Wednesday, March 7, 2012

For Fear of Pinning

> Yesterday I saw a teaser for an article that caught my eye. It was written by a lawyer who's also a photographer. She had looked into the legality of Pinterest, and what she found scared her so much that she decided to delete all her Pinterest boards. With my new-found love of Pinterest, I decided I'd better read the article.
> Here are a couple things she pointed out that concerned me as well:

  • Pinterest's members are responsible for what they pin and repin. They must have explicit permission from the owner to post everything.
  • If a photographer sues you for pinning an image illegally on Pinterest, the user must not only pay for his or her lawyer, they must also pay for Pinterest's lawyer.
  • She likens Pinterest to Napster as an enabler of illegal activity. It wasn't just Napster that went down — 12 year old girls who downloaded music were sued too.
> Then she addressed the very thing that I thought of next..."My initial response is probably the same as most of yours: 'Why can't I pin their work? I’m giving them credit and it’s only creating more exposure for them and I LOVE when people pin my stuff!' But then I realized, I was unilaterally making the decision FOR that other photographer...Bottom line is that it is not my decision to make. Not legally and not ethically."
> So, yeah, I was bummed, and worried, and started looking at the boards I had set up for myself. I LOVE Pinterest! I love looking at the beautiful things that show up from other "pinners" and I love finding helpful household and yard tips, ideas for making crafts, and DIY projects, and organizing great design and typography pieces. I never saw that as being any different than tearing out pages from magazines and putting them in a folder for future reference (oh...except that I'm not posting those clippings for anyone and everyone else to see). 
> As I thought about it more, I guess it depends on what it is that I'm pinning. I feel like at some point, there will be some kind of defining legal decision that will determine what's okay and what's not, and I want to make sure I'm on the right side of it. I try to be honest in everything that I do. If I have any sense that something I'm doing is not okay, I either do what I need to—to make it okay, or I stop doing it. 
> So I've started going through each of my pins. First I make sure that they are properly linked to the original owner (not just a blog post by another person). If not, I make a note of the original source, or I repin it. And I also check to see that the owner has made it clear that they encourage sharing—so far they have all had buttons for Pinterest and/or Facebook, have mentioned sharing the link, or they include instructions for making your own item. I've got a ways to go before I get through all my boards (thank goodness I haven't been at it for very long!), but I suspect I'll be okay with most of them. I do worry about the ones for fellow designers and artists though. For those, I'll remove the pins and will go back to bookmarking the sites through my browser (sigh). I do love the visual nature and the great organization that Pinterest is so good at providing, but not at any kind of legal risk. Until some legal decision is made to protect creators who don't want to have their work shared this way, I will think twice before I click that PinIt button.


  1. I went through this same dilemma with Pinterest about a month ago or so. I went through a bunch of my pins and deleted many & repinned a few. I still need to finish that process--it's quite a slow process & a bummer, too!( I like you, have been thinking twice before I 'pin' something on a board. Thank you for your post.

  2. Thanks for your comment Shelly--yes, it is a slow process, I'm still going through all mine too. I'm being much more careful about repinning from original sources, and making sure that they have indicated something about being okay with their items or ideas being shared. Never hurts to be cautious.