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.

The Company
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.

Member Content

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.

The Users

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!