Monday, February 13, 2012

Pinterest: Images, Copyright and Benefits. What can you post?

Pinterest - People - A clean sweep for Adele as Grammys mourn Houston by stevegarfield
Pinterest - People - A clean sweep for Adele as Grammys mourn Houston, a photo by stevegarfield on Flickr. Photo courtesy of GETTY IMAGES via Boston Globe
Photo as seen when pinned to Pinterest

I've been thinking about copyright issues and Pinterest.

People who've been following my blog for a long time know that I'm always careful when using images on the web. I always search for Flickr Creative Commons license and give credit and link back to the original photo from my blog posts.

When writing a post that is a comment on something, giving my point of view, I'll use an image for illustration and link back.

Now there's Pinterest.

What are the rules here?

It's pretty clear on the Pinterest site, which I just read for the first time, under member content:
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.

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.


I searched around and found a few people writing about it.

ReadWriteWeb: How Pinterest Uses Your Content Without Violating Copyright Laws.
Pinterest is able to avoid violating U.S. copyright laws thanks to a provision in the Internet Service Providers Act, which gives immunity to sites that publish information provided by others, according to Aaron Messing, an associate with OlenderFeldman LLP in New Jersey. As long as Pinterest continues to comply with a provision of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act that requires it to remove content when asked by the copyright owner, users are free to continue pinning any images they find on the Internet.

Pinterest Copyright Page
Pinterest ("Pinterest") respects the intellectual property rights of others and expects its users to do the same. It is Pinterest’s policy, in appropriate circumstances and at its discretion, to disable and/or terminate the accounts of users who repeatedly infringe or are repeatedly charged with infringing the copyrights or other intellectual property rights of others. avoiding copyright pitfalls on pinterest
I do have serious concerns about Pinterest hosting full-size images on their server, often without knowledge or permission from the original copyright holder. In doing this, Pinterest removes all references to the the original source. That creates significant issues with copyright (as well as other issues), especially when the copyright holder may not have provided authorization, tacit or otherwise, for the redistribution of the image. Now, the image can easily be redistributed without any determination of whether the image is protected by copyright. This is an issue I have with Pinterest directly, and not necessarily with Pinterest users. And, of course, Pinterest is based in the US yet it is a global board and thus there are concerns with protecting the rights of non-US citizens as well.

greekgeek at hubpages: Is Pinterest a Haven for Copyright Violations?:
Thousands of Pinterest members are stomping all over copyright and causing headaches for artists, photographers, and bloggers. Some image owners don't mind and are happy for the publicity. But for many photographers and artists, the problems caused by these copyright violations outweigh the benefits.
This is a great article with a lot more information.

Here's the Photo on

When you click the PIN IT bookarklet that Pinterest provides, it pretty says to post any photo on the page to Pinterest.

Pinterest: Pin This
Image: Clicking PIN IT while on a page

Could Pinterest know if select images on the page shouldn't be shared?

Is Pinterest a site where all the photos are supposed to be user generated, public domain, or Creative Commons licensed? If so, in practice, that's not what's happening.

Pinterest at least needs a better mechanism for carrying over license information from the originating sites.

What do you think?


Pinterest is adding it's own affiliate code behind some product pins


Nice discussion about this Pinterest post is happening over on G+.

Update from Pinterest:

Growing Up:
As a company, we care about respecting the rights of copyright holders. We work hard to follow the DMCA procedure for acting quickly when we receive notices of claimed copyright infringement. We have a form for reporting claims of copyright violations on our site here. Every pin has a flag to make reporting easier. We also know that copyright is a complicated and nuanced issue and we have knowledgable people who are providing lots of guidance.

Flickr implements 'nopin' code to block Pinterest from private photos


  1. If a content creator is going to put their work on the web it is their responsibility to make sure it is appropriately marked with information. The web is a sharing environment and content creators should be well aware of the fact that average users don't understand attribution rules or copyright laws, yet they are exposed to their content and encouraged to share it. It is incumbent upon content creators to tak responsibility for it, which is very easy for text, images or video. Yet, if you look at the image +Steve Garfield posted, while his image has ownership information below it, which you'd expect from a guy as smart as Steve, there is no ownership information attached to his screenshot. If you trace his Pinterest account back to Pinterest, you'll find that there is no attribution attached to that image either. If you go all the way back to the Boston Globe and look, there is no attribution attached to that image. As a matter of fact, even if you go to GettyImages, THAT image has no information attached to it.

    Don't know what I mean by attaching information to a photograph?

  2. Mdurwin, The law is clear on that point. The burden is completely on a potential re-user to determine the ownership of a given work. If it's difficult or impossible to determine ownership, then the work should not be used. Under international copyright convention, no copyright notice is required.