Pondering Pinterest

Yeah, I’m on Pinterest.   I got so many invitations from friends I felt compelled, and at first I couldn’t quite see the appeal.  Once I got started making boards, though, I did get straight-up hooked for a few days.  I LOVE categorizing things, but I’m really bad at it.  When I started, I had about 12 pinboards with ridiculously specific subjects (items I would have if I was living my dream life, scientific sketches, “sexy” scientific sketches, products I could make things out of if I had the time).  I was pretty much making a different pinboard for every picture I found.  Then I read this.

In a nutshell: if Pinterest doesn’t want you to self promote (thus making it just like Tumblr) you are compelled to use other people’s images that you don’t own.  And if you get in trouble for breaking copyright, all the fault lies on the user.  The only way to use the site as it is intended is to use other people’s work without permission.

(Yeah, yeah, you can ask for permission.  But I bet you haven’t been asking.)

In an interview with TechCrunch, the author of that blog post, Kirsten Kowalski suggested some changes that would make the whole thing a lot less scary.  Such as making a “pin it” button bloggers/artists/photographers can put on their work.  That totally works, but only if everyone on the great big internet decides to help Pinterest’s reputation by adding something to all of their work.  Isn’t that called setting Creative Commons licenses?  I think a “pin it” button would just be more advertising for Pinterest, as if they created this problem so there would be a similar outcome.

They created a site that users love, then set it up so that users would have to jump through hoops and content owners have to opt in or opt out of something they may not have even known about.  Am I making sense?

Of course, by putting the “pin it” button on their work, the content owners would more likely be pinned.  But I just think it sounds like we’re doing the work so Pinterest can survive with their crazy user agreement intact.   I’m imagining Ben Silbermann (the site’s creator) sitting back in a deck chair on the beach while owners scramble to cover their blogs in new widgets so they can be a part of one single site.

Add Creative Commons licenses to your work, so they can be “pinned” anywhere, not just Pinterest.  If that site is going to be a headache (or a lawsuit) for its users, don’t reward them for making the site less user-friendly.

P.S. Just so’s you know, you can share me wherever you like, as long you link back to me directly.  Pin me, put me on your wall, slap it on tumblr, whatever.  I will soon be practicing what I preach and putting a clear CC badge on my page.




8 Comments on “Pondering Pinterest”

  1. Beth says:

    I am fairly new to Pinterest, so I am not sure if I understand what you are saying. Aren’t the pins just links to blogs and such? Is it copyright infringement to reference something without permission? I would think that as long as you didn’t claim the pin to be your original work it wouldn’t matter. And, if it is a copyright issue, is the original “pinner” the only one at fault or are the “repinners” also accountable?

  2. birdjibble says:

    According to their terms, anyone who pins the copyrighted item, or repins it, could be sued if the original content holder found offense. A lot of websites encourage sharing (hell, I’ve got tons of pictures on here that I link to other blogs without express permission) but the wrinkle that bothers me about Pinterest is that they expect the user to take on any legal ramifications, while encouraging the user to do something that is likely to garner that consequence.

    It’s like Pinterest is telling us, don’t eat your own cake, eat someone else’s, but if they get mad that we ate their cake without permission, you are on your own! I’m really bad at analogies.

    • Beth says:

      I see. So in the event that someone feels their property has been used inappropriately then Pinterest says that is on you. That is interesting since I would say that most people would not know or even think about that since they aren’t claiming the work to be theirs. I am not sure that a person could be effectively sued for that since by all rights it is the equivalent of free mass advertising and their work isn’t necessarily being stolen.

      • birdjibble says:

        Hey Beth! I almost agree with you on the advertising bit (though the lawyer who wrote the original article has an interesting take on that– you should read it) since I do that all the time on my blog. Whether or not it’s right to get sued for doing something nice for someone, Pinterest still leaves its users liable to that, and I think that’s kind of shitty. Tumblr takes the blame if something like that happens, but Pinterest does not protect their users, all while encouraging sharing. Blergh.

        But on free advertising: I love it. I search Pinterest just hoping someone has pinned something of mine. But that is just me, not all creators. As a Pinterest user, you can’t decide what that creator wants– maybe they want to have control of their content and take on the full responsibility for distributing their work. I’m not going to pretend to be a copyright lawyer, and I certainly don’t want things like Pinterest (with changes) and Tumblr to go away. But there are so many Terms of Use that we agree to never really understanding what we are saying yes to. This is just one that has come to my attention, and I hope that the Pinterest founder will take this question seriously and not depend on his users being unaware.


        • Beth says:

          Yeah that is definitely shady and they should definitely work on their user agreement and people (including myself) should be more aware of what they are agreeing to. As far as free advertising goes I didn’t really think about it like that partially because I don’t pin a lot of art. I do mostly food and diy instructions which could be found just as easily with a search engine. Which led me to consider the copyright infringement issue in relation to search engines. Then I read that article and she mentions a suit against a search engine which was unsuccessful, but it is still a viable case. This totally blows my mind. By those rules google is totally illegal. They do the same thing pinterest does, they provide links to sites that match your topic of interest. Except we won’t get in trouble for using google. I don’t plan to stop using pinterest, but I do hope they make changes to that because I can’t afford a lawyer for me so I certainly cannot afford one for them.

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