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February 17th, 2012

Are you breaking the law by pinning images onto your Pinterest Board?

As regular readers of the blog will know, I am totally addicted to Pinterest.  It has given me colour and design ideas for the future direction of Safe Dreams, I have discovered blogs which are inspiring the decor of my home and I have even bought clothes after seeing them featured (my latest purchase is this fab Asos faux fur coat).

Although I am always really cautious about using other people’s images on this blog and making sure that the image source is properly credited, I have never thought twice about the copyright implications of pinning images onto my Pinterest boards.  But then yesterday I came across an excellent blog post by Los Angeles photographer Alex Sears which has really scared me.

Alex has kindly allowed me to reproduce her blog post below:

I’ve reached the moment when I cannot decide which end is up with Pinterest. I love what I share with my followers, and what they share with me. But I’m worried that I’m infringing on copyright with every pin I push. In a recent case of online copyright infringement, someone was ordered to pay $4000 for a stock image they mistakenly used.

Adding up my pins using that random example, I would be able to buy all the baubles and gowns and settees I’ve pinned. And then some.

Take a moment to plug in the equation for your own pins.

It’s not pretty.

Lately I speak of Pinterest in earnest, hoping it will get better, as though it were a person in need of a support system to help it through a difficult time. But perhaps I’m just an enabler. I believed that the problems were about lack of respect on the part of pinners, and lack of work on the developers of the site to make it so easy to pull a tumblr. I love clicking on a pin of a brass étagère that takes me to a blog post that takes me to We Heart It and then a tumblr dead link at which point I begin wondering what on earth could possibly be worth this much time. And yet I keep trying. Trying to properly source stuff.

Oh, George Carlin, I hope you are laughing at me wherever you are.

Now back to the price of pinning. According to the Pinterest Terms, we all click and agree that:

“…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…”

Wait, what? Were these the terms when I joined? I don’t know.

A year ago, I thought pins fell under Fair Use, but now…I don’t know. Where’s the FAQ section for this? The Etiquette page says nothing about asking permission to post. (Though it does say original sources are “always preferable to a secondary source such as Google Image Search” – Really? )

I don’t know about you, but I don’t have the rights, license, consent or release for 98% of what I’ve pinned, thinking that what I was doing was OK. I’m willing to admit when I’m wrong, only I don’t know if I am and could use some clarification.

Pinterest tells us to pin with abandon but clearly states that they are not responsible if images that shouldn’t be there are. They simply provide the hypothetical push pins.

Anything on this blog is under a Creative Commons license to share, but I require people ask permission. It’s written just above the CC terms. I don’t have CC licenses on my other sites. Those are strictly All Rights Reserved. Do I mind that some of my images, from this site and others, are on Pinterest? Not as long as they link back to the original source. But, per Pinterest’s Terms, nothing of mine should be on Pinterest unless I gave someone permission, or I’ve done it myself. And that should only be done in small ways because we’re not supposed to use it for self-promotion.

Do not self promote.

Do not pin content that you don’t own the copyright of.

Am I drunk?

I need Pinterest to explain to me how it’s legal to be doing what we’re doing. Tell me what I need to take down and I will. Immediately. I need them to tell me because the legalese is not making any sense. And I usually don’t have a hard time with such things.

Pinterest, there isn’t enough cork in the world for all the boards you’re adding every day, and yet, if it’s a sea of copyright infringement you’re encouraging, even accidentally, I want to know. Let’s fix this.  xo a.

In order to put pressure on Pinterest to provide clear answers for its supporters, please pin the image below onto your boards:

Main image source:  Marta Writes
Other images:  Alexandra Wrote and Link with Love


  1. Wow! That is potentially explosive. I pin loads of stuff and use it on my blog (always with credits) – I do hope they can clarify this!

  2. alexandra says:

    Thank yo ufor sharing. Pinterest pins aren’t link throughs, like google images – they actually make a copy of the image/content and place it on their server. Well, theoretically, they don’t – we do. And that’s why I am worried.

    I hope we get clarification on this because it seems that Pinterest may be safe but supplying us with tools to do things that are unethical. Anything more I learn, I’ll be sure to pass forward.

  3. […] – intellectual property I read a post from Louise at Safe Dreams blog, she is reproducing a blog post from Alexandra Wrote, it makes really interesting reading about the […]

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