a PINTERESTing predicament

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Those of you who are alive, have opposable digits, and access to the internet, have most certainly heard of Pinterest. For those of you who haven’t, Pinterest is a highly addictive internet sensation that is quickly rising in popularity and addictivity (not a real word, I know-let it go).  Pinterest allows users to “pin” pictures of recipes/crafts/fashion/wedding ideas/etc. they like to a virtual pinboard.  All of your “pins” are then shared with all your pinterest friends, or the people following your pinboard.  It is a genius idea.  When you are browsing the internet and see something you like, and want to remember for later, you pin it, and it is automatically saved to your virtual pinboards.  Bookmarks are a thing of the past.  You can also peruse all of the “pins” made by your pinterest friends.  When you find something you like, you can repin it, or click the picture and be transferred to the image’s original site.  It is simple, addictive, and quickly rising in popularity.  Simply put, pinning is the new winning.

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I myself am a Pinterest addict, pinning everything from recipes I want to try to DIY projects, to shoes.  I can’t explain it, how it sucks you in, you open it, start pinning, and then suddenly two hours have gone by that you will never get back.  Maybe its the pretty pictures, or maybe its discovering all new amazing websites that I never knew existed.  It is taking over the world. You pin something: its reported on Facebook.  You can follow Pinterest on Twitter.  There’s even a Pinterest app, yes, there’s an app for that. Whatever it is, Pinterest has me (and the rest of the world) hook, line, and sinker.

A screenshot of Pinterest’s main page

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Or should I say, had me hook, line, and sinker? Do you all remember a little thing called Napster?  An online program that people downloaded to their computers, which allowed them to download all the free music they wanted.  Yay!  Nay….Napster went down for copyright infringements, and they went down hard, bringing many of its users, including a 12 year old girl, with them.  Recording artists sued the creators of Napster, as well as the users, citing copyright infringements.  And they won.

We as Americans work very hard to protect our rights.  The right to free speech, creativity, intellectual and artistic integrity.  We don’t like it when people steal our stuff, or even our ideas. It makes perfect sense.  If you pour your heart and soul into the creation of a piece of art, or a picture, or a song-whatever it may be, you want credit for it.  You want the praise, and the attention, you crave it, you need it, and you don’t want others to have it. It may sound selfish, but its not.  Our ideas are little pieces of ourselves, of our souls, and we’re not wrong for wanting to be told they’re wonderful.

So, the artists suing Napster, and all of its millions of users, bankrupting the company and putting an end to the free music party, were made out to be the bad guys. When in fact, they were just protecting what was rightfully theirs.  Why am I giving you a history lesson on the downfall of Napster?  Because, and it truly pains me to say this, Pinterest might be heading down the same path, taking us all along for the ride.

A lawyer/photographer named Kristen Kowalski (http://ddkportraits.com/contact/), no, not Kelly Kapowski, recently found herself in the middle of an online Facebook discussion regarding photographers who were upset that their client were reposting their photos without their permission, they too were citing copyright infringement.  One photographer was enraged to the point that she was considering suing.  Yikes.  Kristen started to think to herself, if photographers get angry/sue because their photos are being reposted on facebook, then should they also be mad about people “pinning” their photos as well?

So she started digging-her law background really came in handy.  She started at the source, Pinterest. After reading their terms of use, she found that all Pinterest users are solely responsible for all material they pin/repin, and that they must have explicit consent to do so.  Yikes.  I’ve pinned hundreds of photos, and not once have I ever gotten permission from the original source.

She continued to dig (hoping to find something to convince her that pinning wasn’t breaking copyright laws), and was sadly disappointed.  She pursued federal copyright laws, federal copyright laws and found a section on “fair use”. The “fair use” clause roughly translates to the fact that copyrighted work can only be used without permission when someone is criticizing it, commenting on it, reporting on it, teaching about it, or conducting research.  Unfortunately, simply repinning doesn’t fall under any of those categories.

Kristen was also highly disturbed by the fact that if a photographer does decide to sue you because they don’t like the fact that you are repinning their work, they can sue both you, and pinterest, however, you will have to provide yourself a lawyer, as well as a lawyer for Pinterest!

“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.” (from Pinterest’s Terms of Use)

Zoinks.  This led Kristen to the unfortunate decision to tearfully delete all of her beautiful pinboards.

Kristen certainly makes some excellent points.  And in a world where you can spill a coffee on your lap, sue Dunkin Donuts because there was no waning on the cup letting you know the coffee was hot, and win millions of dollars, the threat of photographers suing you over repinning their work is a very real, and very scary.  It happened for Napster, and it can happen to Pinterest. (Although I really, really hope it doesn’t!0

While Kristen’s findings are certainly shocking, and a bit worrisome (I really can’t afford to get sued…) I still have some questions that I would want answered before deleting all my boards.  Is it still copyright infringement if the photo links back to the original site?  Or am I stealing traffic from the original site by repinning the photo?  How many people actually follow the pic back to the site? (I know I almost always do, but that’s just me)  If I repin and comment on the picture, does it then fall under the “fair use” clause?  Does “OMG I neeeeeeeeeeeeeeeed this?” count as a legitimate criticism/comment?

Gah.  It’s almost too much for me to comprehend.  A world without Pinterst?  What would we do?!  I’m not ready to delete all of my pinboards quite yet, but I will most definitely be keeping my eye on this story, and am interested to see how it develops.

I’d love to hear all of your thoughts on the subject.  Do you pin?  Do you think pinning infringes on copyright laws?  If you don’t, why? Is this any different from Napster? Do you think photographers could sue pinners for reposting their work?

You can read Kristen’s post about her findings here: http://ddkportraits.com/2012/02/why-i-tearfully-deleted-my-pinterest-inspiration-boards/

Thanks for reading! xo Whitney

***Hi all!  Just wanted to give you an update-Kristen has posted a new post on her blog about how Pinterest’s founder called her last night!  They chatted about her concerns regarding copyright infringement and photographer’s rights.  Hopefully Pinterest will take these concerns into consideration and make the world a safer place to Pin in!  You can see her new post here:http://ddkportraits.com/2012/02/my-date-with-ben-silbermann-following-up-and-drying-my-tears/ ***


15 thoughts on “a PINTERESTing predicament

  1. I too am an addict and I just cant bear to get rid of all of my cool pins, but like you mine always lead back to the site…I’m just confused and need more clarification on this

    • I completely agree…I definitely need some hard facts before I do something radical like deleting boards! It definitely made me start thinking though. People sue people because they looked at them wrong. I think the possibility of artists suing pinterst/users is high, I’m just not sure what their chances of a favorable outcome is.
      Another thing I wondered is, are photos that link directly to the original site exempt from copyright laws? And if so, what about photos that link back to someone who reposted it on their page/blog/whatever and not the original, original site-does that dilution more of an infringement? LOTS to think about!

  2. I’ve seen this same article! Very interesting. It really makes me wonder what the future of pinterest and our copyright laws will look like! It seems that, if the SOPA legislation were ever put back on the table, this would be much more of a reality. I honestly probably would seriously consider deleting my Pinterest if that became law.

  3. Loved your entry. I read the article earlier today from Kristen and I feel a bit like you…I love Pinterest and I always look at the blog to which the pin came from (and if they don’t have a link, I rarely repin). I see Pinterest as a great way for blogs to get their name out there, to users that might have not ever read/seen. I hope Pinterest doesn’t collapse into a black hole of court battles. I would feel a little less me without my boards!

  4. This informative article had been definitely an incredibly fantastic study. We has been impressed by the items on this article. I can not wait to determine precisely what else you have available for us. I will be surely getting excited about the following article. Many thanks pertaining to discussing!

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