To Pin or Not to Pin… The Pinterest Debate.

Posted on March 22, 2012


When it comes to Pinterest, I think the general public falls into one of 3 very general categories: They love/are addicted to it, They don’t understand it/care, or Pinterest, what?  Right now however the “Pinterest Debate” is a highly charged topic – at least among many photographers and artists that I network with.  It’s my goal to write a balanced post about Pinterest from a photographer’s and artist’s perspective and just bring the issue to the forefront.  [[These of course are my own opinions and I ask that you leave feedback.  Hey, it’s okay to *respectfully* disagree!]]

What is Pinterest?

Pinterest is actually an amazing idea.  It is a virtual pinboard where anyone in the world can pull images, sayings, ideas, recipes, basically most .jpegs from the web, categorize them and then “pin” them to a board to revisit later.  The recipe boards for instance are becoming much like an online, personalized cookbook.  Others who have connections to your boards can “re-pin” or comment on your ideas.  Very innovative.  High five to the person who came up with the idea!  And the website is truly beautiful.

So then why is Pinterest such a hot button debate?

Among artists, photographers, designers, etc., Pinterest is becoming an area of concern because of the potential for copyright infringement.  Now, not everyone has their facts correct in the argument and honestly, as people become more concerned, the facts are actually changing.  Pinterest’s goal is to allow people to show what inspires them.   If they click on the image, it should re-direct the user to the originating website.  It could potentially drive business back to a site.  At least that’s the goal.  The problem lies in that people don’t like the look of watermarks and crop them out or maybe they “save as” an image and then repost it to their own blog without giving credit.  If a passerby comes across said blog and likes the photo, they may pin it to their board.  Suddenly, the image is out there, with a watermark cropped out, and the redirect is to the blog of the person who snagged the photo, not of the photographer themself.  Tough issue for all parties involved.

What does Pinterest say about copyright infringement?

Well, to their credit they do have a complaint form you can fill out and send to them if you see an image of yours on the pinboards and want it removed because you believe it infringes on copyright.  Even more to their credit, they are listening to concerned creative minds.  There was an article in the Washington Post recently that highlighted this.  Now, let’s be clear, I am NOT an attorney.  So I cannot speak to copyright infringement.  I suggest you read the Post article, as well as other reputable articles on the web to educate yourself on the subject.

So, do you Pin?

Well… I used to.  I remain a Pinterest user.  I love and respect their vision.  However I, like some other artists, are a bit weary at the moment, so I have sort of put the brakes on my Pinning.  Whether I choose to keep my boards or not is a tough decision and one that may be driven more by my lack of time to Pin and respecting those in the art community, than major concern over my own work being infringed upon.  [[There are ways to protect your work if you have your own webpage or blog from allowing pinning.  There is html code that prevents image pinning.  Some blog sites allow it, others do not.  If you can access your html code in your website.  It will likely work.  It’s here if you are interested, along with other ways to protect your work.]]

What’s the bottom line?

It’s important to protect yourself.  Whether you are an artist or an active pinner.  Make sure you are abiding by the Terms of Use and stay updated on their efforts to make the site a less weary place for some artists.  Educate yourself.  And please, don’t hate on me because I brought up this topic.  My blog is a forum for all people, but especially artists, to respond appropriately and voice their opinion.   I know there are addicted pinners out there.  I’m not telling you to stop.  I’m asking you politely to read about Pinterest and their rules, respect people’s work, and pin with care. =)

******* Update as of 03/24/2012 *******

This morning I received an email from Pinterest.  Through my research on them I knew they had been working diligently to modify their terms of service and make the site more friendly for creative minds (as well as protect themselves and their users from lawsuits.)  The email details the following:

-Our original Terms stated that by posting content to Pinterest you grant Pinterest the right for to sell your content. Selling content was never our intention and we removed this from our updated Terms.

-We updated our Acceptable Use Policy and we will not allow pins that explicitly encourage self-harm or self-abuse.

-We released simpler tools for anyone to report alleged copyright or trademark infringements.

-Finally, we added language that will pave the way for new features such as a Pinterest API and Private Pinboards. – Pinterest Email

So, I am happy to see some developments in the right direction.  Check out their Terms of Service and click on the top.  These do not go into effect until April 6, 2012, so you have to click on the link to view them now already.  I’m glad to see a company listening to consumer concerns and hope that this is a positive change.  I guess we can only wait and see!