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Is Pinterest "grabbing" rights? Should you worry?

Pinterest... I'm sure you've heard of it by now... more likely you are insanely addicted and "pinning" fervently. (I know at least SOME of us here at Swell are "Pin-dicted"). The concept is simple. You "pin" images of things you like, create a collection of those items (called a "pinboard") then share your collection with your friends. Harmless fun, right? And a great way to share ideas. Most people would agree, but there are those who are questioning where Pinterest falls on copyright side of things. After all, you are pinning images that you don't necessarily own the rights to. Is this infringement? Some say yes.

Now would probably be a good time to mention that I am not a lawyer, nor do I claim to be an authority on such subjects. I do however have some thoughts to share.

First, there is "language" within the legal mumbo-jumbo of the Pinterest User Agreement, that some consider questionable. The question is whether or not Pinterest is making too large a rights grab, for it to be safe for a website owner to allow users to "pin" images or other content from their site(s).

"By making available any Member Content through the Site, Application or Services, you hereby grant to Cold Brew Labs a worldwide, irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, royalty-free license, with the right to sublicense, to use, copy, adapt, modify, distribute, license, sell, transfer, publicly display, publicly perform, transmit, stream, broadcast, access, view, and otherwise exploit such Member Content only on, through or by means of the Site, Application or Services"

You can read a lot in to that if you are so inclined, and there are those who feel that is way out of line. I was so inclined at first, but after doing a little digging I realized that most of the popular social network sites claim similar terms in their User Agreements. So, it's either a grand conspiracy, or banal "legal-ese" that has been shared from one UA to another since Al Gore invented the Internet. I believe these terms are in place to insure you're granting the site an effective license to display the works... nothing more.

Still, the subject has been getting lots of attention. In response to all the attention, Pinterest recenlty released a "no pin" meta tag, which allows website owners to essentially block images on thier site from being easily "pinned". Again, there are those who say this has in effect, solved the copyright issues...others call it a "band-aid". 

So, is this a risk worth taking? A recent study by the online sharing tool Shareaholic found that Pinterest's referral traffic has eclipsed that of Twitter (February 2012). This rapid growth may be attributable in part to users feeling more connected to a visual representation of their likes. The site is also extremely easy to use, and can be somewhat addictive. With so many consumers catching "Pinterest Fever", the opportunities for businesses and brands are endless.  Mashable.com reports that in February 2012 Pinterest pins were showing up on 9% of top retailers websites, which if anything seems a little low, considering that the site made headlines recenlty when it reached 10 million visitors, making the 2 year old site one of the fastest growing in history.

In a nutshell, I think we as business/website owners should all look at this on an individual basis, and determine whether the additional traffic generated by Pinterest (or any other social network) is worth the risk. The increased traffic possiblities of Pinterest are HUGE!  So, until I hear of a case where Pinterest, Facebook, LinkedIn, or any other social network has tried to sell someone's copyrighted material, I think the risk is WELL worth the return.

Happy "Pinning"!

And the plot thickens... just as I was going to publish this post, I learned of a new service that is in beta test mode. "Print-erest" (http://invite.print-erest.com) will allow users to print posters and books from your Pinterest pinboards. Stay tuned...

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  • Comment Link Lloyd Thursday, 31 May 2012 17:46 posted by Lloyd

    Well said Ambrose! Thanks for your insight. :)

  • Comment Link Ambrose Thursday, 12 April 2012 09:30 posted by Ambrose

    I am not a lawyer either, but my take of it is that it’s most likely just legalese for “if you want things to be displayed on a website, we’ll need to do certain things like inserting them in a layout and actually showing that page to someone. In case you are not aware, this means doing all these things that might sound nasty to you.”

    It’s unfortunate, as some have pointed out that the legalese can be made clearer, and legalese like this is giving these social media sites more rights than they really need. But unless we actually reformed our copyright laws in a meaningful way (and by that I mean real understanding of how the Internet works and the social implications of web sites—as opposed to the likes of tighter control, higher fines or easier takedown) I don’t think such legalese is going away any time soon.

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