Pinterest - sharing or stealing? copyright talk pt. 2

Curiouser and curiouser! 

I often joke that I am in my own little world, but a few google searches today make me realize that I really am.  Type any spin on "pinterest copyright", "pinterest stealing" or even just Pinterest into your favorite search engine and you'll see what I'm talking about. Or more precisely what everybody is talking about.

Sunday I shared my thoughts on crediting the creator of any image that you are pinning, linking to their site or blog whenever possible. I also suggested using GoogleImage to find the person behind a piece if its "pin" links to something other than the original source.

I was curious to see what others thought about this new social sharing site and several folks have responded here, via email and in other venues. (Thank you for contributing your opinions on what I  originally thought was a simple topic.)

One of the emails was from Andrea Jankelow of Newsy.com - she shared this video The Question of Pinterest's Legality. Sometimes my margin cuts the edge off embedded videos, so click here if you'd rather watch it at Newsy (opens in new window).

So, what is all the fuss about? Where to begin...

What is Pinterest? (Waitwas that you sharing my cave?) 

Pinterest describes itself as "a virtual Pinboard" which "lets you organize and share all the beautiful things you find on the web..... Best of all, you can browse pinboards created by other people. Browsing pinboards is a fun way to discover new things and get inspiration from people who share your interest."

Why Do I Care?

Not wanting to join yet another time-sucking social site, I stayed away for months. While stuck in bed with nasty cold I scrolled through my gazillion bookmarked sites and realized that I could use Pinterest to help declutter my computers.... 

.... Then I started browsing. I do love eye-candy & DIY & recipes & ... this seemed like perhaps the perfect organizing tool plus it was fun to play with! Once I'd decided who (& what) I wanted to "follow", glancing at their pins was like flipping though a constantly changing magazine designed especially for me. 

A few days into the honeymoon I noticed that far too many pieces did not link back to their original sources. Many took me to places where people had posted uncredited collages of other peoples work (mostly on Tumblr).  I use Google Image regularly to search for my artwork, so I decided to started chasing down original sources and editing my "repins" to give credit where it was due. 

I continued to share tutorials, odds and ends (including antique postcards & photos from my collection for free-use by anyone.) I also started pinning artwork I admire (with credit and links to the artists), as well as interviews from this blog. I figured with Pinterest the 5th largest referral site perhaps some of my favorite creative people could get some exposure & maybe new fans or sales.

Why Do 'They' Care?

Reading comments today - including some on Pinterest's own blog  - it looks like spreading the word about cool creators & their awesome stuff  is not helping everyone. In fact, some people do not want their art pinned at all, properly credited or not.

Some of these people are angry or worried about pinners not properly acknowledging their work. 

While Pinterest's #2 etiquette tip is to "Credit Your Sources", I keep reading online that some people (1)  think that once art is on the web it is in the Public Domain, (2) that the site they got the image from is  automatically the original source, or (3) they just don't care.   

Others are concerned about handing over their own copyrights after reading Pinterest's Terms of Use which states:

"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."  

Still others are nervous that should anyone pursue copyright infringement, it is the pinner and not Pinterest that will be held responsible. 

When joining Pinterest you agree that you will not "Post, upload, publish, submit, provide access to or transmit any Content that: (i) infringes, misappropriates or violates a third party’s patent, copyright, trademark, trade secret, moral rights or other intellectual property rights, or rights of publicity or privacy..."  


Plus "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."

Find more about what these disclaimers mean to you, the pinner, in this article by Rebecca Greenfield in The Atlantic Wire: Pinterests Copyright Strategy Puts The Burden On The Userwhere I spotted the above terms (that I had skimmed over when lazily perusing the TOU the first time).

And others are worried that if Pinterest folds they will lose all of their saved info on their pinboards & will have to search all over again for those favorite recipes, tutorials, etc.

The Upside

Want to keep people from pinning what you've posted online? 

Pinterest has added a code which you can find here. Then "... 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.""
(I have read around the web that a pinner can still take a screen shot & then pin that.) 

You can report "Objectionable Content", including copyright infringement 

Click on the "Report pin" button that appears to the right of the image your mouse is hovering over. For details, here is the link to Pintests How To Report A Copyright page

Want to find out who's linked their pins to your blog or website?

In the space where you put a URL type-  http://pinterest.com/source/artsnark.blogspot.com/ - except put your site where I have "artsnark.blogspot.com"

How to find out if your art is on Pinterest? Excellent question! 

Sometimes when I put something into Google Image, it tells me about a pin. But sometimes it doesn't - even though I know a specific piece has been pinned and repinned. If anyone has any other suggestions please let me know.

After all this, why use Pinterest?

Get organized

Get inspired 

Share with others 

Promote people, places and pieces you love on what looks to be a very fast growing referral site.

Some minor self-promotion is tolerated ( I have heard) however Pin Etiquette #3 states 

"Avoid Self Promotion -Pinterest is designed to curate and share things you love. If there is a photo or project you’re proud of, pin away! However, try not to use Pinterest purely as a tool for self-promotion."

I enjoyed this article How 5 Artist Use Pintersest by Alicia Eller for ReadWriteWeb.com

Why Do You Care? Please, share your thoughts. Lets get a dialog going!  

A few more interesting articles and posts about this topic

How Your Business Could Get Sued For Using Pinterest by Galen Moore for  Boston Business Journal (found on Techflash.com)

Pinterest - Three Reasons For Not Using It at Artists-Bill-Of-Rights.org

When Stealing Property is Okay by Alan Spencer from AlanSpencerPhotography.blogspot.com

Growing Up - Pinterest's blog post & the comments on it

Nailing Down The Appeal of Pinterest - caught this on NPR this morning (2/29)

By the way, I apologize for the screwy type-sizes & spacing. Blogspot is acting up on me again tonight & simply wont behave. Thanks for your patience

2/29 Following up:  While contacting each artist for permission would be ideal, I don't think it is realistic when you consider the way Pinterest is set up. Part of the appeal is that it is fast and easy to use.  I am still using Pinterest ( http://pinterest.com/artsnark ) but will be even more careful about linking to the original source.  Some of my earlier pins may be lacking proper sourcing & I will try to resolve this. Should anyone find their creation on my boards and want it removed (or the link/credit altered), just let me know and I will take care of it ASAP. 


  1. You sure did your homework on this one! I didn't know some of this stuff. It's all too stressful so I think I'll pull the covers over my head and go to sleep! LOL!

  2. Woooooow!!! That really is interesting. Oddly enough, I pinned something from my own blog today, and it didn't get tagged as having been pinned when I did that search.

    I think the real key... Is to pin from a source. To be blunt... I find Tumblr to be 90% worthless, filled with uncensored content and should perhaps be unallowed on pinning anything from there. Above all else, they help encourage anything and everything.

  3. Well...I had NO IDEA that any of this was going on at all, but this was a very interesting read.....

    What I really wanted to say was THANK YOU!!!!

    I got the print, and it's BEAUTIFUL! (actually, both of them). My son (who is 19) saw them, and wanted to know what I was going to do with them. He wanted to put them up in his room. Sorry, kiddo, they're going down here where we can ALL look at them every day. I just got a new matt cutter, and matting those will be the first thing I do with it.

    THANK YOU!!!

  4. Excellent post Stacey. I had much the same feelings as you about getting involved in yet another time consuming venture.. but I did... and I really enjoy (as you said) the little magazines all set up with what I love to look at most.
    I have made every attempt to correct and link images to the owner and it's very time consuming. There is one in particular that makes me crazy. It's an image credited to Joseph Cornell. The minute I looked at it I knew it wasn't a Cornell piece. I spent nearly an hour and finally found the artist but there are countless posts of that image that haven't been corrected and it keeps getting pinned incorrectly. I think it's a great place to organize and enjoy images etc. and we all just have to try to do our best to give credit where it's due.
    Thanks for the awareness! ♥

  5. wonderful post! There's so much hubbub going on over pinterest that I don't know what to think. I do know how to properly credit and share etc but I'll readily admit that sometimes I just float on re-pinning pretty things and I don't see TOO much harm in that. I'm not extorting those pins to make money or anything. BUT Pinterest itself does have weird terms so ...I still don't know what to do or think about it all.

  6. oh my... so many things i hadn't thought of. i've got such a headache now. :) thanks though, cause this is serious stuff.