When I first heard of the new social sharing website, Pinterest, I admit it caught my interest. How unique! Here’s a website where we can share like interests and gather ideas in one convenient place. A social bulletin board where we can learn even more about our friends.
But then I started hearing about the darker side of Pinterest, specifically about their User Agreement. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a Pinterest-hater. I still think it’s an interesting concept and can be done well.
Let’s first take a look directly at Pinterest. Let me lay out for your Pinterest’s terms of service, which can be seen here.
Just a little reference information on Pinterest’s parent company.
We take your privacy seriously. Below you will find our policy. Cold Brew Labs, Inc. is the corporate name for Pinterest.
The Company’s Copyright Policy
Pinterest (“Pinterest”) respects the intellectual property rights of others and expects its users to do the same. It is Pinterest’s policy, in appropriate circumstances and at its discretion, to disable and/or terminate the accounts of users who repeatedly infringe or are repeatedly charged with infringing the copyrights or other intellectual property rights of others.
This sounds good, right? They will proactively find those that flout the copyright laws and your material will be safe and sound, cozily snug in security.
Keep reading…. Terms
“Content” means text, graphics, images, music, software, audio, video, information or other materials.
We may, in our sole discretion, permit Members to post, upload, publish, submit or transmit Member Content. 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.
This is the part that just blows my mind. Aside from the fact that they state they will only do so through their own site, why should they have permission to exploit (their own term as seen above) any and all of my personal work?
If you continue reading, they state that they are not claiming ownership of your images, text, etc. Since when do sharing websites claim the right to copy, distribute, or sell anyone’s personal work that is not owned by them? They are not giving you royalties from any monies they are making off of you. You still own it, isn’t that great? *pat, pat, pat on the head to the clueless little user*
So what does this mean to you or me?
I am two things. I am a writer and a photographer. I am affected in multiple ways by the above terms of service so stated by Pinterest.
If I post any of my writing (which would fall under content of text) or images, Pinterest states that they can mass produce, alter in any way they say fit, and sell my images. This destroys any copyright protection I already have, as I have agreed to their terms of service and consequently signed away my rights to Pinterest.
This does NOT make me happy! I love sharing my flash fiction pieces on my blog with everyone. Now I’m leery of sharing it with the users on Pinterest, because I’ll then be giving away my rights to them for Pinterest to do what they wish.
Let’s take a quick look at something else which plagues social sharing media sites all of the time – plagiarism.
It’s sad to see, but it happens all of the time. People are stealing from everywhere these days. It’s not a new concept. It’s become a hot topic with the e-reader book format to see all of the e-books plagiarized and being sold on Amazon. Amazon is doing what it can to rid itself of these duplicators, but the problem still exists. Heck, we’ve even recently seen someone (who has no life) on Amazon who was plagiarizing reviews, posting them under his own username to give mediocre book reviews. We see it everyday on Facebook. You know those hilarious or inspiring photos with the funny captions written on them? That was originally someone’s photo that someone stole off the internet, Photoshopped a catchy quote on there and spread it like wildfire across the social network.
Here’s how it might relate to Pinterest. You share an image, a flash fiction piece, a short story, or even a blog post that you thought people might enjoy seeing. Or you want to drive attention back to your website/blog where it was originally posted. That’s great, right? You’re gaining a fan base by putting your name and talent out there.
People who like what you have “pinned” on your Pinterest board can share this on their boards. That’s even greater! Now even more people will see your work, fall in love with you, and your writing/photography will be recognized!
Except that those people sharing it? They don’t have to state where they got it from or credit the original user who posted it. Or, if they happen to stumble across your site and post it directly to their boards, they don’t have to put any of your information on there that will link it back to you.
So now, all of your work is out there for everyone to see and enjoy but you’re not getting any credit. You are not building a fan base, your work is not getting recognized because no one knows that it’s you!
Not to mention, now people can copy your work and post it as their own. Why should they give away credit for something funny or fabulous? Pfft!
And now, Pinterest has your work in its system, and according to the terms of service we just saw above, they have the right to do with it what they want. This is dangerous territory and I believe it sets a dangerous precedent for copyrights and people’s rights for their own work.
It’s hard to protect yourself from users and sites like these. For my photography site, I installed a code that prohibits people from “pinning” my images to Pinterest. I hate to not share with people, but I don’t want to lose control of my work, wither.
I’m not sure what we, as writers, can do. People will steal regardless of all the precautions we can take. There are multiple workarounds where people can still post your images and text wherever they like (the details of which I will not post here).
I should note that some of this plagiarism that goes on, is not purposeful of spiteful, but sheer ignorance. Someone posts something that is not their original work because they like it and want others to like it as well. There’s no harm in that, right? It can be, if it’s your work.
What are YOUR thoughts? I am very curious to know what other writers and artists think of this!
I enjoy Pinterest, myself, and had always assumed that agreeing to them being able to do those things on their site was the language that governed us using the technology that lets other people be able to repin… or?
And when I repin, I don’t ever get a chance to change the link to the original, so even repinning multiple repins, my pin still points to where it all started. So from a user experience perspective, this seems even more to underline ownership of the original at one point on the Internet.
Did I miss something in your argument?
What bothers me more is that there are confirmed reports that Pinterest appends affiliate links on those links to original content, meaning they earn money from people who click on an unrelated link and end up spending money someplace else. Seems a very sneaky way of operating, since that language is even more buried than simply looking in the TOS.
It will certainly be interesting to see how things develop on that site, in any case.
Janelle R Jensen said:
I’ll be honest. I haven’t posted/pinned anything on it yet, or spent much time browsing (besides doing research on their legal terms). I did see this example of how one woman’s photos were being pinned without giving credit back to her here: http://www.livinglocurto.com/2012/02/letter-bloggers-pinterest/ That’s just one example that I saw online where people were getting around giving credit to the original poster.
Also, I know some people will just copy the original post and upload it as their own creation, just like I’ve seen them do on Facebook sometimes.
That bothers me as well, appending the links that way.
I know that it’s not a new concept and that it’s been done before. I just wanted to bring it to attention because a lot of people don’t pay too much attention to the fine print. 🙂
I haven’t joined the world of Pinterest and I’m kinda glad after reading this!
Janelle R Jensen said:
I think the concept is cool, but I’d like to see the licensing changed a bit. 😉
Dawna Raver said:
I think you make fair points. As the digital revolution progresses many such issues will come into play. Thanks for pointing out some important issues. It is up to all of us to learn how to protect our work.
Janelle R Jensen said:
Thanks, Dawna. 🙂 A lot of similar sites have terms that most people (me included!) don’t read into very well. But we need to!
thx janelle, very cool whenever someone takes a few minutes to point out the terms and conditions buried deep in the site, i’ve just started with Pinterest so your
post is spot on in regards to timeliness….. i would venture to say that any writer who produced material that was shared across the internet would have very little difficulty
in protecting this work from being used for commercial purposes by other with the way US copyright laws work, should it become necessary, .. of course none of us can really protect ourselves from plagarism and blatant copying and re-selling of our work by scoundrels out there, ….(and, let me know, i’m NOT a lawyer ….. however, i do play one on TV.. smile )
Janelle R Jensen said:
Haha, it’s good to know that we are protected somewhat in all of the legalese! 😉 I just thought, with Pinterest gaining more and more fans and users (I joined this morning) that those terms were interesting. In a hinky way… 😉
thanks dearie, cool to connect as i see u are buddies w/ some of my twitter sweethearts… i agree with you evaluation of pinterest and their TOS, certainly is important that folks like you are pointing out the possible bumps i the road! write on!
Reblogged this on Trashy's Treasures and commented:
I have a Pinterest account, but after reading this I deleted all my pins. I wasn’t using it much anyway, and I mostly posted other indie authors books. I won’t contribute to copyright violators.
Janelle R Jensen said:
Thanks for sharing! I find it fascinating what sites will put into their terms of service on social sites like this.
my interest in Pinterest seems to be dwindling. beyond the novelty, i don’t seeing the long term use. plus…i’ve already seen spam on there?!?!? so…i don’t know.
you’re article brings up some questions, i didn’t even consider…
Janelle R Jensen said:
Really? Spam, already? Yuck! I just joined this morning to see what the fuss was (I guess I’m behind the times, lol)
Thank you, Janelle. I am slow in the ways of the internet and need a smart person to keep me on my toes! Your it!
Pingback: Karen DeLabar » Blog Archive » Yeah, I Pinned That
Angie Richmond (@write_me_happy) said:
This is the whole reason I pulled my art off my pinterest boards
I deleted my account because I don’t want to run into any copyright infringement issues. Not good. Thanks for the awesome post.