie on February 25, 2012  5:52 pm

    Thank you for taking the time to research all of this! I have some legal training, but even I forget to always read the TOU of a site I want to use! I went and deleted my Pinterest, and I'm going to re-post this on my Facebook (thanks for the permission!). Users NEED to see this info.

  9. Pingback : thoughts on pinterest – good, bad, ugly » bluebird chic

    • by Carol on May 12, 2012  6:31 pm

      My family shops for gifts for me from my pins. They source back to the origin and then go buy it there.

  10. by Kal on February 25, 2012  6:37 pm

    Love this article. So well written - exactly what my artist brain has been trying to wrap around and share. I'm out, pinterest.

  11. by tammy on February 25, 2012  7:19 pm

    Would you say that using it for recipes, crafts and home decorating would not be a good idea as well?

    • by Debbie on March 24, 2012  8:27 pm

      Hi Tammy,

      If you are taking the recipes, crafts, and home decorating off of a website, without their permission
      it would be the same. Now if you just pinned the link to the website, with the images, or recipe,
      or home decor images, I don't see how that would be a problem, unless the website owners
      don't want you linking to their website. It is best read the Terms of Use for that website, before
      you do anything. Don't assume anything. Many people think that just because you are using
      images for non commercial purposes, you can take those images, and post them somewhere else,
      users of Facebook being the largest crowd to do this, and now Pinterest. It doesn't make any
      difference what you are using the images for. I think Pinterest needs to completely overhaul
      their concept. It is a fun concept, and I think could work for everyone, but there is going to
      have to be some big changes.

  12. by Mike on February 25, 2012  7:25 pm

    Not to take the discussion off topic...however the color of your post text and your background color are so similar in contrast that this is very difficult to read. You've packed in a ton of great research and my eyes are hurting after two paragraphs. Can't do it.

    I'm on a late-2011 MacBook Air 13"--definitely not a cheap LCD. :)


    • by kirsten on February 25, 2012  9:49 pm

      Mike -- you are so right and I will freely admit that I'm not the most technically savvy person in the world. With a little help from my awesome web designer, I figured out how to change the color of the font (the toolbar was hidden from me -- sneaky!!). Thanks!!

  13. by Ernie on February 25, 2012  7:47 pm

    I've always wondered how people could think it was right and/or legal to take someone else's artwork, design, etc. and re-post it. I've never joined in the Pinterest mania for that very reason.

  14. by Erin on February 25, 2012  9:23 pm

    Thank you for writing this, and for doing all the research behind it. Honestly, I never thought about the legal aspects of it, and naively assumed that it was perfectly fine. Now, I'm thinking I need to take my boards down because I'm not really interested in getting sued by someone who got a bug up their butt (rightfully so or not) or in retaining counsel for the people at Pinterest too. I shared the link on facebook with my fellow Pinterest folks, so that they can make an informed decision.

  15. by Heather on February 25, 2012  9:29 pm

    I am glad that I am not the only one in the world who reads (and is alarmed by) terms of service. I'm opting out of some big sites because their terms are not something I'm willing to take a chance with. They WILL come back to bite us.

  16. by Ryan M on February 25, 2012  9:34 pm

    until there is ONE lawsuit I'm not going to fret about it.

  17. by Laura Mooney on February 25, 2012  10:16 pm

    thanks so much for sharing this. It seems pretty rediculous for Pinterest to get everybody all excited and it not even be a legal thing for us to use their page like we do. I am a photographer and perfectly understand the copyright issue. Thanks again for sharing.

  18. by Pauline on February 25, 2012  10:18 pm

    Thank you do much for posting this, I also have had an uneasy feeling about pineterst, but figured it must be legal if everyone is doing it. Thanks for shedding some light on it. I guess I will be only posting my own work too.

  19. by Meg on February 25, 2012  10:36 pm

    Surely if you have a 'pin it' button under your images or on your posts you are doing more than just inviting people to look at your Pinterest boards, but are actually inviting them to pin your work to Pinterest?

    • by Sarah on March 4, 2012  8:40 pm

      This is exactly what I was wondering! Isn't this an implicit transfer of license - as long as it's on YOUR picture, and not something you got off of the internet?

      • by kirsten on March 5, 2012  12:29 pm

        I would absolutely argue that if someone puts a "pin this" mark on their own work, they are consenting to its use on Pinterest.

        • by Susan on March 13, 2012  12:38 am

          Ok I love pinterest. I am a garden designer and I love to view what good ideas are out there that I can put my twist on and use for my clients. I would never say that this is my work when it wasn't. The photos of my work is not my final product, ie. I'm not selling the photos and would love to have you come to my site. Is there any burden on the photographers or artist to only post thumbnails not full resolution files? However if Pinterest is going to put the entire legal burden on me I think I will have to delete all my boards. This is upsetting to me as I wanted people to be able to see what I have done and also get a feel for my style and what I like. Is there any alternative?

    • by George on March 6, 2012  9:28 pm

      Meg, I'm a photographer and sell my photographs on a number of Print on Demand websites and those sites are quickly removing the pin buttons giving the copyright holder an opt in if they want to allow visitors to pin their work. The problem is not the idea of Pinterest as such, it's the T&C that's causing so much anger amongst photographers.

      Those T&C forbid the pinning of an image without the my consent. Pinterest supply code to block pinning from my website but place the onus on me to insert the code to stop the illegal activity of their business.

      How is Pinterest making money from this social enterprise? Is it from the publics innocent gathering of copyrighted images illegally for their own use?

  20. by Emily on February 25, 2012  11:07 pm

    I believe Pinterest now has a code that anyone can put on their site which does not allow any pins to be taken from it.

    I find that very sad that someone would sue someone else because of this matter. It means people are liking their photos and it's not meant to gain profit. Since there is so much backlash against Pinterest for this. I bet they are already coming up with solutions and we won't need to worry about it.

    I really don't understand why someone would not want their content being pinned. As long as you are putting it out on the internet, you obviously want people to see it. Every once in awhile I'll see one of my recipes linked to a different source and I'll leave the correct direct link, but the 1,000's of other pins that are linking to my site make up for the few ones that don't.

    • by Lucretia Pruitt on February 27, 2012  9:52 am

      Emily: Just FYI - Pinterest is not a non-profit. http://mashable.com/2012/02/08/pinterest-revenue/ There is money involved. Not everyone feels the same way you do.
      But Kirsten addressed that when she wrote above: "My initial response is probably the same as most of yours: “why not? I’m giving them credit and it’s only creating more exposure for them and I LOVE when people pin my stuff!” But then I realized, I was unilaterally making the decision FOR that other photographer. And I thought back to the thread on Facebook where the photographers were complaining about clients posting photos without their consent and I realized this rationale is no different than what those clients argue: “why can’t I post them – it’s just more exposure for you.” Bottom line is that it is not my decision to make. Not legally and not ethically."

    • by Joe on February 27, 2012  1:13 pm

      While I agree with you in a world where no one makes money off of their work or websites, the fact of the matter is how and where the user finds the copyrighted work on the internet generates revenue for the site that it is on. If you copy someone's work and share it on Pinterest, guess what, Pinterest makes money off of it and the creator doesn't. If you ask me, the creators of Pinterest are intentionally setting up a service to put people at risk. It is along the lines of a pawn shop owner who knows that guy that brings in a stereo every Friday stole it. And even worse, they make the user 100% responsible for the both of them and condone using their site in a legal manner by sharing your own work. Ya, you are just sharing and giving the copyright holder exposure, but the issue is someone is profiting off of their work without their permission or even knowledge.

      • by Princess on March 3, 2012  7:43 pm

        But how is that different from a search engine? They make a profit by linking to your site too. And there's no rules that you have to opt into a search engine's listings.

    • by Mike white on February 29, 2012  12:58 pm

      I like for people to view my work. But I'm the one who decides what, when, and where. If I hang my artwork in a gallery, I am giving you permission and I am encouraging you to publicly view my work.....but if you try to take it off the wall and walk out with it, you better believe that I'm calling the cops! Know what I mean?

      • by Princess on March 3, 2012  7:45 pm

        But pinning isn't like taking the picture and hanging it on your wall. It's like saving a link to a person's website where the person is looking to share their work with the world. The picture is just a way for a person to remember what they liked about the website they are linking to.

      • by Christina on April 13, 2012  11:58 am

        If you hang a work in a gallery and someone sees it and tells a friend to go see it too because it's awesome, then would you consider that a problem? Pinterest is just that. I don't understand what this fuss is because people are just sharing websites. It's a different kind of search engine. Why have a website if you don't want anyone to view it. People aren't stealing, but they are saying hey come check out this cool thing I just found. Are you going to sue google for posting links back to your site? You put it online for the whole world to see. So why are you mad that people are putting links to your site on pinterest? The argument that an artist may not want to share loses all merit because they've put it on the internet to share. Blah blah blah, bunch of people crying over nothing. Sue me!

    • by MoLiver on March 1, 2012  12:18 am

      So do artists implicitly give away the rights to their work if they DON'T block Pinterest? I don't think the new opt out that Pinterest has introduced mitigates the issues here in any way because I don't think the ability to choose NOT to have your work stolen is legally the same thing as agreeing that it's ok TO have your work stolen.

      I would LOVE a legal take on this though.

    • by George on March 6, 2012  9:33 pm

      Emily, you're not pinning images to make a profit but Pinterest are making money from your pinned images. Pinterest have put a huge amount of money into this venture and have rich backers. How do you think they are going to get a return from millions of pinned images?

    • by Gail on March 21, 2012  9:44 am

      People put photos on their websites to complement their content and attract people to their website.....which they may well have put full time effort into, to earn an income! Some people seem to forget that for many their websites are their business. If PInterest has a negative affect on their business they have every right to be very upset.Just because it is accessible does not mean anyone has the right to copy it, any more than you can copy the photos and writing in a book (unless it is in the public domain)....which is equally out there for people.It is for the owner of the photo to decide where they want their work....not someone they don't even know.

      Pinterest strips all megadata etc which means the owner does not get credit ...I know people who have had this happen. And Pinterest say they have the right to SELL anything on their website. Do you know if the photo you have pinned has been bought from a stock agency with limits on it's use. No, you don't unless you contact the owner where you saw the photo. You may think what you are doing is innocent. Without the permission of the owner....it is not.....Which is why Kirsten has written this to alert people to the implications of belonging and using Pinterest. .

  21. by Genevieve on February 25, 2012  11:13 pm

    So let me get this straight... You shouldn't pin your own stuff on Pinterest, and you're not allowed to pin other people's stuff. Yup. Makes sense.

    By the way, Pinterest has made available code you can put in your website to prevent pinning, and Yahoo has added that code to Flickr (I just tried it and it works).

    • by Mackenzie on February 27, 2012  4:43 pm

      All Flickr photos or just the ones that are "all rights reserved"? It'd make sense to me to allow pinning on the Flickr photos that the owner has put under a Creative Commons license. That's what Creative Commons is for!

      • by Elaine on February 29, 2012  4:15 am

        Mackenzie, Creative Commons is not a license to take something without permission and put it on a commercial site (and as noted above, Pinterest is a for-profit site with a commercial interest). Creative Commons has very specific terms and licenses that you must follow. It is not an abdication of copyright.

        Thanks for this article -- I'm sadly deleting my boards now. I was trying to rationalize that it was okay and it's pretty impossible to do that after reading this.

        • by Princess on March 3, 2012  7:48 pm

          But (again) I come back to search engines being for-profit, and you not having to opt-in to them. As I see it, a pin is just a link to the artist's website, no different than a search engine is.

  22. by Mark b on February 25, 2012  11:57 pm

    Hi Kirsten, thank you so much for all your hard work and effort in researching, compiling and writing your article. I joined Pinterest but have yet to learn enough about it or post anything. I learned it holds good value for further networking my business. After reading your article and gaining the benefit of all your efforts I will no longer be considering Pinterest at all. Full stop! This for no other reason than simply their ethics and morality, or lack there of. They know the situation they are putting people in and are exploiting that. As you say, their concept is certainly something to love and it's success speaks for itself. However, when you are prepared to put the unwary public, and I'm sure they would realise most people don't either read the full terms and conditions and/or that they are not lawyers and even if they did read it all, more than likely would not fully understand much or any of the implications to them, in a legally compromising situation. When Pinterest are prepared to put people in legal jeopardy for their own gain, I find that unethical and immoral. In light of what you have brought to my attention (your efforts now make me more informed) I will not even consider its use as it stands (at least, that is, until, they can reassure me they want to show me they care about, consider and protect my interests too, legally and otherwise). Thank you again Kirsten. I am so glad you have made the effort you did. Your showing of your ethics and moral standing by taking up what most would have just passed over is more than commendable (and so necessary). I thank you so much for doing so. Now if only it was you who were running Pinterest.

  23. by Leah on February 26, 2012  12:03 am

    Why don't all you photographers band together in a group and make your own agreement that grants everyone permission to post each other's work so all of you get exposure without undue criticism.

    In this day and age, you have to get your heads together and make your own opportunities without getting into trouble. Having your own resident attorney in the group helps too.

  24. by Di-licious on February 26, 2012  12:13 am

    As much as I love Pinterest, I always wondered about the copyright issues with re-pinning and sharing [embedding] in blog posts.

    Given its popularity we all assumed Pinterest was legit to use. Having read your post now though, I'm also going to delete my boards [sob] and bookmark the awesome ideas I saw instead - old school.

    Thanks for the permission to share your research on Facebook - I will.

  25. by tricia on February 26, 2012  12:20 am

    Oh- boy. I just got on pinterest. Learned to love it. And now this. Thanks. But, I really mean that. Thanks because this is excellent research. :)

  26. by Lee-Ann on February 26, 2012  12:20 am

    It is just like sites that have a FB or TW button - the site owner can place P button with code to their site.

    I got this link off of Bing search for "how to put a pinterest button on your website"
    By sharing this I hope it's not copyrighted somehow. Would not want anyone getting their panties in a wad.


  27. by Dana on February 26, 2012  12:22 am

    I would like to think that if you wrote this piece you would want to at least reveal your name and credentials so everyone reading your comments could decide the weight of your opinion on this matter.

    • by Andrea on February 27, 2012  7:55 am

      Why would that matter, Dana? This article quotes terms of service which can be checked. If it's the interpretation of the facts that is concerning you then go check out the other comments all over the web on the legalities of Pinterest. Just cos this person hasn't put their name, doesn't mean they are wrong or being shady. There is widespread disaproval of Pinterest for copyright reasons out there. I appreciate the enormous effort this person has gone to to comment on this issue. And I assume that perhaps she doesn't want to be the unwilling figurehead of a Pinterest backlash. Anyway, it's for us all to make our own minds up. Peace. Andrea

    • by Mackenzie on February 27, 2012  4:48 pm

      According to the contact page on this domain, the owner is Kirsten Kowalski. At the end of the post, she says she's a lawyer, so I guess you can feel free to check each state's online records of who passed the bar each year if you don't believe her.

  28. by katepickle on February 26, 2012  12:44 am

    Great article! Thanks for actually addressing the legal issues and making some sense out of them. It's all a tad scary really... especially since I am totally addicted to pinterest.

    If pinterest allowed you to make boards private would that take away some of the legal issues?

    Are these same issues also inherent in sites like 'We Heart It' and some of the Tumbler blogs that blog and reblog images that they don't own?

    As a blogger I know that often people assume that if the link back to where they found the image then that covers them.... I guess we are all assuming something similar with pinterest. I should know better, but I guess I enjoy pinterest so much that I didn't want to see it....

    • by Jenny on February 29, 2012  11:55 pm

      I agree, Kate. I use pinterest for myself, so I do not have to have a thousand bookmark files on my computer. I would use it for my own use only, if it was allowed. It has made finding things really easy for me, which is VERY important as a home schooling mom. Now I have to rethink it all. :(

    • by Princess on March 3, 2012  7:59 pm

      I would absolutely privatize my boards to avoid anything like this too. I'm not particularly interested in the social aspect of Pinterest for sharing my own likes etc., but I do enjoy checking out what other people are interested in. However, I'd give that up if it meant no more whingeing!

  29. by Stacie on February 26, 2012  12:49 am

    Thank you for the in-sightful post. I guess kind of like doing a research paper as long as you gave credit where credit was due (i.e. linking back to the site the original was from) it was ok to post it on pinterest. I always make sure to give credit, although I know not everyone does the same sadly. I see where all of this comes from but in all honestly it makes me sad. I get that people's work is important but if one is giving them credit and not taking the credit for themselves I guess I don't see the big deal. I am not sure what I am going to do with this info, but I am glad to have it.
    WITH that said, what about just LIKING the pins instead of re-pinning them?? IS that something that would be ok to do so that I would still have the info I like/need for ideas and such but not be doing anything illegal???

    • by Jennelle Dippel on February 28, 2012  5:24 pm

      I'm also curious if "liking" pins is a different story... And what about the thought of private pin boards? Would those be infringing on copyright? I know it would change the concept of PInterest, but would still be more convenient than bookmarks...

      Great article!

    • by Debbie on March 24, 2012  8:50 pm

      Hi Stacie,

      What makes it a big deal, is that you have to ask permission of the image owner, or check the website's terms of use, before you use an image, even if you are giving credit to the image owner. Sometimes, when one owns a website, all the images on that website do not belong to them personally. They have that image on the website, most likely by permission, but they can't pass that permission on to others. If they have images that they didn't ask permission to use, or were granted license to use, and you copy it, then you are copying an image the website owner had no permission to use, but this information everyone should research for themselves, and I appreciate this blog owner taking the time to educate everyone.

  30. by Stefania on February 26, 2012  1:15 am

    Thank you for posting this article and taking the high road.
    The concept of Copyright is certainly very complex and froth with grey areas especially for artists and photographers who make a living with their craft and need its protection especially in today's technology age.
    How can we invoke the protection of the law and then infringe it when it suits us even if we're doing it with the best of intentions.
    That old saying comes to mind: "The road to hell is paved with good intentions"...

  31. by april on February 26, 2012  2:02 am

    Thank you for writing this article. I've just shared it on both my professional and personal facebook pages. I've had concerns over copyright since the beginning, feeling uneasy, but, loving the site nonetheless. Especially for the ease of saving recipes for easy access. After reading this, you've helped me to make the decision to delete my boards. I will probably still go to the site to look at all the pretty pictures, but I have decided that I will no longer participate in pinning and repinning. I really appreciate you taking the time to break down all the legal speak so that we can understand what we've agreed to. Thank you!

  32. by Jojoebi on February 26, 2012  2:07 am

    Interesting article, thank you for simplifying the legal mumbo jumbo! If anyone, photographers or otherwise really don't want their work pinned interest do provide code for you to put on your site that will prevent your images being pinned.

    I won't be losing any sleep over this issue until law suits actually arise, I love interest from both side of the coin, I enjoy inspiration browsing and I also love the amount of traffic that literary sends to my site.

  33. by Jay on February 26, 2012  2:41 am

    Very interesting to read!!!!

    So, um....can I pin this page? ;-) LOL

  34. by Dave on February 26, 2012  3:01 am

    All of these concerns are valid, but not completely under the context of social networks.

    When you "share" something, you are merely sharing the fact that you *found* something on the internet which you would like others to know of. You are not *taking* the original work and representing it otherwise, even if you don't bother to cite the source (in fact, the act of sharing it points to the assumed original location, and inherently cites it with the link back to it, technically.)

    Social networks may do things to optimize the display of these items that are shared (fair-use such as thumbs, etc.), but they are in no way serving the original content - the site is merely pointing to it.

    To me, this article seems to miss that specific point. When using something like Pinterest (or Tumbler, or Facebook, etc.) you are simply telling your "friends" something like: "Hey! I really like this picture I found somewhere. Check it out.", and Pinterest (or Tumber, or Facebook) makes it easy for your friends to look at what it is you actually found.

    The "Member Content" as mentioned in the terms is most certainly something *you create* (like your commentary about a share), and affirm you own *that* -- not that you own/have rights to/etc. what you are pointing too. What you are pointing to is simply that -- a bookmark to something cool, inspirational, etc.

    • by Dana on February 26, 2012  11:38 pm

      That's kind of what I was thinking... On pinterest, you're not actually generally "posting" anything- you're simply linking to it, with a kind of thumbnail. So I don't really see how that would be infringement. I mean, is it simply because of the photos that it's an issue? If it was just a forum of links, would we even be having these conversations?

      • by Flynn on February 27, 2012  3:41 pm

        On pinterest, you’re not actually generally “posting” anything- you’re simply linking to it, with a kind of thumbnail.

        And by 'kind of' you mean 'not actually a thumbnail'. A thumbnail is a small image that gives people a preview to click on. Pinterest *copies and saves* a very large image. So a) people have no need to click through and see the original, b) it's saved to Pinterest's servers, so the original being taken down won't affect the Pinterest copy and c) it can actually compete against the original image in searches (and this is a huge deal for people who depend on their images AS their content).

        Quite apart from all the problems with credit.

        • by stephaniemz on February 28, 2012  3:10 am

          That's not true. Once someone removes the post, you lose the picture on pinterest. I lost several recipes to this.

        • by Rachel on February 29, 2012  3:26 pm

          How is this any different from what a search engine like Google does? We as Pinterest users are doing almost exactly what search engine bots do...except we do it manually. All of you who bring up ethics on this issue are completely overlooking the fact that every single search engine out there COPIES your content and displays it for others in their search results WITHOUT your permission - images off all sizes. Want proof? http://tinyurl.com/83eoqnw

          The only thing you can do to prevent that from happening is to take action on your end to limit accessibility. My feelings about this? If you don't want your content shared on the web, either limit accessibility or take it down altogether. It's one thing to have a problem with people passing your work off as their own. It's quite another to sue some sorority girl because she thought a picture on your website was cute and decided to share an image link to it with others. This is where current copyright law needs to be made more applicable to the true nature of the web. Sharing content that credits and links back to the source should be an acceptable standard online. Copyright owners either need to get on board with that...or take technical measures on their own sites to prevent sharing of their content.

          • by Rhonda W on February 29, 2012  6:48 pm

            I agree with you. I thought artists, photographers, magazines, etc would be happy because pinning actually drove people to their websites. If I create something and I put it one the internet doesn't that mean I want others to see it? Most people don't go pass the first 2 pages when they use a search engine so my stuff would never been seen. Congress will soon be voting on infringement laws and I'll be watching in case I have to close my account.

          • by Chris on February 29, 2012  9:33 pm

            Google doesn't say they now own the content or have the right to sell it either. Comparison is a big FAIL.

          • by Sue on March 1, 2012  5:21 pm

            Facebook had the same "owning the images" language in their TOU -- is everybody gonna bail from marketing your work on Facebook too?? And bail from Etsy where anyone can right click and save your pictures - with no link back I might add...?? And bail from your own websites and blogs where people can share your photos all over the web?? If you put your work on the web - watermark it, link it, sign it -- do whatever you can... but don't naively think getting rid of Pinterest will stop the sharing of your work. Protect yourself! Most people's websites I look at don't have ANY sort of watermark or protection and they are the first to complain when someone steals it! It's like laying a dollar down on the street and then suing someone for stealing when they pick it up! UGH!!! Protect yourself and go back to the work of creating!

          • by amanda on March 2, 2012  8:11 pm

            very well said. totally agree!

          • by Jane on March 16, 2012  2:06 am

            I agree with you. Anyone can sue anyone for anything but that doesn't mean it's a valid suit or that they will win! Unfortunately,we have become such a litigious society that honest people are penalized for participating in activities born from honest intentions.

            I don't know much about the Internet but even I know that if I post something on the great WWW there is a very high probability it will be shared without my consent. In essence, by putting an image on my blog, I am giving permission for other's to share it. Isn't that what social media is all about? This is a good example of why people have a love/hate relationship with lawyers.

            I personally plan to continue with my Pinterest Boards. By the time the lawyers and/or Pinterest figure out which way is up, there will be a new fad to catch my fancy and Pinterest will go the way of MYSPACE. There's always a new kid on the block and a lawyer to figure out a way to get their piece of the pie. I will not live my life in fear that PINTEREST is going to be my doomsday. I just survived and F-3 Tornado.

        • by Princess on March 3, 2012  8:11 pm

          I would imagine that most people who are trying to make their living via art posted on the web would have a digital watermark on the art they post for that reason, or at least a signature on the art. If not, it seems to me to be akin to posting a photo on all the grocery store bulletin boards and phone poles in town and then being absolutely shocked when someone nabs a copy. Or like leaving the keys to your car in the door lock. Sure, someone is stealing your car and that's wrong, but you're kind of silly for thinking it wouldn't happen and for not taking any precautions.

        • by Sophie on April 21, 2012  5:28 pm

          Flynn - totally agreed. People are missing the point - you have not! The thumbnail that you get when you share on Facebook is tiny and encourages people to click on the link and go to the actual site to see the photo (ditto with the thumbnail on Google and search engines). The pinterest shot is big enough that someone is unlikely to click through to the site (same with tumblr and weheartit and there the original link seems to get lost along the re-shares and eventually the copyright owner gets no credit or even views of the original).

          It seems that the commenters on here are split in two: those who create copyrighted creative work and do not want their work stolen or used without permission and those who like to use other peoples' work for free or without having to make any effort to ask permission and say that the owners should lighten up and expect their work to be stolen if it's in the public domain. As Kirsten (brilliant article, by the way!) says, it is up to the owner of the work to choose how it is shared, not for this assumption to be made by someone else.

    • by Liz on February 28, 2012  4:35 pm

      I completely agree with this.

      Also, along the Napster analogy, those people were stealing those songs AND had copies of them on their personal hard drives etc, AND were giving them to other people AND denying the music industry a chance to make money from the song. So unless you are saving all these pictures (for resale, or anything), AND these pictures were for sale by the owner, I don't think there is a case.

      Lastly, correct me if I'm wrong, but doesn't the copyright holder have to issue you with a cease and desist order before proceeding with a case? And if you fail to comply then you can be sued? And they would also have to put a dollar value on the damages you caused them. What would that be, and how do you determine that when you gave the info/image away for free by posting it on the open internet?

      • by Jk on June 29, 2012  9:44 am

        Agreed...If its not for sale and no money is changing hands how is this stealing?

    • by Kim on February 29, 2012  4:00 am

      Dave, I think the point is that websites like Pinterest claim ownership of copyrighted content in their TOUs that they don't necessarily have a right to. And on Pinterest, sharing is definitely not limited to bookmarking. You can download someone's work (like people do with my scrapbook designs) and then upload them to Pinterest from your computer, where the files will reside on Pinterest's servers potentially forever--with or without the copyright owner's permission.

      I believe that Kirsten has understood and explained well the heart of this precedent-setting matter in a way that the rest of us missed. She has seen the emperor naked, and we villagers would do well to take a second look.

      • by Princess on March 3, 2012  8:19 pm

        Actually, the TOU states that the POSTER must own the material and that Pinterest is absolved of any fault or legal ramifications. That's pretty standard legal terms, from what I understand. They're not going to take the fall if someone else uses their site in a manner that pisses someone else off. If you post ANYWHERE on the web, people can link to, share, download and save your work unless you take precautions. But the impetus is on YOU, as the artist, because you put the work out there and can't control everyone in the world and too much regulation destroys the free and open internet concept. See the whole battle over SOPA/PIPA.

    • by Ruth on March 1, 2012  12:57 pm

      Thank God! A voice of reason amongst the frenzy.

  35. by Susan on February 26, 2012  3:26 am

    Very well written! I was a paralegal for 8 years and I love what my lawyer always said--if it's on the web it's out of your control. WATERMARK your images!

    I don't think I'll go as far as to delete my boards but I know I make sure that all of my pins link back to the owner's site. If at all possible I try to create new pins directly from sites I visit.

  36. by CoreyTess on February 26, 2012  4:32 am

    I always credit photographers when I post their stuff and it is odd that people feel it is wrong to post your own stuff to pinterest. i think it is only wrong if you don't say that it is your stuff.

    I pin other peoples work and always try to link back, hashtag, help them promote their stuff... but when I post my own stuff as a wardrobe stylists.. it is in a folder called "My Wardrobe Styling Portfolio" and I think that is pretty straight-forward.

    Now the danger is that after I post someone's work with credit, someone else repins and removes the links and then someone else finds it and tumbls it and someone takes it from there and posts it to posterous and from there it runs through networked blogs and ends up on twitter and is cycled to G+ etc.. by the time it makes its rounds, who knows the origin... watermark your images.. but unless you slap that sucker over the most attractive part of the photo.. you still risk that terrible photo cropper who lurks out there...

    It is a world of sharing.... and a world of wanting to be shared... it's gonna get messy

    • by Amanda on February 27, 2012  1:10 pm

      exactly. you can take all the precautions you want, but once you put it out there all bets are off.

  37. by Amy on February 26, 2012  5:16 am

    I always thought of Pinterest as a visual "bookmark". I thought that was the purpose. Clearly I'm wrong but what makes it different than a bookmark? The fact that it's public? I really do want to know. I don't want to be doing anything illegal or hurtful but I have a lot of recipes I will need to bookmark before deleting my Pinterest account. :-(

    • by Tay on February 28, 2012  1:00 am

      I agree. Maybe I'm missing something. I also " bookmark"
      on YouTube. YouTube gives me the option to share a video.
      If the original poster/creator/YouTube has a problem with it
      they make the content unavailable . Surely a similar system
      could be adapted for Pinterest.
      Why start a frenzy post where we may all be sued?
      Most of us are just looking for a little inspiration for items
      that we will never make anyway.
      To compare Pinterest with the free music site fiasco
      is comparing apples and oranges IMO.

      • by Wally on February 28, 2012  6:46 pm

        I agree with both of you, by pinning something you're not taking it and claiming it as yours, you're just saying "Hey this is cool maybe you should check this out". When you look at the pin it links to the page you got it from, I don't see how a pin in any way implies that it is your own material that is showing.

        • by Chris on February 29, 2012  2:20 pm

          Because the TOS/TOU say that if you pin it, you own it. Then the TOS/TOU goes on to say that whatever you pin, Pinterest now owns to the extent that watermarks/logos can be removed, metadata/ownership info gets stripped from the file and they, Pinterest, get to sell the image. Thank you for taking food from my 4 yr old Autistic son's mouth.

          • by Princess on March 3, 2012  8:27 pm

            Oh my god! What did Pinterest sell of yours?! I can't believe they really did that to you! Please show me where they did! Oh, they didn't do that to you? Or anyone you know? Or anyone you've ever actually heard of? Really?
            It's one thing to point out what MIGHT happen. However, with that comment, you're just being a drama queen.

      • by Tash on July 2, 2012  5:01 am

        Hahaha Tay, this made me laugh out loud!! I can so relate to the comment we look for "inspiration for items we will never make!!" hahahha love it!

  38. by Viktoria Michaelis on February 26, 2012  5:36 am

    there are other reasons, carefully outlined in Pinterest's TOU, why photographers and others should reconsider exactly what they upload, whether it is their property or not:

    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.

    So Cold Brew Labs can take any of your personal work, forever, and sell it for their own profit without giving you, since you agreed to the TOU, any share of that profit.


    • by Rick DeNatale on February 27, 2012  11:26 pm

      Yes, this another side of the pinterest coin.

      Not only do the TOS have you grant the the rights to sell your 'member content' whether you have the right to do that or not, but as far as I can tell if you download a photo from pinterest you aren't guaranteed to get the EXIF meta-information.

      So let's say you normally publish your photos elsewhere, say google+ or Flickr and put a copyright and perhaps a creative commons license in the EXIF data.

      Then someone pins it, and someone else downloads the picture from the pin. There is no claim of copyright in the downloaded file. So an 'innocent' downloader might assume he is free to do anything with the photo.

      Lots of people from lowly amateurs like me, to well known photographers like Trey Ratcliff use social sites to put our works in front of others, with copyrights and a creative commons licence restricted to non-commercial use with attribution and perhaps without permitting derivative works. Trey makes a good deal of money this way when people who want to use his work commercially come to him for the appropriate paid license.

      It just is sad that Pinterest just doesn't seem to care, or worse.

      • by Jenn on February 29, 2012  7:17 pm

        The EXIF data are definitely stripped. I've tried this with my own photos and have never ever ever seen the EXIF preserved upon pinning.

    • by Russell Nelson on February 28, 2012  12:18 am

      Not only that, Viktoria, but you'll notice that the license is perpetual and irrevocable. So anything that Kirsten uploaded of her own work is now licensed to Pinterest without any limits that I can see, even though she canceled her account. Once done, never undone.

      • by kirsten on February 28, 2012  12:49 am

        Russell, just to clarify, I did not cancel my account. My work is there -- I am just pinning my own work and work I have a license to use, at least until they fix things or the law becomes a little more clear. I love when people Pin my stuff! I do a little happy dance if someone likes my work enough to pin it. Also, my reading of the TOU is that when I put my work on the site, I give Pinterest a license to use the work on the site only. Not unlimited. What I would like them to do is transfer that license to other users so other people can feel safe in pinning my work to their boards. I am confused as to why they don't do this. Maybe I'll call them tomorrow to find out. I'll keep ya posted!

    • by Princess on March 3, 2012  8:31 pm

      I'm betting all of our website's host has similar provisions, simply to cover their heinies.

  39. by SWJenn on February 26, 2012  6:33 pm

    The only thing I haven't seen addressed here is how to pin PROPERLY and why on earth would a photographer upload a high-res image?

    To take those backwards: Why upload high-res?
    Most photographers understand just how much the internet and social networking can help their business. Otherwise they wouldn't post photos at all, and not incur any risk. However, the best photogs also understand that what most people are looking for when they are browsing the web are composition and lighting. Both of those can be well represented with a lower-res image. You can post thumbnails, linked to higher-res (but still not printable resolution) images on a click-thru. This is the smartest, safest way to promote your work, and many, many professionals use it. So - the upshot is: don't put out there what you don't want shared, and understand that the sharing is in your best interest so it's a measured risk you take. Kinda like celebrities who don't like paparazzi. You won't be famous without them, so you have to put up will a reasonable amount of it for the benefits it brings you.
    Which leads us to...

    How to pin PROPERLY:
    NEVER click through to an image, right click to pull up the 'view image' source, then pin that image. When you do that, and someone views your pin on Pinterest, and they click on it to see where you got it, all they will see is the highest res version of the image that was posted.
    What you SHOULD to is when you are on the page that displays the image, hit your Pin It bookmarklet. That will capture the url to that page, letting people who click on your pin to visit the photographer's website, see the image as they've chosen it to be presented, and possibly explore more.

    Is that a copyright violation? As we've seen, it's very close to fair use, but unclear. Still, as a professional, I'm more than happy to have my work pinned properly. Will some people just snag the image as is? Maybe. But they can do that with a Google Image search. At least this way I'm getting good exposure to people who might not have seen my work anyway, and tons of hits to my website (not to mention inbound links which raises me in search algorithms) so in my opinion it's all good. I will continue to pin my own stuff when it seems appropriate, and encourage you to pin away too!

    • by JA on March 2, 2012  3:51 am

      So if a photographer puts his or her photos up on Pinterest, and someone else repins the photos & notes the photographer's name in the annotation, is that a problem? After all, the pin goes to the photographer's site and the photographer's name is included in the pin's annotation. If a photographer puts photographers on Pinterest and the pinner follows the correct protocols for acknowledgement of the source, how is that illegal? It seems legal, after all.

  40. by Sadie on February 26, 2012  6:44 pm

    I watermark my photos. If they get shared, I'm happy as long as people aren't claiming them as their own. Unfortunately with the way the web works in this day and age, posting pictures online at all (not just on Pinterest) is going to work the same way.

  41. by Stephen D. Williams on February 26, 2012  7:34 pm

    I'm a (somewhat) well read (in certain areas) pro se legal layman. (And I've won a few things in court, unassisted.) I also was also a semi-pro weekend photographer (several weddings, portraits) in the recent past. I read everything I could a few years ago on legality of photography, and I've read about copyright, trademark, and patents for many years, starting long ago with many Devil's Advocate articles by Stan Kelly-Bootle.

    “the fair use of a copyrighted work … for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship or research, is not an infringement of copyright.”

    the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
    the nature of the copyrighted work;
    the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
    the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

    "Commercial nature" has very specific meanings with respect to photography. For instance, a commercial for-profit publishing company can publish a photograph of you and just about anything else without permission or payment if the use is journalistic. That is not a "commercial nature". However, a company cannot use a photograph of you in an advertisement without payment. A news organization does have to respect copyright of photographers to publish their images if they haven't already been published, however I don't believe any payment is necessary for restricted use if one organization holds up another's publication, on air for instance. They are then reporting on something already published, and that is, I think, fair use. (There's a lot of other interesting caselaw about photography that many people would be surprised at. For instance, anything in plain view from public areas can be photographed legally (with certain narrow exceptions). But you can't photograph into someone's house, if you are using a "powerful" zoom lens.)

    Something like Pinterest seems, to me, to always fall into one of these categories: "for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship or research". The whole point is to comment or report on something, or provide positive criticism. It is also a way to report on something already published. Although I agree with a lot of the above analysis and suggested improvements to their contracts, I think most Pinterest use is likely to be protected by copyright limits of owner's control.

    Stephen D. Williams, sdw@lig.net

    Anyone can file a lawsuit for just about anything. That doesn't make it valid. I feel that people should be taught the basics of the legal system, starting in high school, so that they can self-defend against frivolous suits or challenge wrongs in an efficient way.

    Also posted at: http://pro-se.org

    • by Erik on February 29, 2012  4:27 pm

      I completely agree with this. You could make a very strong argument that pinning falls under the fair use exception as the very deed of pinning expresses an opinion of the pinned work. Be it positive or negative it would always express something along the lines of 'I (dis)like this picture' have a look at it. That in itself constitutes as a comment.

      That said: you are a lawyer yourself, so at least you would have the ability to defend yourself in court. Is it okay to just step aside just for the eventuality of being sued? If that is the case then why don't we just stop living..

      • by Chris on February 29, 2012  9:36 pm

        The problem is you transfer ownership of the item being pinned to Pinterest who then has the right to modify and sell the item. All of this can be done without the original artist even knowing that it's happened.

        • by Gail on March 21, 2012  10:15 am

          Exactly Chris.....why can't people get that it isn't just about what they do. The TOC gives PInterest rights to use photos that have been pinned,. but are not owned by the pinner. There is a wider responsibility here. Which Pinterst has made sure falls back on the pinner....not them.

  42. by Rita on February 26, 2012  7:52 pm

    I LOVE going through everyone's beautiful photographs. I find lovely photo's, then I go to the owners facebook page or website and sit for hours in amazement at the talent of others. Sometimes I "friend" the photographer to tell them how fabulous I think they are. Then I get inspired and take my camera out into the world. It is a shame that this little dark cloud will change that. I have found many very talented people and looked at some gorgeous work and for that, I'm thankful. I hope there is a way to continue this new found obsession without having to seek legal council. Thanks so much for sharing this information. One more example of how we just don't think to read the small print.

    • by Sophie Carr on April 21, 2012  5:41 pm

      An easy way to appreciate (and bookmark) peoples' photos is by marking them as favourites in flickr. Then no-one's stealing anything from anyone! I don't think you need a pro ($) account for that.

  43. by vivienne on February 26, 2012  8:12 pm

    Thank you! I want to add the No Pin code for web sites (though why we need to do this seems ridiculous)

  44. by Marisa on February 26, 2012  8:29 pm

    Thank you so much for posting this. I would really hate to delete all my boards, but keeping them is certainly not worth being sued. I keep waiting for Pinterest to respond to all of this by revising their TOS, but I won't hold out much longer. Scary stuff.

  45. by Lauren Wagoner on February 26, 2012  8:30 pm

    Thanks for sharing :) I too always thought of it as a bookmark in a way... since the pins would direct you back to the site where you saw it... promoting each other. I never thought of it differently. I have been on the other side though, finding my images on other sites and blogs with no citations or with the logo removed from the image and its not the best feeling :) I appreciate you taking the time to educate us all more on this subject... we overlook it way too much!

  46. by Carly on February 26, 2012  8:34 pm

    Thanks for taking the time to research all of this.

    I personally wonder how this works with UK law (I need some nice UK Lawyers to research it for me now!)

    I buy a licence for photos from a news agency for a celebrity blog I run. It gets hundreds of pins a day but I can't do anything to stop them. I don't want to agency getting annoyed at me for the hundreds of copyright violations on Pinterest. In my contract it says I have to take all "reasonable" action to stop people using the images, which I think I have. I don't have a pin button on the site for starters!

    I wonder if they'd threaten legal action against Pinterest at some point? I know they take it VERY seriously - I'm not even allowed to post the pics on my Facebook page.

    Did you know that Pinterest, allegedly, use affiliate skimming plugins to turn any product you pin into an affiliate link so they make a profit if someone else buys? I read it on a post. They don't declare it anywhere either. I know in the UK you have to adhere to the ASA code, though in the US I'm sure there's an equivalent.

    • by Carly on February 26, 2012  8:37 pm

      Yes, it's the FTC affiliate disclosure I'm thinking off in the US

  47. by kelly on February 26, 2012  8:51 pm

    *sigh* i am so bummed. i love pinterest. it just sucks that a few bad apples spoil the bunch. i would guess that 99.5% of pinterest users are just like me and love the "bookmark" aspect - a visual bookmark. and that we could share fun ideas with our girlfriends. not one of my friends is out there trying to make money off of someone else's idea. have we tried new recipes? fun craft projects? new hairstyles? learned how to take better photos of our kiddos? absolutely! that is the beauty and joy of pinterest. but now, geez, all this effing baggage. makes something fun and turns it into an ugly mess. i don't know what to do, but i sure don't want to get sued by some crafter/photog who thinks i'm trying to take his/her business away. *sigh*

    • by Chris on February 27, 2012  4:30 pm

      Unfortunately, Pinterest IS the bad apple with their TOS. I wouldn't care if people shared my work on a Pinterest if they, Pinterest, didn't say they now own my work that gets pinned. And they know they are pushing the boundaries on Copyright Infringement because in their TOS the pinner agrees to be responsible for ALL wrong doing and ALL financial penalties. Once Pinterest removes all offending language in their TOS, then it will be a great place.....but you still have to get permission from the content owner to Pin It.

      • by Princess on March 3, 2012  8:51 pm

        So does every other website. They're not going to take any chances that you'll blame them for any misdoing when you post to their site/use their servers/use their services. Just use the "do not pin" code on your site and be done with it. Or better yet, sell your work in person if you're worried about this. You should probably not risk the internet.

  48. by NH on February 26, 2012  9:06 pm

    I think that you answered your own question:

    17 U.S.C. §107 states that “the fair use of a copyrighted work … for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship or research, is not an infringement of copyright.”

    Pinning a photograph that is appropriately linked back to the original poster and making a comment about that photograph is not an infringement of copyright. Just like posting on your blog someone else's work and then linking back to the original site would not be an infringement either.

    It's when people take photos off of other peoples sites and then putting it on their site without citing the original person is when it becomes copyright infringement whether it is Pinterest, a blog, a website, a magazine article, a newspaper article, a book etc etc etc.

    • by kirsten on February 26, 2012  10:03 pm

      Unfortunately, I do not think it is as simple as that. If it was, the court in Kelly would surely have just said this and put the issue to rest once and for all. Just as with most complicated legal issues, there is a complicating weighing analysis that has to occur to determine whether 17 U.S.C. §107 exception applies. And please understand that I am not saying that pinning is absolutely copyright infringement. I'm simply saying that in my opinion, after looking at the factors, it could be and, unfortunately, Pinterest has set itself up to be absolved of liability if it is. If it was clear that pinning is not an infringement, Pinterest wouldn't need all of the risk-shifting language they include in their TOU. The fact that they include all of that in there evidences their own concern that a finding of infringement is likely. After I posted this, I read another article about this issue in which the author claims that Pinterest has admitted that they do not understand copyright law. Not reassuring.

    • by ratsarsed on March 16, 2012  8:14 pm

      @ NH
      "posting on your blog someone else’s work and then linking back to the original site would not be an infringement either."

      Posting someone's work in it's entirety, IS an infringement, regardless of citing authorship.

  49. by Julie Hughes on February 26, 2012  9:16 pm

    I commend you for researching this issue!!! As a long time photographer I am very concerning with these issues. As a Christian, I want to do the right thing. I will need to re-read this again (because I am so- not- a lawyer like you-lol) but I again thank you for checking this out!!!

  50. by Renée J. (RJ Flamingo) on February 26, 2012  9:38 pm

    Thank you for this thoughtful post. I think I have to disagree, though. When an image is pinned on Pinterest, the full size image is not displayed - it's cut down to fit, and it's linked to the original site, either directly or through the other pinners (if re-pinned). I don't believe that any court will consider a pin to be copyright infringement, precisely because of your thumbnail example.

    This is unlike the situation we food bloggers had with Pinterest, where people would pin entire recipes or blog posts, thereby negating the need for interested viewers to visit the original post if they wanted the recipe for that delicious morsel. That is indeed copyright infringement. Pinterest responded to our recent petition by instituting a character limit (a la Twitter). That's a good thing.

    We are constantly fighting an uphill battle with websites (frequently located in countries other than the US), who lift our photos and sometimes entire blog posts without permission. If photographers and artists are posting full resolution photographs of their work online and not watermarking them, then they are begging to have their work stolen - and not by admirers on Pinterest. NEVER post anything at full resolution, and watermark whenever possible.

    Also, if the artist/photographer has "sharing" icons on their posts, whether Facebook, Twitter, Digg, Redditt, or yes - even Pinterest, they are inviting visitors to their website to share what they are doing with the rest of the world. If they don't want the increased traffic and visibility, they should remove the "sharing" icons. In fact, they should consider making their websites private and viewable only to those they personally invite. Or just get off the web.

    By your reasoning, if I cut out a picture of a cute dress from a magazine and mail it to a friend of mine in another state, then not only would I be guilty of copyright infringement, but of mail fraud, as well.

    • by kirsten on February 26, 2012  10:09 pm

      It will certainly be interesting to see how the courts come out on all of this stuff eventually.
      I agree that if the photographer invites sharing, a finding of infringement is much less likely. Unfortunately, with Pinterest, anyone can pin from your site whether you invited sharing or not. Pinterest, in response has since added an option where bloggers and site owners can "opt out" of pinning. But it seems they are doing it backwards. What they need to do stop the automatic ability to pin and, instead, encourage bloggers and site owners to install a pin-it button. In other words, you choose to share rather than having to choose not to share.
      I respectfully disagree with your last point. Not the same for too many reasons to go into here. Thanks for the feedback though. It is definitely interesting to hear other points of view on topics like this. As our technology improves at such a rapid pace, our laws are surely going to need some serious revisions!

      • by Chris on February 27, 2012  4:33 pm

        Agree. Copyright protections should never be something I have to "Opt in" for my creative content.

      • by Princess on March 3, 2012  9:02 pm

        I do wish you would tell why the last part isn't the same, because I don't understand. My only thought was that maybe because it couldn't be replicated, but you can easily do so with a copier. At least with Pinterest, there is a link to the content that was pinned.

    • by Nate Otto on March 18, 2012  8:58 pm

      Renée J. (RJ Flamingo) is correct: Pinterest DOES use "thumbnails"; it does not allow users to republish full-resolution images. It resizes files to a maximum horizontal resolution of 600px.

      If Pinterest is deemed not to be fair use, 90% of the Internet goes with it. It's not surprising that Pinterest (the company) doesn't want to assert fair use rights themselves; it makes more sense to act as a "service provider" compliant with the DMCA and take down images upon notice than it does to be claiming fair use on behalf of its users. However, I believe it is perfectly possible to use Pinterest within a fair understanding of fair use. It's a shame that courts (and CONGRESS) haven't set a clearer standard for fair use for the Internet era, but if a brave user is ever brought into court, I think they could successfully assert fair use if they're attributing well. Curation of images by my personal tastes does constitute "comment".

      If nobody defends Pinterest as fair use when the issue arises in court, we will lose 90% of the other image-sharing activity that's been going on ever since I got on the Internet. A fair use ruling against Pinning would have disastrous chilling effects against anybody wanting to provide or use websites in the US.

      • by Gina on March 28, 2012  6:20 am

        My website graphics are smaller than 600 horizontal pixels, therefore, Pinterest shows them in full size and resolution. Pinterest is an abomination for image publishers.

  51. by Alena Belleque on February 26, 2012  11:17 pm

    Well darn. I was just getting into it, too! (What can I say - I love technology and hate change, LOL!) Thank you for permission to post the link; will be writing my own short "goodbye, Pinterest" article in a minute.

  52. by Annie Infinite on February 26, 2012  11:58 pm

    I think this is very interesting that no-one has mentioned that every Pin taken from a site also has a direct link back to the original site no matter how many times it has been shared. So my question is, isn't this attribution? and if you have a button on your work that shares, likes, pluses or pins I would say this is an invitation to allow sharing of all kinds as this also has an automatic link back to your site - you so by allowing pinning, liking and sharing you are helping people find your site and business and your business would have to have great results from this kind of promotion.
    I think people forget that sharing = good business using social marketing principles.

    • by kirsten on February 27, 2012  1:11 am

      The issue of pinned stuff having a direct link to the original is addressed briefly in the article. However, just because you may give credit via link or otherwise doesn't make it okay to reproduce work without permission. Plagiarism and copyright infringement are two different things. Also, as pointed out in the article, the problem with Pinterest seems to be that the site doesn't exactly encourage clicking through. I know when I was using it, I rarely clicked though -- because I didn't need to as the image was already nice and big and easy to see. See my replies about adding a "pin-it" or other sharing button to your site. I'm all for sharing -- I want my work out there, which is why I use FB, Twitter and put my own work on Pinterest. Not everyone wants their work reproduced, however. And the law gives them the right to determine how and when their work is shared.

    • by Donna on February 27, 2012  2:11 am

      Agreed. A direct link back is merely a direct link back, not permission.

      However, over time, things are repinned incorrectly, giving google or other bloggers the credit. Not cool.


      • by Princess on March 3, 2012  9:08 pm

        No matter how many times a pin is repinned, the link goes to the same original place. It doesn't change. Unless someone posts a blog that links to a pin (often happens) and then someone pins that new blog post, I suppose, but that is the blogger's fault and not the pinterest user's. Or people could save the image to their computer and repost it as "uploaded from user" but I doubt that happens often, as it's more effort with no foreseeable reward.

    • by tamera on February 28, 2012  1:50 am

      That MIGHT be true, except pinning is allowed from sites like ffffound, tumblr, and weheartit, who have already stolen and reblogged all their content. So the original link is long gone.

      I also might want to share my work on MY blog in the context of my blog, but not out of that context - that should be my decision, not other peoples! I do not care about traffic as much as I care about the integrity of having my work respected and not owned by Pinterest.

      • by Liz on February 28, 2012  4:52 pm

        Agreed!!! I have a much bigger issue with ffffound, tumber, weheartit etc precisely because I usually have no way of getting back to the source.
        I'm a diligent source checker on Pinterest, and I know I'm not in the norm there. Whenever I can fix a direct link back to the correct post (not the main page) I do. If I can't fix it, I don't pin it....usually.

      • by Princess on March 3, 2012  9:16 pm

        You are publishing your work. Just like a magazine, you can't control what people do with it or show it to once you've published it. And as for Pinterest owning your work- if an item is stolen, it can't be bought or sold legally so their disclaimer of owning it would be invalidated. In which case, I imagine the images Pinterest decides to use for advertising, etc. would be thoroughly researched as to the ownership.

  53. by traceyclark on February 27, 2012  1:48 am

    bravo to you for going to so much work here with explaining the legalities and for shinning the light on it. it's so important for us to start bringing this conversation to the table. i will be sharing a link this post for sure!

  54. by Jill on February 27, 2012  2:11 am

    Can someone help me here? I just don't understand at all how there is any concern here. If stuff is posted on the internet, doesn't that make it everyone's to see?? Of course, I think it shouldn't be ripped off and made to look like someone other than the artist's work, but how is Pinterest the cause of all the concern. I could bookmark any old thing I find on the net and that's what I feel I'm doing with Pinterest. The pin directs whomever back to the origin. People do this every day every second of the day when they take what they like from the internet and post it in a blog, FB, or Tumbler. I really cannot understand the big deal here.

    • by juliemarg on February 27, 2012  8:18 am

      Seems very alarmist. The smart photographer protects their work before they post it online - by watermarking. That way everyone who sees it and admires it has the potential to become a client. Then they can welcome shares on FB, pinterest etc because it's good publicity for their business. If someone photoshops out your mark, they are undeniably committing a copyright violation and you can sue.

      • by Sara on February 27, 2012  2:39 pm

        Couldn't have said it better myself...SO agree with this comment!! Protect your pictures and then share share share!!

    • by Hellogolly on February 27, 2012  10:42 am

      No. Do you own all the pretty pictures on the Internet? Then you have no right to decide where it goes or how it's used. Only the original creator can do that. Being on the Internet doesn't take away legal copyright protections.

      • by Jill on February 27, 2012  5:36 pm

        I don't think people have the right (once they put something out there on the internet) to decide where it goes. Just like if I write a book and publish it, I can't tell people not to take it in the bathroom with them. They put it out there and people are going to share it. Internet is free. If artists are so protective of their work, they need to just set up an old fashioned boutique and sell their photos there

        • by Michelle on February 27, 2012  8:09 pm

          Well said! Why on earth are they putting their work on the internet if they don't want to share it? Alarmist indeed.

        • by Chris on February 27, 2012  11:50 pm

          Yes we do have the right to expect that everyone will respect our copyrights. If you want to share an artists work, copy and past the URL to their site or blog post but don't just Pin their work without their permission. I'll say it again, the only right YOU have to MY work posted on MY website/blog is to look at it where I PUT IT.....with our my direct, written permission.

          • by Rachel on February 29, 2012  5:07 pm

            The image on Pinterest IS a link - much like your image that shows up in a simple Google image search. If you feel that way, you should make your web content inaccessible to search engines as well since Pinterest is nothing more than a user-generated search engine. The idea that you can place accessible content on the web and not expect it to be shared with others is much like purchasing a swing set, placing it in a public square and expecting no one to use it.

          • by Chris on February 29, 2012  9:39 pm

            Search engines do not claim ownership of the images nor do they claim the right to sell the images. Once again your comparison is a FAIL.

        • by George on March 6, 2012  10:24 pm

          Jill that's a bad example. If you've published a book and some-one's taken it into the bathroom they've paid for it. Taking my images from my website without my knowledge for your own use without payment is stealing. Too many people believe that if it's on the web then it's free. I've seen photos on Pinterest with the watermark still on the image and a link back to the rightful owner.

          Ask Alamy who hold 25 million stock images for licence supplied by photographers how much it would cost to licence a small image for web use for one year. You're taking money from a hard working photographer.

          A photographer has recently successfully sued an anti drugs charity in the UK and recieved thousands in compensation because the charity took nineteen of his images from a Government website and used them on their own website. They wrongly thought that the images were free to use.

          Pinterest and anyone who uses them are in for a big shock.

    • by Cathy on February 27, 2012  1:22 pm

      I was thinking the same as you.

    • by Sara on February 27, 2012  2:40 pm

      SO agree....it's not a big deal till people start making it one...ugh!

      • by Chris on February 27, 2012  4:12 pm

        It's always been a big deal! Copyright infringement is a big deal to me and a lot of artists who use their creative content to provide for their families. We also work very hard at a little something called Branding one of the tenants of Branding is where our images get seen and by whom. None of this is up to you, the visitor to my work on my blog.

        • by Sam on February 29, 2012  10:49 am

          I'm not a lawyer, but here are some issues that could confound this further:

          Chris makes a solid point that copyright infringement is a big deal. I know I would take legal action to protect anything I had copyrighted.

          Here's a theoretical situation that could land anyone sharing or "pinning" works (photographs).

          Those thinking that a photographer should have to "watermark" their images to be protected are on shaky ground. I'd really not want to be the one testing that legal theory. Why? Because all a photographer needs to show is that they took reasonable efforts to protect their work, e.g. they put on their website clear langauge stating no should be stealing their stuff. They also follow up with a cease and desist letter. If you were to "pin" my photos you bet you'd get an official cease and desist notice from me.

          For fun let's say I'm a photographer (I'm not). We'll say I have a website that I've taken reasonable protections to prevent infringement (from language to actual code), but somehow one or several of my images has been pinned. You end up pinning one of my images. You didn't know, the link wasn't clear and you just liked the image for some reason. I as the photographer and business person don't care, nor do the law firms I hired. As far as I'm concerned you stole from me or at a minimum assisted in the theft of my work and others are profiting from it and not paying me. What if I've already warned Pinterest and a dozens of its members? So what's my next step if I’ve already sent multiple cease and desist letters and yet my works are repeatedly violated? That’s right folks I'm going to sue everyone that abused my work.

          So let's get back to the fun concept. You "pinned" a photo from a friend who got it from someone else who linked it from another source that misappropriated said work. Or you pinned a photo directly from my website. Well since said work is mine and came off my website it falls under my Terms and Conditions which you would have had to agree to to have viewed my site. My site has a Choice of Law section that specifies Travis County, Texas. That means at your expense you'll be traveling to Texas and likely hiring a Texas based attorney to defend yourself in a lawsuit.

          That also means you might end up paying for Pinterest's legal team to travel from California to Texas. That just sounds expensive.

          It's not a big deal until you get a cease and desist letter from an attorney. Of course nothing really ruins someone's day until they get a written notice of lawsuit or are served with a lawsuit in person.

          Another issue is the idea that only copyright law applies. There may be criminal issues such as theft, financial harm, harm to reputation (if a pinned image is associated with a conflicting image), conspiracy, etc. If I were a business person impacted by a company that by design generally invites its members to steal intellectual property then you might be looking at a multiple point counter attack from me. You'll see me in federal court for the copyright. You'll also see me in civil court for certain issues, and at the same time I'll have written a complaint to both state and federal prosecutors on the issues.

  55. by Jamie Dolan on February 27, 2012  4:52 am

    I'm so glad you addressed this. I had these EXACT same concerns. I read the same parts of the user agreement and other than work that has been granted to the public domain, I wondered what was really safe to pin. I to found it hard to believe that the company didn't address this specifically and have a FAQ on what you could and could not pin.

    It seems like they are playing with fire if you ask me. Copy shops have been held liable for making copies of copyright works on their equipment for other people. I do wonder if the same thing wouldn't apply to Pinterest. They are actively encouraging and providing the means to infringe copyrights. They have made their agreement so vague that the average person is going to have no idea whatsoever that there is anything wrong with pinning things from anywhere they find them.

  56. by Nikki on February 27, 2012  5:33 am

    Thanks for the article! Guess my pinterest will be gone soon.

  57. by @jjgarza3 on February 27, 2012  5:40 am

    Great article. I really think that copyright infringement give companies using Pinterest for self promotion a lot to think about. I will keep this article in mind when writing my article for my blog. It is important for companies and marketers to properly use marketing tools like Pinterest and know the regulations that are involved when using these types of social media platforms.

  58. by Tiffany @ Fizzy Party on February 27, 2012  5:59 am

    What about this positive of Pinterest?

    Many big name companies have Pinterest boards and I know they have lawyers on staff.

    • by kirsten on February 27, 2012  1:50 pm

      Pinterest would be GREAT for driving traffic to your own work. I just wish they would at least grant to the user the same license they are taking from the original artist. They reserve the right to grant the license but they don't actually grant it. Of course, the user would still need to be careful that the work wasn't used illegally to begin with but it would at least give SOME level of protection to the user me thinks.
      Believe me, I want them to fix this problem. I still have to slap my hand back from hitting the "pin-it" button because I just want to soooooo badly!

  59. by bethany williams on February 27, 2012  6:21 am

    I think all involved need to swallow a chill pill! Just have fun! Relish in others creativity! Share the love! Isn't that what life is all about anyway?

    • by Chris on February 27, 2012  4:06 pm

      Um....no. Last time I checked AEP, Land lord, the bank I pay my car note too and the grocery store all expect to get paid in cash....not love. Some artists are also capitalists and we need the money to keep our families fed, clothed, and sheltered. When I put my creative content on my blog the only right you have to it is to view it on my blog....period.

      • by Rachel on February 29, 2012  5:21 pm

        Are you blocking search engines from crawling and indexing your content? Because that's pretty much the same thing Pinterest users are doing - only manually.

        • by Scott on March 27, 2012  8:04 am

          Your response is so sad. You just don't get it.

  60. by Randy Jay Braun on February 27, 2012  8:50 am

    I have read several opinions this week, regarding this same issue.
    Kirsten, you seemed to pin your heart on your sleeve, and write with passion about a potentially dry subject of which few people care to become educated. I applaud you, and lean toward your advice.
    What was my favorite part of your blog post? "Boo, me." I just loved that sentence!
    Mahalo for your wonderful share!

  61. by Roda on February 27, 2012  9:02 am

    Hi ..... I read with concern your article on Pinterest. While copying somebody else's work may not sound ethical up front .... copying a beautiful photograph does not sound that bad an act. It's not as if it is being sold for cash ...merely appreciation. If beauty is not shared then what is its purpose .... definitely not to be locked away from the eyes of beholders who will spend a minute to appreciate it.
    I had just joined Pinterest and it was mainly to get more views for my own work ... but I'll not be in such a hurry now.

    • by George on March 6, 2012  10:37 pm

      Roda, if you appreciate a beautiful photograph that much you could always buy it from the photographer instead of copying it.

  62. by Sarah on February 27, 2012  9:40 am

    I'm currently weeping into my coffee. Thanks for all your efforts putting this post together (I think!) Now I feel more informed to debate the issue and consider what I'm going to do with my own personal boards.

    Creator & Writer
    Inspired Camping
    The Cool Camping Magazine

  63. Pingback : Pinterest and its lesson for social media diversification: How to protect your business or blog | Mum PR

  64. by Joe Beasley on February 27, 2012  12:29 pm

    You acknowledge and agree that you are solely responsible for all Member Content that you make available through the Site, Application and Services. Accordingly, you represent and warrant that: (i) you either are the sole and exclusive owner of all Member Content that you make available through the Site, Application and Services or you have all rights, licenses, consents and releases that are necessary to grant to Cold Brew Labs the rights in such Member Content, as contemplated under these Terms; and (ii) neither the Member Content nor your posting, uploading, publication, submission or transmittal of the Member Content or Cold Brew Labs’ use of the Member Content (or any portion thereof) on, through or by means of the Site, Application and the Services will infringe, misappropriate or violate a third party’s patent, copyright, trademark, trade secret, moral rights or other proprietary or intellectual property rights, or rights of publicity or privacy, or result in the violation of any applicable law or regulation.

    Member Content
    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. Cold Brew Labs does not claim any ownership rights in any such Member Content and nothing in these Terms will be deemed to restrict any rights that you may have to use and exploit any such Member Content.

    Note that you are giving Cold Brew Labs the "right to sell" any work that you link to.

    Photographers who do commission work (portraits/weddings) may benefit from the exposure BUT for stock photographers and fine art photographers see it as an increased risk for the unauthorized/unpaid use of their work.

    • by George on March 6, 2012  10:40 pm

      Joe, I wonder how the Bride & Groom would feel about having their private images spread across the web. I'm sure it would provide good exposure for a Wedding / Portrait photographer though. As a fine art photographer I'm seething.

  65. by Stephanie on February 27, 2012  1:10 pm

    Great information! As a photographer, I completely understand this conundrum. I haven't become fully addicted to Pinterest, yet, and I definitely will be looking over my boards to see what I need to delete. Thank you for sharing!

  66. by Allie on February 27, 2012  1:17 pm

    These are the issues I have been mulling & talking over myself. It's much more solid coming from a lawyer though. I was hoping Pinterest would offer private boards, so no one would see my inspiration boards but me. I don't see this happening (even if we pay a small fee for it). Thanks for sharing. I've been debating deleting my account for the last couple weeks...waiting to see if a REAL response would happen. Pinterest, I love you, but I'm out.


    • by Barry on March 1, 2012  8:52 pm

      MikeLike has private boards - give it a try... http://www.mikelike.com/ml/pinterest_private_boards/

  67. by Allison Reece (@AllisonReeceART) on February 27, 2012  2:18 pm

    Great article by the way. Sad, depressing, but well written.
    Oh, BUMMER!
    When I finally found something that I totally enjoyed, that inspired me, that allowed me to collect ideas in one place easily...now the "waters" aren't safe to go out in....Bummer, bummer, bummer.
    I guess, I'll just have to be happy with viewing things. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.........

    Allison Reece/Visual Artist

  68. by Amanda on February 27, 2012  2:18 pm

    wow thank you for posting this! however, this article makes me hate photographers even more LOL! Well, I have a bit of a pet peeve seeing photographers go out of their way to make sure their names are all over their photographs...which is fine and dandy, but as a web designer, i cannot claim all my work like that, nor do i see the point in it. if i were to put my name all over my work, it would take away from whatever piece i had created, and it would annoy all my clients.

    so for a photographer to sue someone for using one of their photographs as inspiration makes me upset. One should be so lucky to have inspired someone else's art. Why else would you ever want to make art. Dance has the same argument as web design. People take pieces of other people's dances and other people's website code all of the time. But you don't see dancers and web designers running around trying to claim all of the art they've contributed to the world.

    I love Pinterest, and I would hate to see it ruined by some money hungry photographers. It just makes me sad because I think art should be shared. I know there's craziness going on in the music business concerning copyright stuff too...but in the end, art inspires art and you can't put price tags on love. I mean, it sucks when other people make money off plagiarized art, but if you are using the art as inspiration, that is a different story.

    If a person really wants to protect their photos from being pinned on Pinterest, there's a short line of code they can insert into their website HTML to prevent their images from being pinned. Hopefully that will solve things :) http://www.digitaltrends.com/social-media/new-code-from-pinterest-offers-to-keep-your-images-off-the-site-and-its-servers/

    • by Snapandprint on March 3, 2012  4:25 am

      So you are alright with stealing and copying another artist's work?

      HUGE FAIL on your part.

      • by Princess on March 3, 2012  10:03 pm

        Not what she was saying. She said being inspired by others' work is okay.
        HUGE FAIL on YOUR part, Sweet Pea.

  69. by Sara on February 27, 2012  2:35 pm

    Hey, if you are pinning someone's work you are actually advertising for them...so I guess if people don't want to be more widely known, that's the way it is.

    Another thing...crafters WANT their work to be advertised. They want people to share it and the more people see it the better. So this must be only a photographer thing.

    I can't imagine not wanting my stuff shared. Yes, make sure it has your watermark on it so the proper credit is given, but make it so it can't be shared? You're crazy!! Just sayin...where does advertising come in anymore?

    • by Sara on February 27, 2012  2:44 pm

      One more thing, if photographers have an issue with Pinterest, they should take it up with the site, not discourage people from being on Pinterest....just a thought.

      • by kirsten on February 27, 2012  2:50 pm

        Sara, not trying to discourage people from being on Pinterest. Just wanting to inform people of the risks involved so that they can decide for themselves how to proceed. I'm still on Pinterest. I'm just using it differently than I was before.

    • by Joe Beasley on February 29, 2012  10:53 pm

      Pinterest can sell pinned work

      At the heart of the Pinterest terms and conditions is this paragraph -

      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. Cold Brew Labs does not claim any ownership rights in any such Member Content and nothing in these Terms will be deemed to restrict any rights that you may have to use and exploit any such Member Content.

      There is a great deal we could say about the above, but in this article we will just focus on one of the above words, the one highlighted in red. What does this mean? What it says, Pinterest can sell the content you upload to their website.

      We've read countless other articles about Pinterest recently, many referring to this 'sell' provision but disregarding it on the grounds that they don't think Pinterest really means that. Oh really? On what grounds did they think they didn't mean that? It's never stated, and if Pinterest really didn't mean that, why have the word 'sell' in their terms of use? Before these terms of use were published Pinterest would have had sharp eyed lawyers closely scrutinise them, and if the word 'sell' is in there by mistake we'd advise Pinterest to sack their lawyers!

    • by Scott on March 27, 2012  8:15 am


      Clearly you are not a photographer that makes a living from their images.

      I will give you an example - I have one image that got out and was placed on Pinterest. Once it was there I lost ALL control of that image. It made its rounds throughout the web. I have counted it on over 1,000 places on the internet. It used to have a small watermark on the bottom left identifying me as the creator. Now that is gone. Someone was nice enough to Photoshop it out.

      Did you know that I can license an image exclusively for five figures? Did you know that once that image is out of my control and on the internet I can no longer legally license it exclusively? Thanks for the 'FREE" advertising - your pinning may cost someone thousands of dollars. I am not sure why you feel that you have the right to control somebodies intellectual property, the income, and their lives.

      The problem is not usually the first person that copies the image, it is those that follow the first person.

      I would love to put my images out using a Creative Commons license but sadly I know that once it is out there it will probably be abused and before I know it I will have no images to license. The problem is not photographers it is people like you who feel they have the right to copy other peoples work..

  70. by Megan @ Fiterature on February 27, 2012  2:41 pm

    Thank you so much for doing all of the legwork on this topic. Such an interesting read, and it really opened my eyes - I am going to have to rethink Pinterest as a Marketing tool.

    I do have one question - if we are, legally, not allowed to repin - WHY is there a repin option on the website? Why is it not just a "view only" website? Are you saying that the minute I hit repin, I am committing copy write infringement?

    I'd love someone to weigh in on this....

    • by kirsten on February 27, 2012  2:59 pm

      Hey Megan. Good question for Pinterest. They are inviting everyone to re-pin but their TOU say you have the right to view and print only. They need a provision in the TOU that says "if you upload your own photos to PInterest, you are thereby giving a license to other users of the Site to re-pin your work on the Site." And then they need to state that users have the right to re-pin work originally put on the site by its owner. The problem is how do you know a photo was originally put on Pinterest by its rightful owner? For example: I pinned from another photogs website. He didn't give me permission to reproduce his work. I just used the Pin-it button provided by Pinterest. Turns out, he doesn't want his work shared like that. He is upset. I apologize and remove the pin. But everyone else to re-pinned that photo just used that photo without his permission. Is that copyright infringement? Very well could be -- depending on how the courts ultimately weigh the issues involved. Again, for the record, I am not saying it IS DEFINITELY infringement. I'm just saying it looks like it could be and I am not willing to take the risk. Others may disagree -- including the courts. I hope they do -- I WANT MY BOARDS BACK!! ;)

  71. by Sheila on February 27, 2012  3:55 pm

    May I have the permission to post this to my Books Worth Reading board on Pinterest? Even though it's not a book, it's Worth Reading!

    If ALL of us pin it all over pinterest, that could draw some attention and maybe Pinterest will re-think itself? Or a new company will do it right from the get go?

    Or not.

    In any case, may I put this up on my board? Sharing is one thing, posting on the site that is under question is another :)

  72. by Victoria L on February 27, 2012  4:30 pm

    It is an interesting gray area. And since there is little to no regulation on social sharing it's fascinating to see how it develops. Obviously watermarking your work is a must for photographers. There should be an understand however that if you have your work online, even on your own private website, that people will want to share it. And you're even encouraging sharing by doing so.

    • by Chris on February 27, 2012  8:53 pm

      "There should be an understand however that if you have your work online, even on your own private website, that people will want to share it. And you’re even encouraging sharing by doing so."

      Wow, change just a couple of words and you get the classic, old school excuse for sexual harassment.

      • by Scott on March 2, 2012  3:15 am


        Seriously, you are equating sharing on Pinterest to sexual harassment? Step away from the ledge.

    • by Gail on March 21, 2012  10:47 am

      Victoria...if you look at the bottom of most websites they will have a line with a copyright notice. Many also have a DMCA logo so you know that their work is NOT to be reused without written permission. That is the law. There is no understanding that something on the internet is free for everyone. I write a book I want to share it...but I am still covered by strict laws of copyright. Both are means of conveying information. It doesn't mean you and everyone else owns it, because it is on the internet.

      • by Debbie on March 24, 2012  9:24 pm

        Right On Gail! I own websites, and I have a copyright notice on my websites. I further stipulate that all images are the property of their rightful owners. I have the images on the site, because I have permission to use those images, or I am an affiliate for commercial websites, and I am using the affiliate creatives, that have been made available for my use.

        I don't understand how someone can pin an image, they took from a website, with a copyright notice on it, and then just say they are bookmarking it, when they didn't pin the link itself with the image on the webpage, but uploaded the image from their computer they took from the website, and then go back and put the link to the website where the image is. How is that bookmarking? I say the person wants that image more then they really care about bookmarking the link, where the image is, because they know that at anytime the website owner might remove
        that image, or the page itself, and then the pinner won't have the image on their pin board. Just an observation
        and my own opinion.

    • by Scott on March 27, 2012  8:17 am

      Hey Victoria,

      How about we say that if your car is parked on a pubic street that anyone should be able to borrow it for a while if they like it? I mean realistically parking in public you must be encouraging people to take your car for a spin.....

  73. by Kathi Rabil on February 27, 2012  4:40 pm

    Kirsten, thanks so much for sharing this! Will def be sharing this with my network. To confirm your concerns, my daughter had the same problems with Facebook. She is currently a 3D digital graphics student at RIT. Since HS, she has enjoyed sharing her work with her friends, family and extended network on Facebook. About a year ago, she decided to take most of her work down and create a website of her own portfolio on www.cargocollective.com She had heard and confirmed that the TOU on Facebook stated that she gave up her copyright privileges to any work that she uploaded to Facebook. Unwilling to take that risk, she moved all but a few pieces of her work to her private portfolio site. All artists need to be aware of this dilema! Brings the whole issue of SOPA into perspective.

  74. by Scott on February 27, 2012  5:53 pm

    Very well written and i agree with virtually all of your conclusions. What seems strange to me is that while Pinterest asks you for indemnification and indicates that they assume that you have the rights to grant, they know full well when you use their browser plugins...that you could not possibly have these rights since their code is actually copying the image path from a public web site. Of course, if you upload an image, perhaps they may assume it is your image, but come on guys, a path to MSNBC.com's best pictures or Walmart.com is clear evidence that you are probably not the copyright holder.

    They are probably hoping that previous settlements from Google News, where they actually don't copy the image but load it each time directly from the source site, will keep them somewhat safe. However, that is a news aggregation site and they actually pay the AP for the use of the links (as do others.)

    In short, Pinterest is monstrous copyright violation machine...inducement to infringe?

  75. by Bogdan on February 27, 2012  5:57 pm

    Ummm... how do you actually share without sharing and not having anything to share that's not exclusively your work?
    It defeats the purpose of pinning...
    TOU have to change.

  76. by Kimmie on February 27, 2012  6:22 pm

    I've read so much stuff about the legal aspects of using Pinterest lately but what I don't understand is why is this same attention not being directed at Tumblr? Every time I go on Pinterest, I am able to click through to the original source of the material. I may have to go through some re-pins, but I'm always able to find the original site. Heck, I just bought $150 worth of stuff from a site that I found through a pin! The only time I hit a dead-end is when the image takes me to tumblr. Almost every tumblr image blog I looked at had NO links back to the original sources of the photographs and only 1 or 2 even bothered to credit the original photographer or source. I even found one blogger who explicitly stated that she would never give credit for any image because "you can never really know who the real owner is". I'm not saying this relieves Pinterest of any culpability, but why is all this uproar only directed at one place, when another is doing a much better job of ripping off images?

    • by Paige on February 27, 2012  10:26 pm

      Totally agree with you. I'm not on Tumblr so I have no idea what their TOUs are, and what sort of things you have to "click and agree" but people there almost never link to the original source. At least not that I see.

    • by Lucy on February 28, 2012  1:25 am

      I agree with Kimmie that Tumblr is the source of the vast majority of uncredited images on Pinterest. If I see an image that I like on Pinterest, and it's come from Tumblr, there's only about a 1-in-10 chance that I'm going to be able to trace it back to the original source, less than that if I'm depending on there being a link in Tumblr rather than taking what little information there is about the image and googling it to find the original image. I don't understand why this furore is only being directed at Pinterest, and other social image sharing sites - Tumblr in particular, but also fffound, weheartit, piccsy, etc - aren't coming in for their share of the criticism and questioning over this issue?

  77. by Brittany Bevelle on February 27, 2012  6:32 pm

    This is a really good read that brings up valid points. I might be removing my boards soon and my product pictures from facebook as well. Yikes!

  78. by Dan Oksnevad Photography on February 27, 2012  8:23 pm

    Great article. Thanks for taking the time to write this up & share will all us photographers & artists. There is so much marketing potential with Pinterest - but so much danger looming in the realm of copyright infringement. It'll be very interesting to see where Pinterest goes in the next year or so...

  79. by Janet on February 27, 2012  8:46 pm

    So, are we still at risk if we "like" something someone else has pinned on Pinterest? This is assuming that some users continue to pin photos and there is something to "like" in the first place.

    I'm assuming the answer is still the same......since they are visible via your profile.

  80. by CoCo on February 27, 2012  8:48 pm

    When I get served, I will worry about this. Until then, I plan to happily pin away.

  81. by sharon ross on February 27, 2012  8:54 pm

    You've been pinned! Is this article alone this for purposes of self promotion?

  82. by jecca on February 27, 2012  9:17 pm

    did you share this perspective with the people that run pintrest?

  83. by lane dittoe on February 27, 2012  9:28 pm

    I encourage my work to be used throughout the inter-webs as long as it is linked backed to me, all those links just get my google ranking higher and higher :)

  84. by Molly on February 27, 2012  9:32 pm

    I think that photographers and people who post photos on the internet should be the source of concern about their work, not the end users. All of them should license their images and add watermaks, etc.

    Check out this amazing organization that does this for artists:


  85. by Sophie Russell on February 27, 2012  9:33 pm

    Thank you for this article! I'm one to never read the T&C's because they go on and on and on. But as a photographer this disturbs me! Luckily for me I've never gotten into Pinterest. So I'll delete the few photos I have pinned and close my account. I don't want to end up sued for anything (even though I too credited the photographers for any images I pinned). It's just not worth the risk. I suppose I can't stop people from pinning my work though. It would be such a hard thing to monitor.

  86. by Suzie on February 27, 2012  9:36 pm

    Please can you put an eyecatching picture (preferably taken by you) at the top of this page, so we can Pin it protest? ...before deleting our accounts.

    • by Lisa Thorell on February 28, 2012  5:02 pm

      I think Suzie here has a great suggestion for those who want to take action on this remarkably well-researched post -- and in doing so, get Pinterest's legal department's attention. I'd add one detail to her idea: The photo should have a message watermark a la "Pinterest, Take Action to clarify Your TOS!"

      The same pinnable photo action could be applied to some of the other solutions proposed in here: eg.

      - a photo with watermark " TOU suggestion: If you upload your own photos to PInterest, you are thereby giving a license to other users of the Site to re-pin your work on the Site.”

      - a photo with watermark : "TOU suggestion: Users have the right to re-pin work originally put on the site by its owner.

      - a photo w, watermark: " This watermark indicates this is the original image and the photographer grants you the right to pin and repin this photo".

      What do you think, Kirsten? ;-) I'd gladly participate!

  87. by Confucius on February 27, 2012  10:04 pm

    So does this article refer to only photography? What about everything else that people pin? Such as cooking recipes, clothing items, and basically the tons of other things being pinned on a daily basis. My wife uses Pinterest, but I don't believe she pins artwork and photography (unless you count the photos of food people have for their recipes).

    • by Debbie on March 24, 2012  9:35 pm

      If the content comes off other websites, where She doesn't have explicit permission to use the content, then yes it is the same as the photographer issue. If it doesn't belong to you and you don't have permission to use it, then it is better safe than sorry, to not use it. All websites are protected by copyright. It is a good idea to read their Terms Of Use, so that you will know what you can do and what you can't do with their content and images.

      Some websites, will let you use images, for non commercial purposes, but they have to state that. Never assume anything.

  88. by Ron on February 27, 2012  10:17 pm

    Pinterest is conceptually flawed.
    There is every encouragement and expectation that you will 'pin' items of interest to it and that others will access that pinning in some way. However that is a clear violation of copyright in most countries (regardless that there was no intent to benefit).

    Pinterests approach is too make sure that they have covered their backsides legally via the terms and conditions and to leave the user out to dry if there is a complaint or legal action initiated.

    All of this despite the fact that the very nature of Pinterest encourages copyright violation and that it has little value if you don't (especially given that you are discouraged from pinning your own material).

    From a copyright holders perspective, leaving aside the copyright issues, one of the other major issues is the lack of/removal of, correct attribution. There is absolutely no potential 'PR' value to having my work pinned if the attribution is only to Google or Bing for example.

  89. Pingback : Knowing when it’s time to go « Mobile Social Climbing

  90. by Amber on February 27, 2012  10:43 pm

    And I was just going to write an article about how great Pinterest was! I will definitely rethink this whole thing - I don't think I will delete my account right now, but I will have to mull this over. I am sticking with ZooTool (and rereading their Terms and Conditions).

    FYI - Pinterest is down - Error 503 ;-)

  91. by Ludena on February 27, 2012  10:50 pm

    copy right laws were confusing 20 years ago now the are down right horrifying. with all the web pages and social pages trying to figure out what's ok and what's not is a nightmare. When you see comment and share under a photo you just assume that its ok to share. It would be easier if photographers and writers wrote do not copy or down load or ok to copy or down load at the top of all media. like authors of craft books and magazines do. It would make things a whole lot clear for us idiots! otherwise just post your own photos and art work and be ready to prove it is yours to post!

  92. by Patricia on February 27, 2012  10:56 pm

    I don't think it is this complicated. we can put other people's zazzle works on squidoo with the affiliate link so I don't think there is a problem with it.

    • by Joe Beasley on February 27, 2012  11:51 pm

      I have no problem with what you do with the zazzle links, but you are not claiming to have the right to sell the rights to make products from my art to a 3rd party, Lawyers have said that the TOS give Printerst that right

  93. by Kristy on February 27, 2012  11:13 pm

    I understand copyright laws and I also understand the tos on pinterest. But if you have a website, a blog or are showing your work somewhere on the web, isn't the point of that to gain viewers?

  94. by Mel on February 27, 2012  11:17 pm

    Can someone please answer Confucious' question? It's mine too. No more outfit ideas (from, say Polyvore) or recipes, or craft ideas???

    • by kirsten on February 27, 2012  11:32 pm

      You can't copyright an idea. You can patent one though. But if it's a photograph of an outfit, idea etc, the photograph itself is protected under copyright laws. Risk weighing may lead one to not worry about it so much depending on the nature of the photo but technically it's still protected.

  95. by astarkee on February 27, 2012  11:28 pm

    What about Tumbler, StumbleUpon, Digg, Facebook Twitter, reddit, youtube, the list goes on.

    Individuals can share, print, distribute copyrighted material on what seems like a limitless list of websites. Have you stopped distributing copyrighted material on every social media site you participate on, or just Pinterest?

    I can spend hour & hours & hours on Stumble Upon viewing copyrighted images.

    • by kirsten on February 27, 2012  11:42 pm

      Good lord I'm already tethered to my computer and smart phone due to my addiction to FB, Twitter and Pinterest, I can't even fathom being on Tumblr and those others. But, yes, this issue applies to all of them. And no, I do not post other's work on my Facebook page or elsewhere without permission. The reason Pinterest is so interesting to me is that the whole purpose of the site is to re-use copyrighted work. I just figured they would have provided a way to allow sharing legally. But by reading the TOU, it just doesn't seem so, sadly.

  96. by Brenda Horan on February 27, 2012  11:33 pm

    I want to thank you for taking the time (I know it took a lot of time) out of your busy schedule and life to research this and write this up - I deleted my pinterest account - its not worth it.

  97. by Melissa Jaine on February 27, 2012  11:34 pm

    Thank you very much for this post.
    I want to love Pinterest but have always been a bit hesitant, and I couldn't really work out why. Gut feeling? I will now only pin work where the person owns the work and has a "pin it" button next to it.

    I am about to release new artwork that is created digitally - but online I will only post photographs of prints of my art (rather than uploading a low res full image of the digital picture), so if they are pinned they can't actually be used as prints.

    However, many people do upload a full (but low res) digital image in their Etsy store. Etsy has a "pin it" button for each listing, and as far as I'm aware, the store owner can't take it away. Just by having an Etsy store we are saying yes it's okay to pin my work?!

    Also - in Pinterest's very early days I emailed Ben Silbermann (one of the founders) and he encouraged me to pin my own work, and said he hoped that artists would use Pinterest to showcase their art.


    • by Joe Beasley on February 28, 2012  12:00 am

      "Etsy has a “pin it” button for each listing, and as far as I’m aware, the store owner can’t take it away. Just by having an Etsy store we are saying yes it’s okay to pin my work?!"

      We raised the same concern on RedBubble. The individual artists could not disable the button on their stores

      This was the response from RB admi:
      " Quick heads up. We have been looking at the Pinterest issue and share concerns about their TOS. To this end we have removed the “pin” button from RedBubble and are looking at our policies at what we might post to the official RedBubble account. Like many we think Pinterest provides useful functionality but there are some specific legal issues we are not currently comfortable with."

  98. by Joe Beasley on February 27, 2012  11:37 pm

    grant Tumblr a non-exclusive, worldwide, royalty-free, transferable right and license (with the right to sublicense), to use, copy, cache, publish, display, distribute, modify, create derivative works and store such Subscriber Content and to allow others to do so (“Content License”) in order to provide the Services. On termination of Subscriber’s membership to the Site and use of the Services, Tumblr shall make all reasonable efforts to promptly remove from the Site and cease use of the Subscriber Content

    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.

    The inclusion of the word SELL is a major area of concern

    • by Princess on March 3, 2012  10:27 pm

      I wonder if their original intent with the word "sell" was that they could eventually sell the site intact to another company. Or sell stock in the company, in effect transferring partial ownership to shareholders.

  99. by Paula Boudreaux on February 27, 2012  11:42 pm


    (Whine) I dont wanna delete my Pinterest!!!!

  100. by Paula Boudreaux on February 27, 2012  11:47 pm

    I have seen pins on "How to use Pinterest to Market", refering to using Pinterest to Market your own products.
    And I see artists and crafters pinning their own works frequently.

  101. by Jacob on February 28, 2012  12:43 am

    Very well written! As a tech-enthusiast who also enjoys examining US law and legal standing towards new technologies, I thoroughly enjoyed the entire article! It is interesting that we are living with 19th and 20th Century laws, but have made a huge leap as far as reproduction of content has gone without significantly updating them. Thanks for the post!

  102. by Joe Beasley on February 28, 2012  1:39 am

    On recipes, the ingredients are not protected, BUT the wording of the recipe is as Cooks Source Magazine discovered http://digitaljournal.com/article/300451

  103. by Jen L on February 28, 2012  1:40 am

    I stuck with you, although I skipped the technical stuff and went to sum up. ;0) Never really thought about this but really really glad that I have not started one of these babies.

  104. by Stephan Kinsella on February 28, 2012  1:53 am

    The problem is the whole notion of copyright law. It is a mistake. There should be no copyright law at all. As long as it exists problems like this will arise.

    I am an IP attorney, BTW. I believe patent and copyright should be abolished. See www.c4sif.org/resources for reasons why.

    • by Rachel on February 29, 2012  5:34 pm

      Thanks for posting Stephan. I disagree that they should be abolished but I do think that current copyright law is way too restrictive for the web and laws should do more to protect the public from potential frivolous lawsuits.

    • by ratsarsed on March 16, 2012  8:54 pm

      @ Stephan Kinsella
      "I believe patent and copyright should be abolished."

      Yes indeed, all personal property rights negated.
      What a novel idea. One for all all for one,
      Utopia Via Communism.

  105. by Elle on February 28, 2012  2:16 am

    I would like to know what application this has to anyone not living in the U.S? The cases that were quoted were U.S cases. And as far as I am aware each country has their own copyright laws. So if I am pinning from a site that is based in France to my Pinterest, which I assume is in America (?), and I live in the U.K, exactly what can be done about it?

    I am not saying that I agree with infringing anyone copyright, but am just curious about the application in the world that we live in today with the internet. I think that the laws need to catch up with the times, and perhaps is even a matter for international law.

    • by Gail on March 21, 2012  11:00 am

      Recently Kim Dotcom ( of Megaupload) who lives in New Zealand, is under an extradition order from the US . Last week a UK 23 year old who was selling videos copyrighted online has been extradited to the US. Hope that answers your question.

  106. by Audrey on February 28, 2012  2:17 am

    Now, if a website adds a PIN IT button onto the content of the sight, are they granting permission to re-distribute said content on Pinterest? Interesting...

  107. by Northern Virginia Baby Photographer / Olga on February 28, 2012  2:45 am

    PINNING (bookmarking) VS. UPLOADING

    I think there is a distinction between "pinning" which is basically social bookmarking and uploading, as far as I understand. So, by uploading work that's not theirs people may be violating copyright law, but by "pinning" I don't think they do...

    In any case, I don't understand why photogs are against other people pinning their sites, when people pin their websites, it gives them a huge boost in seo...no brainer :)

  108. by Kara on February 28, 2012  3:32 am

    I'm not very familiar with legalities, but doesn't Pinterest's Copyright statement cover everything? They have a copyright complaint form, and the statement reads they will disable and/or terminate accounts of those who continue to infringe or repeatedly infringe the copyrights of others. My other question is how does this apply to recipes, craft ideas, or pins that might be teaching you how to do something? I can understand artwork and photographs. I'm just unsure of the other aspects. I just got started with Pinterest and love it. I have a lot of recipe ideas on my boards, and I've pinned a lot of tutorials on there as well. If someone posts a tutorial, and you pin it for future use, can it be considered infringed upon? I never knew a tutorial could be copyrighted. I'm so confused on all of this.

    • by Debbie on March 24, 2012  10:01 pm

      If the tutorial is one you created, and the crafts are items you made, then I don't see a problem, except as others have said, Pinterest doesn't want to self promote, which seems kinda silly to me. If you are pinning the whole URL where that image is located, so that if someone clicks on that pin, and there taken to the website itself, where the image is, then I don't see how that could be a problem, unless the website owner doesn't want you to link to their website.
      What is happening though, is people are copying images, content, from websites, and then uploading it to Pinterest, and thinking just because they include the URL after or some sort of recognition of where the image is coming from, that should be sufficient, but it isn't because a website's content and images are copyrighted, and you need permission from the website owner, to use the content or images. Sometimes the website owner doesn't own the images, but is just using it with permission or license from the owner of the image, or content.
      so they can't pass it on to you. Never assume anything and always read the Terms of Use, for that website, to understand what you are allowed to do, and what you are not allowed to do.

      Pinterest has covered themselves legally, but the users are not covered. So you are using Pinterest at your own risk. Of course, these are just my thoughts on this matter. I don't pretend to be a legal expert. I have just been on the internet for a long time, and because I create website graphics, I have been probably more in tune with this subject, then most.

  109. by Mel on February 28, 2012  3:38 am

    All in all, it sounds like there are really two issues:
    1) Sloppy and confusing Pinterest TOU, making a lot of people insecure about their boards
    2) Artists feeling violated

    Am I right?

    Anyway, since Pinterest is more successful at making people spend money than Google or Yahoo (see article here: http://mashable.com/2012/02/01/pinterest-traffic-study/ ), I can't imagine that too many people on the profit end are gonna fire up any law suits soon. That said, I'm deleting any photography pins, which really is too bad for the photographer, since I won't be able to remember their websites without my pins, which means I'll never be visiting their websites for either business or simple appreciation.

  110. by Kookababy on February 28, 2012  4:01 am

    I think that you have a ton of points and lots of research. I may be in the minority but I do actually almost always click through to the original site because the reason I am pinning t to have the actual info in my hands like "where can I by that really cool piece of art for my walls", I'm in no way trying to "steal" the mage by pinning. I'm only using it as a place keeper so I can find what I'm looking for later. I pin products, knitting patterns, food I want to cook, etc and I always end up at the original site. I'm not writing down all the info in each pin. I'm sure there is some way it's all illegal but the laws about copyright and the internet may be too strict (thank goodness it didn't get worse). anyway, I'll be keeping by board..Just my 2 cents.

  111. by Carolyn on February 28, 2012  4:22 am

    Great article.... BUT...

    You quote a lot of American Copyright Law. This may be the case with US Copyright, however in Canada, the copyright does NOT automatically default to the author/artist who created the work. It actually defaults to the person who COMMISSIONED (ie. Paid For) the work to be done.

    Many of us Canadian Photographers, therefore, put a clause in our contract that states we do not want the client to own the copyright, and that by signing our contract, they're "giving" us the copyright and they lose it. Then, and only then, does the photographer/artist/author/etc. have the right to dictate who uses the image and where.

    So, if a Canadian photographer doesn't put that clause into their contract, then technically, the client could pin all the photos from their wedding on Pinterest without issue.

    All of that legal jargon aside, my feelings on Pinterest/Facebook break down into this:
    - Pinterest is going to show people my work and automatically link back to my site. I have no problem with this. I consider it 'free advertising' because when someone "Pins" one of my photos from my website, they are not altering my work in any way -- they're simply saying "Wow, I like this photo by In Bloom Photography, go look at the rest of her stuff" and hopefully their friends come and check out my website as a result. I like people "Pinning" my stuff.
    - The difference with Facebook is this. It doesn't automatically link back to my site. Therefore, any Joe-Blow can display my images without giving me any credit. So therefore, I watermark the hell out of stuff I put on Facebook, and clients are advised in advance (and via the contract) that if they choose to display any images from their session on Facebook, it must be the version with my watermark, plus a link to my website. And they're DEFINITELY not allowed to retouch their own photos. ACK! I don't want somebody to do a crummy retouching job and then blast it over Facebook saying "Look at these photos from In Bloom Photography" because I don't want people thinking I did that horrid work!
    Does that make sense?

  112. by charlino on February 28, 2012  4:33 am

    Excellent article, and respect your knowledge and opinion about all sides. Based on my experience, I must agree with one of the people who posted about the state of copyright laws being in total state of disarray.

  113. by Maris on February 28, 2012  4:44 am

    "So, the next question is “how real is this risk and do I really need to worry about getting sued for something everyone is doing?” Well, my only response to that is to look at what happened with people who used Napster. Many users were, in fact, sued by music companies and artists for unlawful downloading of songs. Users like you and me and a 12-year old girl (not kidding). Also, if the commercial photographer in the Kelly v. Arriba case above was so willing to sue the search engine, how do you know he wouldn’t sue you – especially where, as here, the site has protected itself and left you holding the hot potato? I’m a lawyer and I see people suing for really dumb stuff every day. And, frankly, this isn’t “dumb stuff.” We are talking about intellectual property rights. Those of you who make your living as photographers know the importance here."

    Wouldn't most lawyers start by issuing the poster in violation of their client's copyright begin by issuing a demand letter saying "please remove my work from your Pinterest board?" I can't imagine thousands of people being dragged into court for this. Wouldn't the first step be a cease and desist?

  114. by John Fox on February 28, 2012  5:07 am

    Something I noticed in your post was:

    "So still you have no right to publish work from another photographer even though Pinterest holds a license to all work uploaded to its site (at least to the extent the person posting had a right to transfer such license in the first place)."

    Assuming the work is *not* uploaded by the rights holder, how can that be legally binding? Someone can't grant a third party license to a creative work if they're not the legal copyright holder (basically, it's not theirs). That's like saying my friend can tell another friend they can borrow *my* car. I don't think so.

    Also, it would seen that Pinterest's user agreement is contradictory. You're not supposed to pin your own work, but in order to share it, it must be yours. Correct me if I'm wrong, but for it to be pinned originally, it would have to be pinned by the copyright holder (and isn't that behavior supposedly discouraged in the Pinterest community?).

    Seriously, the service isn't even out of invite-only status and already they're having a seemingly glaring issue with legality and copyright. The service isn't going to survive long if they open to the public. This is a lawsuit waiting to happen.

  115. by Bunny Jean on February 28, 2012  5:07 am

    I just posted about this very issue, and one of my readers left a comment with the link to this post. I am so glad she did because I found this very interesting ...and down right upsetting!

    I have also just deleted many, many Pins. I will need to delete many more, if not cancel my site completely. I also deleted any images on my Photobucket, and other image storing sites. I also will need to delete a few posts that contain images obtained off Pinterest.

    My question is... are these images REALLY deleted? The images that others repinned are still showing on their boards, with my information attached. They will be continued to be repinned and in some cases I am the "original pinner" to take these images from the "original source". It is like a virus that will live on forever.

    I feel like a thief... through no real fault of my own.

  116. by Karyn on February 28, 2012  5:24 am

    Ok, my head hurts, but just a little. Apologies if someone's already raised the issue about Pinterest's underlying foundation intended to drive revenue for retailers, and similarly interested folks. It's essentially a huge aggregated affiliate forum. What? Yes. Retailers who pin their products, and then have those products liked and repinned by you and me, and then convert to paying customers with cold hard cash. . .well. . .that cold hard cash has an affiliate split between Pinterest and the retailer. So my question becomes this: why is it ok for all of us to repin a retailer's proprietary images but it's not ok to repin an artist's proprietary images? Perhaps we need to look to the affiliate structure that's at the core of Pinterest. I'm not negating or doubting decades worth of case law surrounding copyright infringement I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts! Karyn

  117. by Jessie on February 28, 2012  5:24 am

    Do you mind if I pin this article? No pun intended.

  118. by Nicole on February 28, 2012  5:28 am

    May I have permission to pin this article to my Pinterest acct? Lol....but seriously!!

  119. by curiousrobyn on February 28, 2012  6:17 am

    Surely if I pin a photo that has a watermark, links to your sit and has your name in the desctiption, it shouldn't be a problem? I'm basically advertising your work and I'm not selling it, printing it or making money off of it in anyway.

    • by Chris on February 29, 2012  2:10 pm

      No but you just gave Pinterest the right to do that by giving them something you didn't have the right to give in the first place. Read the TOS...anything that gets pinned can be modified (bye bye watermark), all metadata/ownership info gets stripped from the file AND they now have the right to sell the images. Thanks for taking food out of my 4 yr old Autistic son's mouth.

  120. Pingback : Understanding Pinterest terms of use and copyright violations » Arising Images Blog

  121. by Anna on February 28, 2012  3:36 pm

    What's wrong with contacting the artist to ask if you can pin their work? Most will say yes and the ones that don't or cant be bothered to write back get less exposure out of their own choosing. This leaves the decision in the hands of the artist themselves, as most of them would want the exposure and would be very glad to have been asked. It's only a minute our of your day to contact them and ask, since you like their work enough to want t pin it surely they would be worth a quick email?

    • by Rachel on February 29, 2012  5:40 pm

      What's wrong with artists licensing their work under Creative Commons? Seems a lot more web 2.0 friendly than hunting down their contact info. Part of this problem is that artists slap their work online, expect it to be discovered (but not shared), and then make it difficult for people to contact them and get permission.

      • by Chris on February 29, 2012  9:51 pm

        Actually most online social sites strip all of our info out of the file INCLUDING any Creative Commons licensing info.

        • by Princess on March 3, 2012  10:41 pm

          Out of WHAT file? A photograph? If it links back to your site, it links back to what you wrote and no social media site can change that.

  122. by david on February 28, 2012  3:56 pm

    I have never used or payed much attention to Pintrest. But I do have a question, does this mean all the cartoons and inspirational messages will stop filling my facebook page. What about political commentary, the photos and words belong to the author. So are all of these things comeing to a schreeching halt. This is how I learn about politics, I watch very little TV. So, am I about to lose my main source of Information? I realize your a lawyer and most likely don't contribute to the reputation and jokes about lawyers, but some of this stuff is just plain dumb.

    I pine for a more simpler time, when people were more kind and understanding and not just out to make a buck. Yes I grew up In the 1960s and 70s. Some times I would gladly go back to pre technology days, but then I would miss pictures of my grand kids who ,live 800 miles away. Politicions words are theirs and repeating or posting them is according as I understand what your saying a violation and infringment on there legal rights. Maybe I shall run for public office then sue every tv and news outlet that repeats what I say without express written permission.

    • by David on February 28, 2012  4:29 pm

      While my earlier statement is being moderated, perhaps I should clarify. I will only sue news outlets that take my words and comments out of context and use them to mock or denegrate me. Anything positive I of course would be ok with. A good example would be Mitt Romney speaking in Detroit stadium. If you look at the photo from a distance, the seating area/arrangements are clearly marked with a small fence. Obviously he wan't expecting much more than what he got. Was the venue a little over the top, perhaps, But to hear the media reports, it sounds as if Romney was expecting to fill the stadium, an obvious infringment on his legal intent as shown by the clearly defined seating area.

      I hope you all realize this is a humorous exageration to make my point. Just the sheer magnitude of all the legalese involved in posting a picture, kinda blows this small town hillbillys mind. Also while I have seen reference to Pintrest on facebook I have never followed any of the posts or threads. So I feel reasonably safe from over zealous laws and the interpitations thereof. What a grand world we live in.

  123. by Susan on February 28, 2012  4:27 pm

    That is really too bad to hear. As a photographer I enjoy using my pinterest account to collect inspiration for photography, poses, looks, locations, etc.

  124. Pingback : Issues Of Copyright ~ Is This The Death Rattle Of Pinterest? | Chromama

  125. by GRIT & GLAMOUR on February 28, 2012  4:35 pm

    This is a spectacular write up that is not dissimilar to some pieces I have written about copyright law (though I am not a lawyer). That's what makes your article even better...you are! But here's the kicker...I've cautioned others about the legal ramifications of posting their photos on other sites, and here I've gone and jumped on Pinterest without even contemplating the fine print. Isn't that so typical of most of us?

    I'm going to delete all my boards pronto (but keep my identity, just so no one else takes it; I often do this), but unlike most, I could care less. I've had technical/functional issues with Pinterest anyway, so I'm barely even interested. Plus, I really don't have time for ANOTHER social media account.

    Like you, I realize most people are going to be like, WHO CARES, I'M GETTING MAJOR TRAFFIC! But if people are pinning without proper attribution and links back, no one gets anything except ripped off. And potentially sued, even if the chances are small.

    That's my long-winded way of saying thank you for your superior insight (and humor)! Sharing this ASAP!

  126. by Marit Welker on February 28, 2012  4:35 pm

    You have a compelling argument and I appreciate the clarity and detail of your explanation. I have been concerned, myself, as a professional photographer regarding fair use laws and my own work. I have received so much education and inspiration from the works of others - not in copying, but in understanding the lighting, the color, the composition, the emotion and what makes their photography good. However, I see your point and will follow "suit," get it?

    Have a great day and I think I have enough works that I have without copyright or large watermarks that I can allow others to see them without worry. Maybe we will have some alternative that allows us to post things that are for promotional use with watermarks and links only without "repinning" and then can let us share without worry. Something like Facebook where we share links without actually downloading and reposting as our own... oh wait. That could never happen.... lol.

    Thanks again!

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    • by kirsten on February 28, 2012  6:16 pm

      Likes UP -- never got a request from you?

  128. by Kimera Photography LLC on February 28, 2012  4:46 pm

    Thank you for your efforts. As a lawyer and a photographer, I had some unease with Pinterest myself and held off until recently even joining. But once I did, I loved the inspiration it provided. Alas, I may be making the same measured choice you have made. Thanks for doing the research (that has always been my most hated part of the practice of law:-)

  129. by Sue o on February 28, 2012  5:00 pm

    I only have 2 things to say - first thank you for all ur hard work and second is "imitation and admiration are the highest form of flattery"!

  130. Pingback : Pinterest and Fair-use | My Faith Media

  131. by Jenny on February 28, 2012  6:11 pm

    I have a pin it button on my blog..i dont have a problem with people pinning my stuff....i have it there as permission granted:) if you dont want your stuff pinned or used make sure you put that on your site....and dont have a pin it button there ect.. Its only copyright infringment if you are using the image and claiming it as your own..pinning it is not copyright infringement....if you have your images out there, for everyone to see then its up to you to make sure that you are protecting them by asking the public to contact you first and asking your permission...

  132. by Tara Kennedy-Kline on February 28, 2012  6:25 pm

    Thanks to all of this publicity around Pinterest, I have been inspired to create a board for each of my businesses! I dont care what people are saying, If this many people are talking about it, I sure don't want to miss this marketing opportunity!

  133. Pingback : A Lawyer Who Is Also A Photographer Just Deleted All Her Pinterest Boards Out Of Fear – Finding Out About

  134. by Bethania on February 28, 2012  6:37 pm

    After reading a different article, I went to Pinterest's TOU and arrived at the same conclusions as you. With the same consequences (tears on, deleted my account). Thank you for writing such a sound analysis, so I don't few so alone in my rationality.
    What dou you think of Dropmark? I discovered them afterwards and decided to join them because I read their TOU and got the feeling that this one was a different kind of story. Am i wrong? Have a look here, if you please (http://www.swiss-miss.com/2012/02/dropmark-2.html).
    Thank you.

  135. by Grace on February 28, 2012  7:25 pm

    That does it for me. Why take a chance? It was a cool format, but unless Pinterest makes these terms very clear and/or changes them. Even if they do we still have general copyright laws to deal with.

  136. Pingback : A Lawyer Who Is Also A Photographer Just Deleted All Her Pinterest Boards Out Of Fear - News of the day

  137. by Tracy on February 28, 2012  7:52 pm

    It would be really cool if I could delete all my boards and pin this up instead!

  138. by Lucie on February 28, 2012  7:55 pm

    Very good article, I've come to the same conclusion you have come to. When we upload a pin to pinterest that isn't our own work and without the consent of the original artist, per Pinterest's terms, we give permissions to Pinterest that are not ours to give in the first place.

  139. by Jessica T on February 28, 2012  8:50 pm

    Thanks for this post! I think it gives all of us "pinners" out there something to think about. We need to be aware about copyright laws.
    I was just reading Pinterest's blog after reading your post.
    They have the ability for websites to no allow people to pin their stuff. You can read more about it here. Sounds like Pinterest is doing their part in protecting websites and if they don't want their stuff pinned they have the tools now.

    • by Debbie on March 24, 2012  10:18 pm

      My question is, Why should I have a no pin button or notice to protect my images and content, on MY site. I have a copyright notice, on my site. My site is protected by copyright. It is the user's responsibility to check the terms of use of my site, and I do have a terms of use on my website. Some of the images on my sites don't belong to me, but I have permission to use them, but I can't pass that permission on to those that use my website.

      The only way that a website pin it button, can work in opinion, is that all content on that site belongs to the owner of that site.

  140. by Chris on February 28, 2012  8:57 pm

    Here you go: "Pinterest" for Firefox and Chrome web browsers except now the only people who will think you're cool is yourself. http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/visualize-browser-bookmarks-firefox-google-chrome/

  141. by Gillian Bagwell on February 28, 2012  9:07 pm

    Very illuminating and interesting, thank you. I have really been enjoying Pinterest and at the same time wondering about the copyright issues, especially as I'm a writer.

    It seems there are three major issues or questions:

    1) Clearly Pinterest is covering its ass but not anyone else's.
    2) Of course if stuff gets put online it will be copied. So either don't post your copyrighted material on line or make some alteration to it so it can't be copied in its original form or embed/attach some attribution.
    3) Who's making any money from Pinterest? Not the people who are just putting together collages of stuff they like. Do people pay Pinterest somehow to be on it or to advertise on it? I haven't seen anything like that? Follow the money.

  142. by Lucky Red Hen on February 28, 2012  9:07 pm

    And THIS is why I stick behind my choice to WATERMARK my photography I post online that I want to make sure will remain credite to me.

  143. by Graphics4Fun on February 28, 2012  9:13 pm

    THANK YOU! Thank you for a thought provoking and issue addressing piece. The contradiction clearly shows the creators themselves did not fully understand Copyright when they started the site or they were operating under foreign Copyright attitudes which are clearly more relaxed than in the USA..

    I sought an invitation to join Pinterest, and when it came, I found I HAD to use it with Facebook. No choice, no option, NO WAY!

    Those who use this site... I would be VERY cautious before you find yourself part of a class action...

  144. by Zahid on February 28, 2012  9:13 pm

    Pinterest is for crafty women what Reddit is for geeky men. When you post something on Pinterest, you are either uploading something (trouble) or linking it directly. As long as you are linking it, there is no reason to be worried. If you download then upload and don't remember the source, that's trouble. Reddit avoids this entire scenario by asking for URL and no option to upload anything.

    Both Pinterest and Reddit have the "content discovery" model and I think it will be a long time before we hear copyright owners suing pinners for more exposure and actually winning in the court of law. Copyright owners will usually send a DMCA take down notice, report the image in Pinterest's case, and 99% of the time the host or service will comply.

  145. by Chris on February 28, 2012  9:13 pm

    My wife and I are professional photographers whose sole source of income comes from our photography. Most of you keep saying that we, as photographers, should want all of this exposure and traffic to our websites but that simply is just not true. Most successful studios (photographers) have spent a ton of time and money figuring out just who their target client is and how to speak (market) to them. Sometimes that means limiting our exposure to only those outlets we know our potential clients meet, shop, drink coffee, socialize, etc. What most of you think we have is the Wal-Mart type of business model where we want to be everything to everyone and while that maybe true for those photographers who are just starting out the rest of us like only "OUR" perfect type of client to visit, shop, talk, stay awhile, and hire us. So while we may or may not care if our images get shared what we do care about is retaining ownership and as long as Pinterest claims to own with the ability to sell our images, we just can't allow our images to be Pinned. I've also just realized I have spent some time trying to educate those of you here that seems to have a mistaken opinion on copyright and such but didn't thank Kristen for all of this hard work and bravery for taking the stand you have. So, thank you Kristen!

  146. Pingback : Pinterest Terms of Service for Photographers

  147. by Patty on February 28, 2012  9:37 pm

    I can't tell if anyone posted this but you can now use code to block someone from pinning from your site


  148. by Sean on February 28, 2012  9:39 pm

    Use anything you can find. Create art from old tires, dirt, blood. Take it all.

  149. by TLG on February 28, 2012  9:44 pm

    So what is the point of Pinterest now? If you can only post your own stuff then membership will dramatically decline because you can't get ideas anymore from the web. Or maybe I didn't get the original intent of the site in the first place. :(

  150. Pingback : Pinterest’s Copyright Strategy Puts the Burden on Users

  151. by Shawn on February 28, 2012  9:56 pm

    There is a major difference between Napster and Pinterest and really can't be compared in anyway. Napster was providing a service where people could steel a complete, full quality song without having to pay for it for personal use. The best you can get on Pinterest is a low resolution large thumbnail, and these are thumbnails in the more literal sense, that you can do little with except post it on your own website and call it your own. As an artist and photographer I can't see any legal recourse beyond naming rights since anyone could steel any image off my website and do the same thing at any time. They would still only have the low resolution image, 72dpi, that isn't worth printing because of the rotten quality. The Napster equivelant would be if someone had used a pocket recording device to record a song off the radio and then shared that bootlegged copy. Technically still illegal because it's the completed item, but the real legal infraction comes in the profiting or avoiding expense. Pinterest would only fall into the catagory of Napster if they provided full size 300dpi files that could be printed out or resold.

    Pinterest, in my view (and I don't have an account of my own), is a "favorites" page I can share with others. Everything you link to on Pinterest creates only a link, shows the link, and references the original page. It is in the same realm as news reporting. I have also worked as a journalist and from I read of your post and their TOU, this falls under journalism law. I think your section on "fair use" is very clear. As for the click through, the little I've used Pinterest with my wife, I've clicked through to the original site on the majority of things that interested me. Found a few new wonderful artists that I had never heard of that way.

    On a side note, Pinterest recently got coverage on national news as an incredibly positve site and one that can boost careers. Any artist or photographer who went after Pinterest or a Pinterest user would be committing career suicide. (Any artist or photographers or other website owners reading this, take note. You go after a user of Pinterest and I guarantee you will create for yourself a public relations nightmare that will kill your career just as it did for some of the musicians who had a genuine legal foot to stand on. The media crucified them anyway. Don't do it! I've worked in Public Relations since 1988. This will be far more damaging to you than your lawsuit will be to anyone else. Be careful!)

    In short, not allowing people to post low resolution photo links online is the same making it illegal for someone tell a person about a photographer they learned about, or showing someone a book they just bought and encouraging them to check out the book.

    I worked as a wedding videographer for many years. There was massive unrest in the industry about copyrighted music use in wedding videos. Technically, legally, a videographer can't use a piece of music in a video, even for the personal use of the client, without gaining permission from the musician and the writer of the song. Many feared that lawsuites were on the way, as this was around the time of the Napster mess. I took the safe path. I purchased royalty free music that I had a license to use in any kind of video production. This was the only music I was willing to use in wedding videos. All the other vidoegraphers in the area thought it was silly and happily added whatever song the couple wanted. I went out of business. It was a deal killer for many of the couples. I took the legal high road and don't regret doing so. However, the lawsuits never came. It was far too silly a thing to try and sue about since someone had to buy the CD in the first place so the artists got paid anyway. If no one went after videographers making money off this kind of practice, no one is going to go after people working in the capacity of bloggers on the internet who are reporting on other websites.

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  153. by Shawn on February 28, 2012  11:05 pm

    Incidently, I found the link to this article on Facebook. I am curious, did you actually contact Pinterest about this?

    Here's my Facebook post on the topic:

    I just read the blog by the photographer / lawyer and wrote a comment reply on her blog. Pinterest, from what I can tell, would fall under journalism / blogger protections by law and also under the same protection afforded search engines that have an image search function (and most do). In Kelly vs Arriba Soft Corporation, the court found in favor of Arriba saying that thumbnails on a search engine did not violate copyright fair use laws. Pinterest is a broad topic search engine which uses volunteer bloggers to add content, just as Google (etc.) uses paid employees and computer "spiders" to add content. Do an image search in Google and you have Pinterest. Pinterest simply adds the social network aspect of getting to see what your friends are interested in.

    To put this in practical terms, if I'm sitting in the Mall food court with a friend and I hold up one of my art books to show him a painting in there, and further, if people at other tables see the painting... have I broken the law? Of course not.

    Now, if I hack into a photographers website and download the full resolution .raw file or even a high res .psd at 300 dpi and sell it to someone or even keep it for myself without paying, I have now broken the law. I have stolen the actual product rather than a low res representation of the product. Pinterest uses only low res (72dpi) images, in essence large thumbnails. Even in Google image search, I can view a "full res" 72dpi version of images posted online. Google can display these legally, so can people on Pinterest.

    The lawsuit stuff, from what I can tell, is probably more in the realm of protection for people trying post porn or images that may get into a case of defamation of character. That would be a liablility for them.

    While a photographer or artist certainly could try and sue someone for posting a low resolution version (72dpi) of their work on a links website, it would be career suicide. The media would crucify them in short order, even if they won the case, just as they vilafied the musicians and record companies who sued people in the music sharing and Napster cases. In that case, the record companies were right, but the PR damage cost them much more money than they ever won in a lawsuit. Many record companies and some musicians did not recover from that PR mistake.

    What's intersting to me is that the author of the blog makes many assumptions but never contacted Pinterest. I intend to email them and send them the link to this blog. Which brings up another interesting gray area, is her blog about Pinterest just journalism, or is her call to abandon it defamation of character? Could they sue her for posting it and spreading it on Facebook? Could they sue the other people who posted the link on Facebook as additional intentional defamation of character? Ah what a weird legal world we live in.

    I really don't think anyone needs to worry about linking to a website with a volunteer image search website.

    • by kirsten on February 28, 2012  11:18 pm

      Appreciate the feedback. A couple of things: 1) I have contacted Pinterest and am waiting to talk with them; 2). I never called anyone to abandon it. In fact, I am still a user. All I said was that I would be using it as permitted by their own Terms of Use -- which is to only pin photos that I own or have a license to use. If you believe that you have a license to use photos on the internet in the manner you state and for the reasons you state, you very well may be correct. All I'm saying is that the law is not clear enough on the subject for me to be comfortable with that conclusion for myself. And since Pinterest puts all of the risk on me and accepts no responsibility I am uncomfortable pinning anything that I don't own or haven't been granted the license to use. No defamation. I love Pinterest. Heck, I cried when I deleted all the beautiful photos that I had pinned from other photogs websites without their permission. And then I sat back and though "whew, I hope those other photogs didn't see that!" ;)

      • by Shawn on March 3, 2012  1:24 am

        Just read your updated post on this. Good for you!! Your blog may have been just the right call to arms to get some clarification. It wasn't you that I felt was necessarily calling on people to cancel, it was a number of posts on Facebook that were using your blog and then telling people to cancel. I think your blog raised some very valid concerns. Thank you for contacting them. How wonderful that they actually took the time to take you seriously and listen to your input. Well done!

    • by John on February 29, 2012  5:29 pm

      I missed this post before I made a similar and truncated version of the argument in the comments below. I agree with Shawn's logic. I'm an attorney with very little knowledge about IP, but I do know that how a copyright holder grants access to their work affects the boundaries of infringement with respect to it. Considering this, it's hard to ignore all the important similar and obviously legal services that do essentially what Pinterest does. Copyright holders have responsibility to take reasonable, simple steps to avoid dilution of the copyright, such as blocking Pinterest's access to the page in the manner Shawn points out below. Also, and I think this is somewhat important, this article and concept is now being consumed far outside the field of photography by people who use Pinterest primarily to post photos that clearly fall outside this argument, like images from clothing catalogs. It might make sense at this point to clarify to what types of images this argument applies and under what circumstances.

      • by asraidevin on March 5, 2012  7:22 am

        Why is on the creator to opt-in to copyright?

        What about people who have never heard of Pinterest?

        You've also missed the basic point. By posting via Pinterst you have given Cold Brew Labs copyright on that image, no matter where it came from. Since you don't have the right to give MY copyright to them, you've infringed upon my rights as creator.

        Though as far as I've heard, unless you register copyright with whoever registers these things, you can't sue anyway. At least in the US.

        I am all for sharing links and images and everything else. Once you start giving my rights to other people, I start having issues.

  154. by SoCooLBob on February 28, 2012  11:11 pm

    Pardon if I've already replied ... thought I did but don't see it at the moment.
    The basic idea is this conversation on related subjects is definitely not new. The same type conversation has been going on every step along this network sharing way ... there is a conflict between "self centered" ness and "sharing" ... between self oriented philosophies and Love Yourself And Others ... and that debate will probably go on for a while. For me ... I testify on behalf of sharing, if possible, to the best of my abilities. Here's one related video and a related play list ... http://youtu.be/zL2FOrx41N0?list=PL520CABE9BED2981F http://success.socool.com

  155. by Shawn on February 28, 2012  11:11 pm

    For those who don't want your images promoted for free on the Pinterest search engine and would prefer to miss out on the potential for the additional income, here's all you have to do:

    From Pinterest:

    What if I don't want images from my site to be pinned?

    posted this on Feb 26 22:18
    We have a small piece of code you can add to the head of any page on your site:

    When a user tries to pin from your site, they will see this message:

    "This site doesn't allow pinning to Pinterest. Please contact the owner with any questions. Thanks for visiting!"

    • by Gina on March 28, 2012  6:35 am

      Potential for income is virtually ZERO. I get no visitors from the hundreds of my graphics that have been pinned.

      I cannot re-code and re-upload the THOUSANDS of web pages I have created for the past 8 years. It's insane that I should have to do this.

  156. by Julie on February 28, 2012  11:47 pm

    Hmmm. I have always repinned from within Pinterest. I have never uploaded/pinned anything that wasn't my own. Many of my pins are vintage photographs and I know there are some laws that allow (I'm butchering this) some sort of public use after 50 years of it being created? Or 50 years after the creator's death, unless some special action has been taken...

    I certainly hope there would be some sort of amnesty period in which we could "unpin" any images that the owner of the image didn't want pinned....without being sued...what a mess. I loved Pinterest.

    • by Joe Beasley on February 29, 2012  12:58 am

      US law copyright is life of author +70 years. If it is by a corporation or the author is unknown it is 120 years from creation date http://copyright.cornell.edu/resources/publicdomain.cfm

  157. by Christine Springer on February 28, 2012  11:57 pm

    Thank you for this post! I ran into the same issues a couple of months ago with my blog, except I was worried about RSS Feeds and posting news stories from mainstream media. I looked at the case law too, and like you, it scared the crap out of me. There is definitely a conflict between the concept of openness and sharing on the internet and our copyright laws. It took me an hour to explain the copyright issue to my web guy, whose main argument was that everyone's doing it and it's ok as long as you give credit back to them. A lot of people think that if it's on the internet, it's in the public domain and most people will never look at the case law.

  158. by Mel @ Trailing After God on February 29, 2012  12:03 am

    This kills me! I LOVE pinterest! But it's too risky as you said. BTW, I came across your site because of this article: http://www.businessinsider.com/pinterest-copyright-issues-lawyer-2012-2?utm_source=twbutton&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=sai

  159. by Mags on February 29, 2012  12:06 am

    Interesting, thanks.

    For people saying "what about twitter?" and so on, with sites like that you're sharing a link, not reproducing content.

    My standby for shared bookmarking of recipes etc is del.icio.us but I believe its days are numbered.

  160. by Peter on February 29, 2012  12:46 am

    the question for me is: Why did Pinterest start this website if a person can't self promote or post cool pictures?

    I'm out. I'm going back to cutting out pictures from magazines and showing my friends in PERSON!

    Reuse before you recycle!

  161. Pingback : Au Revoir Pinterest | Mark Emery Photography

  162. by Gina on February 29, 2012  12:52 am

    Hmmm- so really, what's the point of it existing? One is not to use it to self promote- however, that is the only safe way to cover your backside. But if no one else is supposed to pin things that don't belong to them- including stuff that belongs to you- then why bother?!! Which totally sucks- because it's sort of replaced my inspiration gathering from magazines- guess I may have to go back. Lovely how they throw all of us under the bus.

  163. by Mrs. Crafty on February 29, 2012  12:56 am

    Interesting and thought provoking. So far everything I've pinned has been my work (limited number), members of my craft guild with images and links to their products, and things people have specifically stated can be pinned (in many cases have asked for them to pin). If Pinterest would just lift the whole "self-promotion" thing, and let us pin all our own stuff so others can re-pin, then there wouldn't be an issue. The photographers and artists can create a partial, low quality, version of their image noting that to see the real thing you have to click the picture and it would go to their site.

  164. by Lisa Dunner on February 29, 2012  12:57 am

    Great post! I am a copyright lawyer, and this was a very easy to read good explanation of the issues with Pinterest! Really makes you think...!

  165. by James Smith on February 29, 2012  1:16 am

    I found this post to be pretty interesting, and I have to say before beginning that I have not read through all of the comments posted so I may be repeating some things already posted. If that's the case, I apologize in advance!

    I just finished researching this as well and I can confirm everything that the original poster said, however there is more to the issue that has not been discussed. When I photographer, which I am by the way, posts a picture to somewhere like Fickr, or Facebook, they acknowledge that they are posting content to a "Public forum where...intellectual property can be downloaded if not adequately protected against such download...." It is the posters responsibility to take such measures as they deem appropriate to protect their property from download. Each public site that offers photo sharing is required to offer privacy tools so that the photographer can prevent his content from being downloaded through normal means. You can't protect against someone taking a screenshot of course, so that's out. Pinterest gets around this by posting things in their TOU that state that the content posted is the posters responsibility yada yada.....

    So. What that means is that the photographer has to state somewhere by the photograph that the image is copyrighted or protected in some fashion or manner, or they can state that since the image has their watermark on it that it is copyrighted etc... If they fail to do that, the photograph falls under the "Public Use" license and is able to be used by someone else.

    Now, the photographer can come back and ask you to remove that photograph that you posted, but they have no legal recourse unless they follow the steps outlined above. I know this first hand as I just finished my own case on this matter... and I lost.

    So, don't give up on Pinterest, although I would ask that you give the photographer full credit for their work when you do pin it!!

    James Smith
    JLS Studios

  166. by Michael Kormos on February 29, 2012  1:48 am

    Great read! My understanding was that "published", as defined by copyright law means to have been printed in a book or a magazine. The jury is still out on whether displaying a digital image on a website without the permission of its author constitutes infringment. Unless such image is displayed for commercial purposes (i.e. as part of a banner ad for a shampoo, let's say). At least that's what I gathered from the Wikipedia article (I know, probably not the best resource for law). In any case, when a photographer uploads an image to their website for public viewing, he does so knowing that the image will be accessible (and downloadable) by anyone on the web. It is precisely for that reason that any professional photographer looking to protect thier work should watermark their images. This way, if the image is hotlinked, or reuploaded, its author's name will remain visible. A photographer is also aware that in today's world, an image on the web may be stolen. Which is why we do not upload high resolution files.

    • by asraidevin on March 5, 2012  7:28 am

      According to the US copyright office guidlines, which you can read on copyright.gov, copyright exists as soon as the work is created, not upon publication.

      The issue is not whether the image is shared or downloaded or whatever for private use. It's that by sharing on Pinterest, copyright is transferred to Cold Brew Labs for their use.

      Second, watermarks can be edited out and Pinterest strips the metadata out of the images.

      Third, yes the jury is still out which leaves huge openings for Pinterest and any Pinterest user to be sued for sharing copyrighted images.

  167. by Jennifer Can Quilt on February 29, 2012  1:53 am

    Thanks for this post. I found your explanation of the TOU very intriguing and alarming. I think this is the problem with TOS and TOU agreements-- no one really reads them and most of the ones who do don't really understand them. We need some "plain English" TOS/TOU agreements, kind of like what some banks are offering now for their mortgages.

    Technology is moving so fast, and social media is moving even faster. There is no way the law can keep up! I think part of the onus is going to be on the developers-- they will have to make the choice to be transparent and ethical about their TOS/TOU agreements.

  168. by Mitch Labuda on February 29, 2012  3:06 am

    The problems with the TOS is greater to some of us, then what has been outlined.

    Member Content is also defined as links and the usage terms allow the site to modify our works, even if we are not members, through users of the site pinning works.

  169. by Joe Beasley on February 29, 2012  3:31 am

    A TOS http://www.thefancy.com/terms that is a lot more "plain English"

  170. by Sunny on February 29, 2012  3:40 am

    It has seemed to me that Pinterest has allowed all of us to do exactly what Google (and other search engines) do constantly. Ask Google for images of sunsets and a zillion gorgeous sunsets pop onto your screen. You can see each one, copy them usually, download them sometimes, print them. Obviously, you can't sell them or use them to sell anything else. But Google puts those images up for all of us to see.

    Then came Pinterest. We all got to play Google images search. We found neat things online (where presumably people put their work or whatever because they wanted people to find and look at it) and we showed those neat things to other people. If some folks steal images and use them to make money, that's illegal and wrong and just plain immoral. But why (I read the boring legal parts and I understand, the question is largely rhetorical), why are we all scourges of society when we create what amounts to a mini Google search page?

    I probably will delete my Pinterest page. Just because it seems to be what a lot of cranky people are saying 'right'. They probably want me to give up sugar, too.

    • by kirsten on February 29, 2012  3:48 am

      Sunny, did you not see The Doctors the other day? Sugar will KILL you!! Haha.

  171. by angela on February 29, 2012  3:42 am

    Before i found pinterest, I would just right click on an image and save it to my computer under different folders, most time when you actually click on the photo it takes you to the website it was found, so how is that not giving the original poster credit? Maybe i'll just go back to saving it on my computer then.

    • by William Long on February 29, 2012  6:30 am

      Thats fine - but I doubt you would be assuming that you could then sell those images ? Thats the major difference here.

  172. by John on February 29, 2012  3:44 am

    This would suggest that I can't clip photos from a magazine and stick them on the bulletin board outside my office door, doesn't it?

    In any event, for the offended photographer to claim damages, they would have to show either that the pinner profited or that the photographer lost income as a result of the publication. It would take a somewhat cynical person to argue that they did not intend a photo they uploaded to the internet or published in a magazine was not meant to be VIEWED by anyone that didn't pay. If what you are using was a freely obtained copy of a photo on the internet, it's hard to see how the copyright holder could sue.

    In that way, Pinterest is VERY different from Napster, where the content is posted by a person who purchased it for free consumption by others who could only otherwise acquire it by purchase. So long as you are "pinning" things that are otherwise available for free, I don't think this argument holds.

    • by Leslie Nicole on February 29, 2012  8:57 am

      It is a tricky distinction here. The thing is, an image on the internet is not actually free. It's a representation of something that is for sale. One of my images I saw on Pinterest is represented exclusively by a stock agency. I just read on a photo discussion of someone who lost out on a licensing deal because his images show up too much on sharing and blogging, etc.

      I just started using Pinterest and it's taken my less than a week to start wondering if it was ethical. I've seen a lot of my fellow photographer's work on there with no credit and they've been re-pinned so often, it would be hard to find the true source.

      I'm still sorting out my feelings about Pinterest, which is why I'm researching.

      In the very least - Photographers - Watermark or logo your images!!

      • by Chris on February 29, 2012  1:59 pm

        Yes, the magical solution is for us to watermark and logo our images......TOS gives Pinterest the right to modify our images and then sell them....so much for the watermark and logo.

      • by John on February 29, 2012  3:12 pm

        If it's a repost of an image which is for sale *as an image* you are probably right. If it's a photo from a Banana Republic catalog pinned in a "my fashions!" album or item on Etsy in a "cool stuff to buy" album, I think this argument doesn't hold. And that is how most people use Pinterest.

        If this blog post is only meant to address the reproduction of copyrighted material displayed for the purpose of sale or creating web traffic to the specific site, then it needs to be clarified, because it is misleading a lot of people. I've been emailed this article now several times by Pinterest users who pin commercial photos to showcase fashion, decorating ideas and dream vacations. While this material is protected by copyright, I'd be extremely surprised if this kind of use gives rise to an infringement claim.

        The post asks if *use of the site* is lawful. The way most people use it, most of the time, it is. There are LOTS of ways to use the site that are legal, ethical and non-self promoting.

  173. by Stella Kuru on February 29, 2012  3:57 am

    If we are going to live and work on the web in the future, we are going to have to get over our current copyright fears and move in this direction:

    Creative Commons: http://creativecommons.org/

    Using this tool, you can set permissions for use of your work. Flickr uses it a lot. If we cannot or will not share what we make, then why are we putting it all over the Internet? Best go back to print and make everyone pay.


    • by Chris on February 29, 2012  2:03 pm

      We are not putting it all over the internet, we are putting it on our blogs and websites....people like you are then taking what's not yours and putting it all over the internet. Also, your Creative Commons argument does not hold up since any image that gets pinned has ALL the Copyright info stripped out of it....even the fact that you are allowing said content to be used under a Creative Commons agreement. Once again, the only place you have the right to view my creative content is on my blog/website....period.

      • by Rachel on February 29, 2012  6:01 pm

        You're expecting people to discover your content...but not share it with others. And that's not the nature of how the web works. I can understand where a site like Pinterest should modify their TOU to make it fair for copyright holders and users alike...but asking the public to modify sharing behavior that has been around since the dawn of human existence is a bit much in my opinion.

        • by Chris on February 29, 2012  6:27 pm

          This issue is you don't have the right to do anything with my creative content except enjoy it where I put it. You can bookmark my blog/website URL or even the post's but you don't have the right to say to Pinterest "hey I own this, please take control of it, modify it, and then take food from the artists table by selling it". Human behavior is not an excuse to break the law.

      • by Pbeaux on March 1, 2012  6:43 am

        Chris - I have an answer for you. Why don't you indicate what your blog is and we will make sure we don't visit it, or look at any of your work so that we would never be accused by you of having an image that is even in our head. Good grief - there is a lot of bitter, angry attitude flying around and I am thinking that a large company like Pinterest probably did a bunch more research on setting up their company than the armchair quarterbacks providing legal counsel to all of us who are appreciating others talents. If someone is right clicking a photo, saving it to their computer, then printing posters or cards or whatever and making money from someone else's work, the yes, there is a lawsuit. THAT is not what is taking place on Pinterest. Someone previously said that if photographers don't want their work on the web, then they can rent a gallery and hope and pray that someone will come off the street and buy their work. There are plenty of artists out there that LOVE the fact that their work is being seen, appreciated, and purchased to be worried about those that don't want anyone to see their pictures etc.

        • by kirsten on March 1, 2012  12:15 pm

          Pbeaux, Pinterest is actually a very small company right now. Very smart people, but still very small company. See my follow up post to read about my conversation with Ben Silbermann. He's obviously a responsible guy and I am looking forward to seeing what they do to make people more comfortable with using the site.

        • by Missy on March 3, 2012  3:43 am

          I totally agree with Pbeaux. Chris should just make his blog, website completely private so we won't dare view his precious work.

  174. Pingback : Pinterest and Copyright – SUBMITTERATOR

  175. by William Long on February 29, 2012  6:17 am

    You might be interested in this sites evaluation of Pinterest:

    In short 3 reasons not to use it.
    Pinterest can sell work pinned to the site - Opting in copyright protection - All metadata is stripped - 3 good reasons not to use it - have a look at my colleagues view on the site:

    This is all about the fact that original creators may not choose to have their work pinned to the site and yee haa if its pinned there then Pinterest automatically get the right to then SELL that work - how on earth can anyone think thats a fair, reasonable or even ethical business model. I dont see that its worth blaming people who dont want their work pinned, to me the issue is about giving them the right to sell something that was never theirs.

    • by Chris on February 29, 2012  1:57 pm

      Amen! Thank you for finally just spelling it out! Pinners who pin my images to Pinterest have just handed over "ownership" of something they never had the rights to in the first place. Then Pinterest gets to sell my image that someone posted without proper ownership and 99.9% of the time without my knowledge. That's pretty much taking food out of my 4 year old Autistic son's mouth because why would an advertiser come to me when they can just get in from Pinterest at pennies on the dollar. compared to what it's worth to me. So now you know that every time you pin an artists work to Pinterest, you just took food off of that artists table which just might include their family as well.

  176. by Peter Hill on February 29, 2012  7:37 am

    I was very pleased to read your well-researched and well-written article, for several reasons. For example, it is high time the myth that copyright isn't breached if you don't offer the image you grabbed from another site is blasted into oblivion, and your article adds more fuel to that rocket.

    Social media may be cool and funky, but it is swamping long-held legal and, as you so rightfully point out, moral rights.

    I have published many photographs on the web and I accept there will always be those knowingly transgressing my rights. On those occasions, I bless the DCMA Act. But it's a different story when any so-called "community" of photographers finds its owners massaging the site to facilitate such things as pinning and copying to blogs. I can name a few. This is a real problem.

    Thanks for writing this!

  177. by Christa on February 29, 2012  7:37 am

    I understand where you are coming from, but I think you are jumping to conclusions. There are countless other sites that allow users to post content from the internet (MemeBase.com etc.), so I doubt Pinterest is going anywhere and I seriously doubt any users will see legal actions taken against them.

    Pinterest is essentially FREE MARKETING for people, photographers included. Just make sure you watermark your images with your web address.

    • by Joe Beasley on February 29, 2012  12:59 pm

      For those of us who are selling fine art photography thru sites like RedBubble, Zazzle, and fine art america, it is not possible for use to upload watermarked images. The watermarks will appear on the products that we sell. The sites try to offer some protection, but there are ways around it. As a result of the TOS of Pinterest, many photographers are traditional artists are beginning to remove their works from the web.

    • by Chris on February 29, 2012  1:50 pm

      You obviously do not understand that most photographers spend time and money branding themselves. For those on here who love it then maybe they want to have a Wal-Mart business model but most successful studios (photographers) know who their target customer is and now how to market to them. Thanks for your help but leave my images alone. Oh, and this has nothing to do with free advertising, this has everything to do with showing your followers just how cool and hip you "think" you are by having all of our cool images pinned to your board.

      • by Christ on February 29, 2012  5:47 pm

        Why do you even post high res versions of your photos on the internet then? Keep them private, password protected for clients only. If you only show a small selection of your work with large watermarks and employ protective guards on your website, then I don't see people stealing your images s being problem.

        And if you correctly watermark your photos, it is FREE ADVERTISING for you, the photographer.

        If you guys hate technology and the free exchange of IDEAS, then get off the internet and stop whining.

        • by Chris on February 29, 2012  9:58 pm

          You don't get to make that decision, I do as the artist. Pinterest as their TOS/TOU state have the right to remove my watermark, strip all ownership info and then sell my work. We do not have a problem with people sharing our sites URL, or specific post URL but when you grant someone ownership to one of my images your are taking food off of my son's plate. We love the free exchange of ideas and information who isn't more tech savvy than photographers, we just don't thieves. Oh, and no thanks on the free advertising....I like to pay for mine.

          • by Christa on February 29, 2012  10:17 pm

            Pinterest does not remove watermarks. And I don't want any money taken away from photographers, my point is that if you are posting photos to your website, you are basically allowing for them to be shared/viewed.

            When you place an ad in a magazine, you are allowing them to be shared among people viewing the magazine. The web is the same. When someone pins your photo to Pinterest, they themself are not profiting from your photo or saying, "Look how I cool I am by this photo." They are sharing inspiration. It should be an honor that your photo is on Pinterest. And it SHOULD BE FREE marketing. I just don't buy this crap about you not wanting your business name out there, or only wanting to pay for marketing. Ask any fortune 500 company is social networking and "sharing" is a good thing, I can tell you they will say YES. Don't believe me, go visit their websites.

            Furthermore, unless you are posting high res, watermark free photos to your website, I don't see how you could lose any money by someone sharing your photo. Especially if a client already paid for your photo, and signed a waver for you to put them online, then there is no further money to be made and no problem. If you are a fine art photographer who sells individual photographs, then by all means please don't put your photos on your website to be publicly used.

            You need to take the same precautions as iStockphoto does on your own site. If iStockphoto.com posted high res photos without watermarks, they would indeed make no money as people would just take them. Instead, they only allow low res, watermarked versions to the public. Problem solved.

            People are going to have to learn how to protect their content on the internet, and learn to take the good with the bad that comes with technology and the world wide web. With the internet, you most likely have gained more clients and a broader market, but you also might have someone "Pin" your photo to an inspiration board. Is this worth it to you? You have to decide.

          • by kirsten on February 29, 2012  10:34 pm

            Christa, the thoughts and arguments on both sides of this are compelling.
            Be careful not to look at it from only a portrait photographer's point of view though. What about the landscape photographer or fine art photographer who sells the same print over and over for a living. That person definitely needs traffic to his/her site to make the sale. While you and I might think "hey, what better way to advertise than to share", that person may disagree and isn't that up to them? Even if you or others say "no - once it's on the web it's for everyone" (and I understand that argument), the law does not currently agree.
            Artists and web site developers need to be working collaboratively to address all of the concerns and the law needs to catch up. Unfortunately, that is usually done through litigation and resulting case law. But perhaps more legislation is necessary?

          • by Christa on February 29, 2012  11:13 pm

            Kristen, thanks for the reply. I completely understand the different types of photographers and how they can be affected. My point to these type of photographers was to not post their work on their website without protection, but instead like iStockPhoto.com would. Perhaps a bad analogy is how this is similar to a store locking up their shop at night to prohibit theft. If they just leave the door open, people will steal their merchandise. The same is for photographers who post their high res photos to their website. Of course people are going to share them. We don't live in a perfect world. And you can't go and sue everyone who Pins your photo.

            And I do agree that it is the photographer's choice to post their photos online or not. If you post your high res/watermark free photos to your site without protection, then they will be shared. This is a fact people will have to understand and deal with if they want to use the internet.

          • by kirsten on February 29, 2012  11:31 pm

            It's a lot to consider. I'm definitely not trying to tell people what's "right" -- just trying to let people know what the law says right now and the risks involved. And right now, the law still protects work posted on the internet. There are certain exceptions but mostly it's all still protected.
            But I completely agree with you that photogs should be doing do all they can do to protect themselves if they are concerned. Thanks for the feedback!

          • by Chris on February 29, 2012  11:29 pm

            Christa, did you not read the TOS/TOU that Pinterest makes you agree to by signing up? 1. Pinterest owns anything that gets pinned (did you have the right to give ownership to Pinterest). 2. They have the right to modify the image i.e., remove watermarks and strip ownership metadata from all images because they actually have a copy on their servers. 3. And of course they also say they can sell anything that gets pinned because well, they own anything that gets pinned. WOW....didn't read that did you? I have never had a problem with the idea of Pinterest nor allowing some of my images to get pinned HOWEVER the TOS/TOU is the deal breaker and should be for any artist dependent on their art to live. What I am really angry about is those people who read all of the info AND still believe it's ok to pin my work. When Pinterest pulls their head our of their rear end and modify the TOS/TOU then I might change my stance but until then my images...my blog/website...period. I do want my business name out there but I choose where my name goes, like Grace Ormande Wedding Style Magazine and our local country club and a few other places where we know our clients shop, relax, read, etc. Our brand is who we are and if we allow that to get confused by having our images posted in places that don't match our brand, it muddies the water so to speak. Check out Big Deal Branding if you would like know more.

          • by Clif on March 1, 2012  4:55 am


            Not so hysterical please.

            I don't own any rights in your work. Since it is not mine, I cannot transfer any interest or ownership of your work to Pinterest. It doesn't matter what their agreement says, it's simply impossible for me to transfer what I don't have. I cannot grant someone ownership of one of your images. Therefor when I pin your photo, Pinterest does not, in fact gain the right to sell your work, and in spite of what you so loudly declare, I am not and cannot grant someone ownership to one of your images and therefor am not taking food off of your autistic son’s plate.

            I may be in violation of the terms of service with Pinterest, but it doesn't appear to me that they have much interest in enforcing their terms of service.

            The second thing you seem to have wrong in your head is that a copyright owner has an absolute right to control their intellectual property. You may very well wish to restrict all viewing of your copyrighted images to your blog and website, but in fact you don't get to do that. The very law that created copyright also created fair use exceptions, and if fair use of your images does not match the branding you want to do... Well, that's tough kid.

            Now is pinning your images actually fair use? I think it is (for several reasons). If you disagree, then by all means go to court. Under the law it is the responsibility of the copyright holder to enforce their copyright. Copyright comes under civil law and not criminal law. If you don't protect your rights, why should I or anyone else?

          • by kirsten on March 1, 2012  11:47 am

            Copyright law carries both civil and criminal liability.
            It is everyone's responsibility to make sure they aren't violating the law.
            I know there are different opinions in what the law SHOULD be, but it is what it is right now and it does protect against unauthorized use.
            I know, write me in for President and I'll change things!
            Oh God, wouldn't that be awful?? Haha

  178. by Domi on February 29, 2012  11:28 am

    I don't see the problem with other things being shared on Pintrest (ie. not photography).

    Things like recipes, crafting ideas and so on link back to their creator - you can't see anything but the thumbnail on Pintrest to make you think "ooh, I want to make that!", then you're taken to the creators' website itself. It's no different to linking from your own blog as far as I can see.

    I can see the problem for photography, but not for these other things?

  179. Pingback : Checking the Sources on Pinterest

  180. by Charles Hartman on February 29, 2012  1:30 pm

    Great Article!

  181. Pingback : Watch Copyright Laws when Pinning on Pinterest! - WeUseCoupons.com

  182. Pingback : Pinterest Is Evil!… well, ok. maybe not. i dunno. « S.H.A.

  183. by Ethan Davenport on February 29, 2012  2:52 pm

    Thanks for this information. It's very helpful and highly interesting. I'm a social media consultant for a small design firm in Georgia, and I'll probably link back here in the blog post I'm planning to write for the company. Your research is invaluable if people want to protect themselves.

  184. Pingback : spring cleaning… « arisefromthewreckage

  185. by Shaye on February 29, 2012  3:40 pm

    Oh wow. Thanks for all this information. As an academic librarian who has a lot of interest in copyright law, I've wondered about a great many things like Pinterest.

    I wonder, though, if it would make it any different if our boards could be completely private... where they aren't available publicly... but where we could have things neatly organized to see quickly while working on our own projects. In that case, the image is still reproduced (ugh) privately, but it functions similarly to a bookmark on my own computer. But it's much easier to organize and pin it on Pinterest.

    I do wonder when the first case of infringement will come out. For now, I am wondering how I can save all this wonderful data without breaking any laws. I could go back and create bookmarks, but OY. So much time and effort to keep this inspiration in my head!

  186. by Shaye on February 29, 2012  3:45 pm

    By the way, may I "pin" your article? Or shall I say, may I "pin" your logo that is attached to your article? I'm no longer on Facebook, but some of my good friends are following me on Pinterest. I think they'd all like to see this!!

    • by kirsten on February 29, 2012  4:10 pm

      Shaye, go ahead! I love my stuff being pinned. In fact, I am going to putting a "pin this" watermark on my images from now on so everyone can feel a little safer pinning my work!

      • by Shaye on February 29, 2012  4:16 pm

        Awesome! Thanks, again!

  187. by Brian on February 29, 2012  4:20 pm

    I have a question regarding FB too then. I believe like pinterest in their Terms of Use, they require you to indemnify them, as well. Wouldn't pinterest be in the same boat as facebook, in that regard. (Sorry if this has been answered, I did not read all of the comments).

    By the way I really enjoyed your analysis, great work!

    • by kirsten on February 29, 2012  4:37 pm

      I haven't researched FB, but I'm sure they have the same indemnification language. The reason I wrote about Pinterest is that the whole purpose of the site is to pin other people's work and IF that is illegal (and I'm not saying definitively that it is, I'm just saying that there is a good chance it could be), then the whole purpose of the site is an illegal purpose. So they are inviting you and even encouraging you to act in a way that may be illegal, but then turn around and say "you better not break the law and if you do, you defend us even though we are the ones who told you to and gave you the tools to do it with." Just a bit confusing. I've spoken with Ben Silbermann though and he is cognizant of the concerns and assures me they are working to get the kinks out.

  188. by Lisa on February 29, 2012  4:20 pm

    Just deleted my boards, too. I pursued copyright infringement against a client a few months ago (and won), so I cannot justify infringing on the rights of other image-makers and artists. Thanks for the well-written and well-thought-out article! I shared your article on Facebook, so I'll be interested to see what kind of reaction I get from my friends who have a Pinterest Addiction. I love the idea of adding a "Pin This" watermark to the images - excellent idea!

  189. by Joy on February 29, 2012  5:10 pm

    I'm going to agree with my good friend and fellow librarian, Naomi Bates.

    If you click on the image or site within Pinterest, it's a direct link to that site or image. In this case, there really doesn't appear to have any copyright infringement because the person creating the Pinterest isn't staking claim on a site/image, but posting it exactly as it appears online.
    Same goes for scoop.it, jux, et al (Naomi Bates, LM_Net List serv, 02/29/2012)

    By pinning, we are not claiming this work as our own and the Pin itself connects back to the website where it was found, then the intent to claim the work is not present.

    • by Joe Beasley on February 29, 2012  6:03 pm

      http://pinterest.com/pin/191543790371122348/ is an example of where pinterest is making a copy (550px × 393px) on it's own servers at the same resolution as it is on the site that it was pinned from. That is a copyright violation. The copy remain on pinterest's servers after the photographer removes it from the original site

      • by Princess on March 3, 2012  11:42 pm

        Joe, so does Google, and any other search engine, and the Internet Wayback Machine.

    • by JG on February 29, 2012  7:03 pm

      Joy, by pinning, you have agreed - in the terms of Pinterest that you approved in order to join - that you own the image, or have gained permission to Pin it.
      You are then sharing it with many others without permission of the image owner to share it that way, making it available to Facebook ( who are also dodgy with their claims to images ) and making it available to search engines and for others to share in any other way they see fit.
      The original image site might not have allowed search engines to collect the images from their original place on the web. Once a search engine picks up an image, it can become 'orphaned' from its original link to the creator and any copyright information, and then others who find it through a google search may assume it is copyright free... and so the problems continue for the image creator in seeing their work abused. All because someone who didn't have the right to Pin it, Pinned it anyway because they thought there was no harm in their intent....

  190. Pingback : who are we when we're on Pinterest? digital identity, Stepford Wives edition | theory.cribchronicles.com

  191. Pingback : Pinterest, Terms of Service, and You | Low-brow Musings

  192. by Jason on February 29, 2012  6:03 pm

    This is an interesting article, but come on, do you think the millions of Pinterest users are all going to get sued now...This is nothing new, it has been happening for years on ALL social type sites

    • by C on February 29, 2012  9:19 pm

      So that makes what Pinterest is doing legal then...just because millions of people think it's ok and that other social networks do the same thing? How about read the article again and understand that the TOS/TOU that you agree to by using Pinterest is some of the most invasive...ever. Once they get that cleared up, all will be good.

  193. by Carla on February 29, 2012  6:36 pm

    What is the difference in saving a page with a project, craft, recipe, photo idea, decorating idea, etc, etc etc to your FAVORITES tab or BOOKMARKING tab and going back and reviewing, making, decorating, using the photo idea, cooking the recipe, etc etc etc and PINNING it on a visual cork board? Either way, saving it in FAVORITES or BOOKMARKING, or PINNING, it's all the same! There is no difference! If people don't want their photos, projects, crafts, anything, copied......don't post it on the internet! People get this stuff anyway whether it is through Pinterest or any other social network! This whole "Oh, I'm gonna drop out of Pinterest because it is immoral or wrong because of copyright" is a bunch of hooey! People will get and take whatever they want whether Pinterest existed or not! I mean really, they've been doing it much longer then Pinterest has ever been around!

    • by Chris on February 29, 2012  9:16 pm

      OMG! Did you even read the article or spend half a second reading any of the comments. At this point in the discussion anyone who still says this kind of stuff is just willfully ignorant.

      • by Carla on February 29, 2012  11:12 pm

        OMG! Chris, Do you even know that Pinterest has addressed this issue? Go read the blog post for 2/20/12 at Pinterest because you are just willfully IGNORANT if you haven't educated your self!

        You attacked me for asking a legitimate question!!! So now....answer my question....What is the difference between bookmarking, adding to favorites and pinning? They are all the same thing but one is out in the open and two are not! So am I breaking copyright laws by adding to favorites or bookmarking also?

        If you are a photographer and you're afraid people are stealing your property, put a block on your photos so no one can copy them, pin them or even view them for all I care! Disable the function, or don't even put them on the internet! Nobody has to have pinterest to break the copyright laws or steal your intellectual property! Get a grip!

        • by Princess on March 3, 2012  11:47 pm

          OMG! Carla! Thanks for saying that!

        • by asraidevin on March 5, 2012  7:49 am

          No really Chris is right. You've missed the entire point.

          When you pin something, you share a photo of some sort. In most cases, the phot is not owned by you. It's owned by someone else and you don't have the legal right to share it with Pinterest according to their TOS.

          Secondly, pinterests "fix" is pandering. It only works if you've heard of it. I'm willing to bet there are people in the world who are using the web to market their artistic talents who've never heard of Pinterest, who maybe not even maintain their own websites and who are busy creating new content and don't pay attention. The onus is NOT on the creator to protect their works, it's on you not to violate their right.

    • by Christa on February 29, 2012  11:18 pm

      I absolutely agree with you Carla. It's like handing out a flyer on a college campus and then getting pissed that people showed their friends. Posting something to the World Wide Web means you just made it available to the, ahem, WORLD!

    • by Tara on March 9, 2012  2:58 pm

      Has anyone checked out Clipboard? https://www.clipboard.com/
      I haven't used it or read their terms of service, but it seems to be similar to Pinterest, but it keeps your boards private by default. I would think private boards would be the same idea as bookmarking a page in your browser. You wouldn't be sharing them with the world, but not sure if by clipping something you are giving rights to Clipboard or saying you have rights.

  194. by JG on February 29, 2012  6:56 pm

    Thank you for such a clear explanation of the problems with copyright on Pinterest. For those who never need to think about copyright and how it applies to them, you have explained it very well.
    May I just add one thing... You mentioned 'Fair Use' but I think although this applies in USA Copyright Law, but is not recognised in UK Copyright Law.
    So, as we are dealing with the World Wide Web, I assume the appropriate Law would apply relating to where in the world the image was created. (Or would it depend on where the website is maintained, or where the Pinner resides?)

    If it was a UK image that was used without permission, the 'Fair Use' arguement might not even apply!

    Just more things to consider....

    • by Joe Beasley on February 29, 2012  9:14 pm


      Under the Bern Treaty, US "fair use" would apply, because pinterest's website is maintained in the US

      BTW it's fair dealing in the UK http://www.copyrightservice.co.uk/copyright/p09_fair_use

  195. by Anita on February 29, 2012  7:31 pm

    Unfortunately Pinterest is a nightmare for photographers and visual artists (I am a fine art illustrator) especially as with 2D work the final "product" is the pin and they are copying this to their servers (sometimes in a higher res than a simple thumbnail). The Terms are the problem as described in this post, by a proffessional lawyer. I am fine with credited shares of my work online (FB for example has been good for my profile and business). The idea behind pinterest I like but I cannot endorse the structure as the terms are probably the most potentially damaging that I've seen anywhere. I have also been "watching" it carefully to see how it functions as a "share & promote" site, ignoring the terms for one moment., when repinning happens the source link gets lost very quickly meaning that traffic is driven away from the sites that I sell my work on........so yes, lets rem artists are real people with real rights and we expect to earn a living like everyone else, not to have that undermined.
    If the terms were changed and the sharing structures modified to remove repin and embedding then I might see it as a site of value, right now its dangerous at best !!

  196. by Alisia on February 29, 2012  8:05 pm

    I can't do it!! Call in the intervention team somebody please!! This is such a bummer! Ignorance is truly bliss! I have deleted two of my 30 boards! Ugh this sucks! Thanks for the slap of reality, I hope Pinterest can get their act together on this Issue! I agree with the shifty wording as a huge warning sign.

  197. by Jenn on February 29, 2012  8:07 pm

    Can anyone weigh in on how this applies to images of products that are commercially for sale and the pin I post is generated directly from the site selling the product? In this case I would assume that the company selling the product owns the copyright on the image, as they probably commissioned the photograph to be made for the purpose of advertising their product.

    I went and double checked my pins and they list the original source. Also, clicking on the image takes you directly to the product page where the item can be purchased. However, if someone repins that, my understanding is that the original source data may not follow the repin. I realize that Pinterest's terms say they can use any image posted as their own, strip the metadata, and sell it...which I agree is completely unfair to creators of original work, but I think there's a difference between an artistic photograph and a photograph being used to commercially promote a product.

    Am I incorrect in this line of thought?

    And, am I responsible for subsequent pins created from my own pins/images that I have permission to post? It's my understanding that permission cannot be transferred per Pinterest's TOU and in many cases, the creator's personal preferences.

    • by Scott on March 27, 2012  8:24 pm

      Jenn -

      There is no difference in commercial images versus artistic images. The owner of the copyright has the exclusive right to reproduce the work. No one else has that right absent permission from the copyright owner.

      I think it would be dangerous to assume that a company is the owner of a copyright. The only way the copyright can be taken from the photographer is with the permission of the photographer and it has to be in writing (as in a clause in the contract). There are too many companies that do not know this so I wouldn't put my money on it.

      I do believe that a company selling a product would be very happy to have images of the product plastered all over the place but again that woud not be my decision to make, and it may not be the company's decision either.

  198. Pingback : On “sharing” and Pinterest musings… | Girlfriday

  199. by Katie on February 29, 2012  8:25 pm

    I think you have touched on the can of worms that's beginning to open any time any new medium makes its way onto the scene and becomes popular. As someone who uses Pinterest on a personal and a professional level, I'm interested to see how this plays out. Thanks for your thoughtful insight and so you know, I've linked to your blog on mine--just giving you due credit!

  200. by Jenny on February 29, 2012  9:04 pm

    Wow. It's amazing what a simple, fun, share-site can do to make people totally insane. I realize the legal mumbo jumbo is there... and appreciate the research put into making it clearer, however I personally think it is all quite comical. As a portrait photographer I refer to other photographer images for ideas on posing, backdrops, etc. None that I have ever seen are claiming a portrait as their own when it truly is not. THAT should be punishable by law... but using the internet to gather ideas should NOT. Come on... people have already been doing it for years copying and pasting ideas and saving them on their computer for future reference or PINNING them to their bulletin board (ha ha) for inspiration. Pinterest allows the credit to be GIVEN and shared and allows photographers to get more hits to their blog and websites. This is all just completely insane to me... and the photographer mentioned who sued for a search engine pulling up his images seems comparable to the annoying person who sued McDonald's for hot coffee. Ridiculous!

    • by Chris on February 29, 2012  9:25 pm

      OMG! Did you even read the article? It's the TOS/TOU that you agree to when you sign up for Pinterest that is the problem. So that awesome pose you like so much get's pinned...well guess what, now Pinterest owns that image and yes a copy of if goes onto their servers. But it's got a watermark/logo on it...Pinterest has now the right to modify the image and of all things SELL it for a profit to anyone they want. Guess who takes all legal, financial, and criminal responsibility for Pinterest getting sued...you do....you agreed to pay for EVERYTHING in the case of a lawsuit. Have fun!

      • by Alyssa on February 29, 2012  10:18 pm

        Chris, I understand that you're upset about all of this but the way that you're trolling this thread and bashing everyone who speaks up doesn't make me want to hire you as a photographer. Attacking people isn't going to get anyone to sympathize with you.

        • by Chris on March 1, 2012  2:15 pm

          The reason I'm upset is I feel like I am the only one who is standing up for artists. It's almost like everyone thinks artists create their art just to let others enjoy it and that is true but we are also capitalists (I know, pretty evil word these days) and a lot of us use our art to feed our families. I don't want people to sympathize with me, I want people to stop taking artists and their art for granted. You like an image someone created, ask them for the right to copy or pin it (the same thing since Pinterest makes a copy for their servers). By me having a strong opinion and voicing it is a part of our branding....you either love it (and hire us) or you hate it (and go away)....branding working. So many artists are non confrontational, quite people who love to create so when they get hurt by people or the system, I want to stand up and try to protect them and yes, if that means I am the one to challenge Pinterest in court, so be it.

          • by Princess on March 3, 2012  11:52 pm

            Chris, you're not speaking for ALL artists. Only ones who think exactly like you, which I can't imagine is that many. If you didn't want sympathy you wouldn't mention your son so often. So why don't you go ahead and see how your legal argument stands up in court and stop berating everyone here.

          • by Debbie on March 25, 2012  8:20 am

            I am totally with you Chris. I have more than website that I have taken careful precautions to protect. I have copyright notices on my site, and I have TOU statements on my sites. I have images that belong to me and images that I have permission to use. If someone decides to lift images from my site, without observing copyright or read how they can use my site, they will take images that don't belong to me, so therefore I can't give permission for others to use these images.

            It really seems to me that there is a new generation of internet users who are totally into all this social media stuff, and they want to share images, and they don't want to be bothered with trying to determine whether they have the right to use said image, so their attitude is, if you don't want content or images from your website lifted from your website, then don't have one and don't put any of your content on the internet, because if you do, then everyone else has a right to it. What became of the thinking if it isn't yours, then you can't take it without permission.

            I like facebook just like anyone else, but I don't think I have the right to post any image I want, just because I want to, and if the owner has a problem with me taking it, then they should just suck it up, because they were just asking for it, because they put it on the internet. I guess I am too old to understand this way of thinking.

    • by Becky on March 1, 2012  1:53 am

      Pleaae read up on the McDonnalds case, it was by no means a frivolous lawsuit. McDonnalds knowingly served their coffee far too hot for human consumption because they found the smell carried better enticing customers to order it. The woman suffered THIRD DEGREE BURNS to a large portion of her lower body including her crotch. If the coffee had been kept at a lower temperature she never would have been burned as badly as she was.

  201. by April on February 29, 2012  9:15 pm

    So is it ONLY Photographs or does that include food? DIY projects>? clothing?? ETC..? Im so confused.. I dont mind deleting the photography part.. but all the great recipes and DIY projects.. come in handy.. Please answer this question. I dont want to delete my Pinterest.. im addicted. :(

  202. by Metsy on February 29, 2012  10:06 pm

    Speaking of not using content... did you give permission for the Business Insider to use portions of this post? Hope so. ;) http://www.businessinsider.com/pinterest-copyright-issues-lawyer-2012-2

    • by kirsten on February 29, 2012  10:38 pm

      Ha. I did not but I saw that. They linked to me and gave me credit. Plus, I'm not exactly sue-happy. I just wanted to help educate what I thought would be 10 readers (at the most) of my humble little blog but if more people are reading it and getting the discussion going, great! Maybe some changes that will benefit everyone will happen.

  203. by Mark on February 29, 2012  10:18 pm

    "What is the difference between posting another person’s photographs on your Pinterest page and posting another person’s photographs on your Facebook page? If the latter is so clearly a violation of copyright why isn't the former?"

    You've lost me... BOTH are IP law violations and only someone ignorant in IP law would think anything to the contrary.

    Kirsten, no Website Terms of Service are going to save you from being PERSONALLY liable if you violate another Intellectual Property rights... doesn't matter if it's Facebook, Pinterest or any other Web site...

    • by kirsten on February 29, 2012  10:47 pm

      Mark, yep, they most certainly are both violations in my opinion. That quote you have was intended to point out the irony in the different thought processes of the photographers that were discussing the issues on FB. One group was all "hey post everyone else's stuff on Pinterest and you're tacky if you post your own work." And the same day, the other group was all "hey, I'm so mad someone posted my pics on Facebook without my permission" -- and some of them were the same photogs. I sat back and went "huh now isn't that interesting."
      And your last point is exactly correct. BUT the TOU can educate the user a little bit more and be less contradictory so at least the user knows what is expected, what may be a violation and then can decide to conduct himself accordingly.

      • by Mark on February 29, 2012  10:55 pm

        Ah, gotcha. But still not understanding why anyone "tearfully" deleted their Pinterest board based on , nor why ppl are going off on Pinterest when it's the same with EVERY Website (and recordin.. er... you get the picture... WAIT, THAT'S MY picture! Don't steal it! ;)

        I mean, hell, if you'r going to delete your Pinterest board, better to also delete your Facebook, oh... and Google+ oh, and just never post to blogs and just stay off that new-fangled "internet" thingie....

        I agree with wanting/wishing TOS/TOU were congruent and supportive to USERS... but hell, they've NEVER been for that purpose, no!? They are for one thing and one thing only: to protect the *Website*. Things like customer service... are (supposed) to be for the consumer/user. To be frank, the whole rant just. doesn't. make. sense. to. me. Particularly why PI is isolated and ranted about when (repeat after me): the SAME issues apply to EVERY Website (and recording, and photograph...

        • by kirsten on February 29, 2012  11:18 pm

          I don't use other people's photos on my Facebook page or Twitter account. Nor do I need to in order to use the site as intended. The whole purpose of Pinterest is to pin other's photos. If you can't do that legally, then you can't really use it except to post your own photos. Voila -- all my boards are down except the ones containing my work. I can use FB and Twitter all day long for their intended use without violating the law.

          Again, I agree with you on the last point as well re TOU. The difference with Pinterest was that they said, in their rules of etiquette "don't do too much pinning of your own stuff" but in their TOU say (and I'm obviously not quoting their TOU here): "if you violate copyrights (i.e, use other's work without permission) you are deep doo doo and if we end up in deep doo doo because you did what we asked you to do, you pay us." All I'm saying is that is a bit irresponsible and super confusing. Not many sites out there give you a site whose entire purpose may be illegal and then say "please use it illegally but you are responsible for any illegal use, not us."

          As Ben (I love just calling him "Ben") and I discussed last night, his site is not the only site with this issue. I guess there are lots of photography based sites out there with the same issues. I just don't use them, don't know about them, don't really care about them and didn't elect to write about them. I chose Pinterest because I love the site and I want to be able to use it. And all my photog friends do too. In other words, Pinterest is of interest. To me.

          • by bholla on September 13, 2012  4:17 am

            Kirsten, as a fellow lawyer, I'm honestly a bit confused why the TOS has you so worried. Courts have consistently struck down contracts of adhesion (such as Pinterest's TOS) where those contracts contain in them something that the average reasonable consumer would not expect. Don't you think that, particularly in light of the DMCA's safe harbor provisions enabling copyright owners to protect their copyright through non-litigious means, and given the unlikeliness that the average internet poster has anything approaching a sophisticated understanding of defense and indemnity agreements, that provision of the TOS would be found unenforceable if it went to court? Seems to me there are all kinds of hurdles to enforcement: the aforementioned lack of meaningful consent, the lack of consideration, and the (imho) inherently unjust nature of saddling an unwitting consumer with a larger company's legal costs when the consumer engages in activity that the company depends on for its very livelihood.

            Obviously it's irresponsible to ignore or disregard onerous provisions in a TOS on the theory that they're likely unenforceable. But you didn't even mention this issue in your blog, which struck me as a major omission given your in-depth discussion of copyright rules, theories, and case law. I agree that the smartest conclusion may very well be to cancel your Pinterest account, but I'm not sure that the TOS has been adequately discussed as it stands. While people should always read through agreements, including TOS's (the fact that I'm rolling my eyes while writing this speaks volumes to the legal work that remains to be done in this area), the notion that just because something is in a TOS it is therefore enforceable is both incorrect and dangerous. Consumers absolutely should be cautioned, but they also should be aware of their rights -- just as it's important to remind people to be careful, it's equally important to remind them to question it when another party tells them they have no rights, particularly when it's very much in that other party's interests for them to think so. You have a right not to be completely screwed over in a way you couldn't have reasonably anticipated just because you used a social media website. For a court to rule otherwise would be to to go against a pretty solid and strong body of case law defining the limits of enforceable contracts. Though perhaps you didn't address it simply because by the time you got close to the end of your blog post you were tired of writing -- I've certainly been there myself :-)

          • by kirsten on September 13, 2012  2:29 pm

            Thanks for your input. I am always interested to hear other legal opinions on this. Many lawyers that I have spoken to disagree that the TOS, including the indemnification contained therein, would be unenforceable. I question the enforceability myself and have discussed it at length with both IP lawyers and contract lawyers. While I still question it, I would not be so quick as you are to assume a court would find Pinterest's TOS so unconscionable as to unenforceable. The user does have to consent to the terms prior to using the service and I do believe there is consideration given (just not in the form of money). Also, I would think that a reasonable consumer should expect to be held liable if it uses an internet site for illegal purposes or even just in violation of the rules of the site and such use resulted in harm. While I do think there is room for debate on the enforceability of the indemnity language, I wasn't about to advise people on my blog to not worry it as the TOS wouldn't be enforceable anyway. I don't need that backlash! haha. For those reasons, coupled with the fact that my blog was not intended to be a legal dissertation on contract law or on the enforceability of the TOS, I did not delve into that. This post was merely meant to inform people - mainly other photographers - about the copyright issues and the inherent discrepancy between the then operative TOS and Pinterest's suggested use. (i.e, don't self promote but don't pin what you don't own). Maybe I'll do a follow up post about enforceability of TOS. On second thought, nah. I'll leave that to the legal blogs.

  204. by Layla Mayville {Simply Savannah Events} on February 29, 2012  10:48 pm

    hmmmmmmmmmmmm a little scary! pinterest should just change the size of the images to thumbnails and everyone has to click on it to go to the original source, but then does that mean that the bread crumb trail of where it originally came from also could get in trouble and for that matter all bloggers could get in trouble!? Plus anyone and track who is pulling pictures from their site and pinning it, so if they ask you to take it down, you do it!

  205. by Carla on February 29, 2012  11:30 pm

    Pinterest has provided a code in their Help section that disables the "Pin" button for site owners who do not want any of their material pinned.

    Pinterest has also included Copyright infringement reporting for anyone who feels like their copyrights have been violated. It can be found under the "About" section at Pinterest.com.

    For those who want to disable the right-click copy function, go to google and search for the "disable right-click function" for the code to add to your webpage.

    • by Scott on March 27, 2012  8:37 pm


      Why would someone have to 'Opt out' of Pinterest, or any other site for that matter? Think about your statement. Who knows how many sites like Pinterest there are out there. I, as a photographer, have no idea how many or what their names are. If they all decided that I should have to make an effort to opt out how could I possibly know to do that if I did not even know they existed?

      Do you feel that you should have to opt out of strangers coming into your home? That would be silly. It is your home and you should not have to put up a sign that says you are opting out of strangers walking into your home.

      My point is that it makes no sense that anyone would have to take additional action to keep other people from acting illegally.

      You also point to the Copyright infringement reporting - this is a very much misunderstood section. For Pinterest to claim protection under the DMCA they must follow certain rules otherwise they themselves become liable. This action is not required for a photographer to sue a poster for copyright infringement. It does nothing to protect you from liability - it only protects Pinterest. There is some debate on whether or not Pinterest can claim protection since they are there for people to pin other peoples work.

      As for the 'disable right-click' statement - this is another naive statement. Again - a person should not be required to do additional acts to prevent others from stealing their work. In addition the right-click is only one way that an image can be copied. If it is on the internet it can be copied - there is no way to completely prevent copying.

  206. by Teryn Robinson on February 29, 2012  11:31 pm

    I will sadly be removing all my pinterest boards :( ... but I did find Dropmark.com so I'll be moving them over for private use before I delete :) Dropmark is actually great because I can create boards for a specific event or styled photo shoot and share with a client, makeup artist, assistant, etc. For the next day or so you can sign up for half price which is only $24/year... so worth it for me!!! Thanks!!

  207. by Bridget Overson on March 1, 2012  1:25 am

    Comments were tl:dr, however I did do a search on the page for follow, so I'm pretty sure I'm not repeating anyone else on here. As a Graphic Designer, I can see how artists would be up in arms about this kind of thing. I understand as an artist on etsy how one would not like someone posting a tutorial on how to make their crafts. However, I am also in marketing at my job, and we are currently looking into leveraging Pinterest as part of our marketing effort.

    Here's why:

    Currently, images "pinned" on Pinterest contain a link to the source of the image. These links are important because unlike many other social media sites, these links are follow links (as opposed to nofollow links), which means they receive a certain amount of high authority "link juice" from Pinterest which can help them in terms of Page Rank (ie: how you get to the top of organic search results, read: Google Search page 1). And the more repins you have, the better juice you will get.

    For visual artists, graphic designers, and marketers of all kinds, this kind of link juice can do wonders for their SERPs.

    Just my two cents. In some cases it is desirable, in others, maybe not so much.

  208. by meagan on March 1, 2012  3:00 am

    I have to admit that I haven't read all of the comments above, so forgive me if any of what I'm about to say has already been addressed.

    The way that I have come to understand fair use (and I will double check with my friend who actually loves copyright law) is that by using their material, you are not hurting the original creator nor are you profiting off of it yourself. This is why, as I understand it, I am allowed to make copies of chapters from books for my classes (though this would also fall under the educational purposes) and that they are able to use quotes from them in their papers, as long as they are properly cited as such.

    Just because not everyone clicks through the picture to the original link (I actually do quite often), doesn't mean that it wasn't provided or that they claimed it as their own. If someone was to download a picture from a website, and then re-pin it to pinterest, that would be an issue if they didn't then cite it in the comments specifically. That would be like saying we should sue everyone who writes a research paper if their readers don't actually go and visit each original source quoted. The information was provided and that is your end of the deal.

    By pinning to pinterest, I gain nothing nor do I think that many would mistake a professional photographer's work for my own - though that of course is entirely beside the point, except that by using pinterest each user knows and agrees that they are viewing non-originals, and therefore should click through the "citation" to find the original source should they seek it.

    Many of the people who were sued during the Napster case (as I remember it) were sued because of the sheer amounts of music they had downloaded, shared, and re-shared. Meaning that they were getting enough music that they had to be selling it or that they were hurting the music industry just by the sheer number that they had not purchased. Music is a much stronger case, because besides taping it on cassette tape off the radio (which I'm sure many, many people are guilty of), you have to buy it to enjoy it. Often, you have to buy a whole cd to enjoy one song.

    My understanding of e-readers is that you don't actually own any of the books you download, which actually teeves some people off. Of course, I'm sure that would be some interesting law to look at.

    Anyway, before I get off topic, by pinning something on Pinterest, I gain nothing and I'm pretty sure it would be a hard case to argue that I was hurting the artist. How am I hurting them? If I am pinning their work, it is likely because I like enough to actually buy it or hire them OR that I wouldn't buy it anyway, I just thought it was nice. Having it pinned to my board where I can go view it, is not much different than logging into their website everyday to check it out.

    NOW- This may be where you could make an argument of "hurt." If the said photographer generates ad revenue from how many people visit their site, then one could potentially make the argument that pinning the photo to pinterest alleviates the reason for people to actually go to the original website, therefore hurting ad revenue. HOWEVER, if you were going to make this argument, you'd then also take into account all of the people who never would have known that the artist even existed if not for Pinterest and then went on to visit the site or actually buy something or hire them.

    As for this being the artist's personal decision, I can totally see where you are coming from. HOWEVER, the artist has already made the decision to advertise their work by posting it on their website. Furthermore, (having taken enough web design classes to know a thing or two (literally, 2 classes that were essentially the same class) you can post a picture to your website, without making it recognizable as an image. This means, you can post a picture to your website in such a way that viewers will not be able to copy and paste it or download it, and logically then also, not be able to pin it, even with the pin tool that you can download.

    I have already run into such sites, and though I find it frustrating (and occasionally have pinned the picture from the google search page, yes I know that is cheating, and I have only done it with store items that are for sale) if it is a work of art, I just respect their right to make their work un-copyable.

    So, I hardly see Pinterest as an attack on the unsuspecting web photographer. If they didn't want people copying their work, it has always been a simple fix. Furthermore, if they are providing those images on their webstie as downloadable items, people have already been doing it, but now pinterest not only lets them see it happening, it actually works in their favor.

    Let's be clear! I am not saying "you put your work out there so it deserves to be copied," I am saying any work that is given to the public domain can be used in terms of fair use provided that it is cited properly. In the issue of online material (and yes, you can even make text un-copyable), if you really don't like the idea of knowing who is citing and referring to your work, then you have a very simple, easy, quick defense. Just make it uncopyable.

    So, I am going to continue to use pinterest and I guess hope that no one sues me. People can sue you even if they have no chance of winning, and I guess that is a risk we all take in interacting with one another, but I also feel the law, fuzzy as it may be, is on my side here. And from what I understand from another friend of mine who is a lawyer, that unless it is worded exactly right putting a sign or contract saying "I provided it, but it's not my fault" don't always hold up in court.

    Again, I am not disregarding the artist's personal rights or encouraging the stealing of their work. As a writer myself, I understand the paranoia that someone is going to just take my work and claim it as their own or profit off it without my consent, but a wise professor also once taught me how rare and unlikely an occurrence that is as I'm not yet famous, and when I am, it will be obvious and easily taken care of. I also understand that with photographs particularly, the point is to view it and if I can view it anywhere, then what is the point of buying it, but I also beleive there is a difference between pinning it on pinterest, clearly cited with a direct link to the original, and downloading it from the creator's site (or even from pinterest) printing it, taking it to Wal-Mart and having it enlarged and framed. i guess you could make that worse by then selling copies. But Pinterest? It's nothing more than hey look what this neat person did at their exact website. I don't even gain brownie points for other people repining my pins or even ad revenue for everyone visiting it. And if "for comment" is covered in the above law you posted, then, well, that is exactly what pinterest is: reproduction for comment.

    • by Scott on March 27, 2012  9:01 pm


      Wow! You really need to educate yourself a bit on this topic. People who have the same beliefs as you are the reason copyright infringement is so rampant.

      "How am I hurting them?" - Let me give you one example - I can exclusively license an image for $10,000 to $20,000 or more. A company that is willing to pay that much to license an image wants to use that image exclusively. They want it to be theirs to use as they see fit. If you come along and copy my image and then it is copied and recopied I can no longer legally offer an exclusive license for that image. The problem is that once an image leaves my site I lose control of the image. I have one specific example where one of my images was copied to a site like Pinterest and has been recopied over 1,000 times to sites all over the world including Pinterest. Once it had been around a while someone decided to take out my copyright information with Photoshop and now the image is floating around without any attribution to me. Thank you and all of your friends for taking away the opportunity for me to license my image the way I want to license it.

      You also state that since a photographer put the image on the internet then they should not be able to complain if it is copied. That is like saying that if you parked your car on a public street and it got stolen then you should not complain because you 'put it out there'. I am sure you would feel that would be absurd. The same goes for my property.

      You should also look up 'pubic domain'. This is a legal term and it does not mean that anything on the internet is in the public domain. Your assumption is a dangerous one.

      Fair use does not mean that you properly cite your source. Again, a dangerous assumption.

      You are also wrong when you say that it is an easy fix for photographers to prevent copying. If you can view an image on your computer you can copy it. There is no way to prevent copying. I am not concerned with someone copying an image and getting a print done at Walmart. I am concerned with my images being spread all over the internet.

      If you are not aware a photographer who registers their copyrights has the option of suing for actual or statutory damages. It may be very difficult to determine actual damages so the court can award up to $150,000 per use as well as my legal costs. This is put into place to protect the rights of copyright owners as well as to punish infringers.

      Your thoughts about fair use are also flawed. Fair Use may be a gray area but just because you feel that Pinterest in reproduction for comment does not mean your opinion holds any water. Pinning of an image is not comment. Writing about something and using an image to illustrate that commentary is not considered 'for comment'. You might want to do some additional research in that area.

  209. by Dawn Whitehand on March 1, 2012  3:06 am

    Surely there needs to be some perspective here: if a case went to court, surely the judge would take the context & intent into consideration... there is no "intentional" theft, and the pinning is being done in the "context" of social media, of which there is so much: twitter, FB, FLickr, etc. Plus what is being 'pinned' is a link, not merely an image...and this link goes back to the original owner of the works.
    Personally, if I were sued, I would countersue Pinterest for the deliberate mumbo jumbo they have produced in their terms & conditions.

    • by Scott on March 27, 2012  9:06 pm

      Dawn -

      There is no requirement for the theft of an image to be 'intentional' as you put it. The act in itself is actually intentional. A person who pins an image does in fact mean to copy that image. Just because you say it is being done in the context of social media has no meaning in copyright law.

      You state that the image is merely a link. Why then are my images that have been infringed not linked to my site? I can tell you why. Once an image makes it through the rounds in time that 'link' is lost.

      You can go ahead and try to sue Pinterest but you have aready agreed to their terms. Just because you don't understand it doesn't mean you haven't agreed, it just means you may be foolish for accepting terms you don't understand.

  210. by Jordan on March 1, 2012  3:47 am

    I would love to print this out and share it with my middle school students! We are about to do a unit on informational text. How can I gain permission to have access to share this for educational purposes?