No Interest in Pinterest? Block Pinning on your Site

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There's a lot of buzz about the social networking site Pinterest, a virtual corkboard on which people post pictures of things they find interesting or inspirational, from pretty-as-a-picture wedding dresses to Yosemite-at-dusk photos. Come across an image you like? "Pin it" on Pinterest and people who follow you can comment on your picks, repost your pictures, and reply with pictures of their own.

Within the past few months, Pinterest has attracted lots of new users. But as more people use it, the more the site and its policies are scrutinized, and backlash begins, so much so that the site has released a code snippet to block people from pinning content from your site.

Copyright — who grants it and who owns it — is the main issue. The gist of Pinterest's Terms of Use says two things that upset many designers, photographers, and artists: first, that the person posting the information — the Pinner — must either own the content or has permission from the creator to post it; second, that Pinterest retains the right to use anything posted on its site. As the website CMSWire puts it: "[B]asically, if you upload an image to share on the board, you’re granting the network rights to sell or do whatever they want with that image, even if it’s not yours. Thus, if the content owners come looking for royalties, you’re on the line."

The legality of Pinterest's usage of any content posted on its boards is a topic on many websites (see below for a some links). It is a big issue that's been debated since the early days of the web. Companies like Amazon and Google have had and do have similar policies. For individual artists, the situation with Pinterest has been confusing and upsetting.

Sharon Steuer, an artist, author, and illustrator, says that she was looking forward to joining Pinterest and had started creating her own boards to put on the site. After reading a LinkedIn post, she stopped. "I read that Pintarest claimed rights to anything pinned," says Steuer, who starting tweeting, emailing and posting on Facebook to learn more. "It quickly became clear that they can't possibly have any reasonable claim to copyrighted materials that were posted to Pinterest by someone without permission from the holder of the copyright." She's since decided not to post her own work to Pinterest "until I know that doing so won't implicitly be giving Pinterest any thoughts that they have the rights to use/sell my images."

But the first issue — that the Pinner own the content or has permission to post it — hits home for many creative professionals. It's a legal issue but it's also a moral and ethical issue. Owners of the work have a right to determine how an image is used and by whom. It's hard to police web sites, so many image makers and designers choose — eagerly or resignedly — to view Pinterest as another form of valuable viral marketing. But if the maker isn't credited, that exposure is for naught. The rule of thumb is that Pinners need to credit image owners when posting their work. In fact that Pinterest Etiquette page says: "Pins are the most useful when they have links back to the original source. If you notice that a pin is not sourced correctly, leave a comment so the original pinner can update the source."

Still, if the work is out there without permission or acknowledgment, the onus is on the owner to track down the responsible party.

To address concerns of copyright holders, last week Pinterest announced it was making available a piece of code that can be embedded in a website to disable pinning. If someone comes to your site and uses the Pin It application to post your contest on Pinterest, a message appears that says: "This site doesn't allow pinning to Pinterest. Please contact the owner with any questions. Thanks for visiting!" (See the section "Linking to your blog or website" on the Pinterest Help page for the code needed.)

Does it resolve all copyright issues on Pinterest? No. But for those guarding their copyright, this code snippet is a step in the right direction.

More reading:

Pinterest Addresses Copyright Issues with Minimalist Policy on CMSWire

Is Pinterest the new Napster? on LLSocial.com

Pinterest.com and Copyright on Sean Locke Photography.

Why I Tearfully Deleted my Pinterest Inspiration Boards on DDK Portraits.

Is Pinterest a Haven for Copyright Violations? by Greek Geek

What You Should Know About Pinterest and Copyright on PC World

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