Tuesday, October 9, 2012

To Pin or Not to Pin. . .

Using Pinterest could get you sued.

No, seriously! If you're not careful, it's totally legit. . .

Is it likely? As one pinner in a sea of other pinners of copyright-infringing content, probably not. But it IS possible. And if somebody spots a piece of their copyrighted work on one of your boards and gets ticked off, it's actually legally viable.

See, you checked that you agree to their Terms of Service when you joined, and when you did that, you accepted the following little caveats as well:

  • In Section 8. Indemnity: "You agree to idemnify and hold harmless Pinterest. . .from any claims. . .damages. . .(etc.). . .arising out of your use of Pinterest."
  • And in Section 10. Limitation of Liability: "You acknowledge and agree that . . . you use the services at your own risk."

So basically: if you join Pinterest and innocently do what everyone else seems to be doing -- pinning and re-pinning pretty living rooms, pretty weddings, pretty landscape photography, etc. . . If the creator of anything you've ever pinned decides to hold you responsible for copyright infringement for reproducing and recirculating their material without their permission, you could get into some pretty hot water. And you couldn't just say, "Well, everyone's doing it!" or "It's Pinterest's fault!" either.

Now, should you freak out and go delete your account right this very minute? Hold on. . .

I love Pinterest. In fact, I have almost 500 pins right now and most of my blog traffic comes from people pinning my posts. But after reading some hubub about it on other blogs, I DO think it should be used with thought, integrity, and with due deference to the rights of the original creators of what you're pinning or re-pinning. A few months ago, I deleted probably an entire third of everything I had pinned up to that point.

Here are the things I think about now before pinning:
  1. Has the creator specifically invited pinning? This could be through words, a "pinning policy" on their "About" page, or a "Pin it!" button included on their pages. If so, then no worries! You can pin with a clear conscience.
  2. Is the image made to be circulated? LolCats, for instance, is made to be shared and go viral across social networks. If your LolCats image has an appropriate link back to the LolCats page, no one should ever come and hunt you down for pinning it. The same is probably true of most of the sites out there that are built to inspire viral sharing.
  3. Is there value beyond the image itself? If you're pinning something that will entice viewers to click through to the source, chances are your pinning is welcome -- for instance: tutorials, recipes, and DIYs.
    1. DON'T, then, give away the meat of the post in your description of it. Your description should act as a teaser, and the viewer should have to click through to find out the details. (I've seen pinners copy/paste an entire set of someone else's step-by-step project instructions into their description. Yikes!)
  4. Is the item pictured for sale? Then it's probably okay to pin. But don't be disrespectful. Surfing Etsy shops, and pinning other people's craftmanship--which they are selling as finished products-- to your DIY Projects board with a comment like, "This looks easy! I'm going to make one myself!" probably isn't the coolest thing to do.
  5. Be aware of the image source. Say your favorite blogger posts an "inspiration" post with a collection of interior design photos from across the web. Or a "featured" post where they collect and feature other bloggers posts along some theme. If the page you're looking at isn't the original source of the pictures they're using, you should endeavor to click through to the original source and pin from there (if the original source allows it!)
    1. For instance, Six Sisters Stuff included my Best Way to Clean Your Bathtub in a cleaning feature once. I love Six Sisters and I was psyched about the exposure. . .But I do remember visiting their Pinterest Source page just for grins around the time they posted it, and finding a number of instances where pictures of MY bathtub were pinned with links leading back to THEIR post. . .(No bigs, but still.)

Here's a couple rules for NOT pinning:
  1. Is the picture purely for visual delight or inspiration? Many interior design photos, pretty wedding shoots, epic landscapes, and so forth will fall into this category. ESPECIALLY if an image is by a photographer or artist who profits directly from their art, you shouldn't pin unless they expressly invite it. All the value is gained just by looking at the pin itself for these images, so most people won't want or need to click through to the source. This is probably the most risky area of pinning.
  2. Trust no one. When re-pinning, check the image source. Just because someone else pinned it first, doesn't mean it's okay!

When in doubt. . .Like!

When you "Like" an image, you aren't re-publishing it and increasing its circulation. For the most part, it stops with you and is for your own, personal enjoyment. This is safer than re-pinning when you aren't quite sure whether a picture is okay to pin.

What do you think about Pinterest? Is there anything I missed? Are you concerned about the legality of pinning, or do you feel it isn't a big deal?

For my part, I think Pinterest could easily axe most of the problem simply by making it possible to mark pins and boards as "private."