In continuing our discussion on Pinterest, this article is the next in the series of Pinterest how-to articles here on Blogs By Heather. We will be discussing my personal take on the recent Pinterest saga, that is the heat Pinterest is under lately in regards to its terms of service (TOS) and copyright concerns.
I debated a while on this whether or not to post my personal thoughts on the subject as Blogs By Heather is more about "how-to" do something, like block people from pinning your site or how-to add the Pin-It button to your post footer or in the sidebar. I love and enjoy writing how-to articles and sharing what I know. However, lately I've received a few emails and blog comments asking what my thoughts are on Pinterest and all the different articles being published about them.
To Pin or Not
Everyone can interpre the articles and Pinterest's terms of service differently. This is just my opinion on using it or not. Despite articles like this one from PC World or this one by Craft Test Dummies (and numerous like it that have many panicked or confused or having mixed-feelings), my thoughts are along the lines of this article by Allison on BlogWorld.
Pinterest has been getting heat lately because the platform basically makes it easy to repost any picture you find online. Pinterest does abide by DMCA rules and will remove pins when asked to do so by anyone who owns the picture in question, but this new opt-out code will make it even easier for bloggers to just say no to Pinterest.
Only…why would you want to?
I’m not arguing that artists and photographers should share their work for free. I believe everyone deserves to get paid for the work they do. However, Pinterest isn’t about stealing your work to use for some kind of personal gain. It’s about sharing your work so that others can find it. Curation is the theme here. Pinners are trying to help drive traffic to your site, not hoping to get away with not paying you for your work...
...Pinners, however, aren’t using your pictures without permission for their own gain. They don’t own their pin boards any more than we own our Facebook profiles. They’re using your picture as a preview in order to encourage others to be fans of the posts you create. It’s a recommendation, the same way it would be for someone to share a link on Twitter or Facebook. Pinterest just happens to create visual links, like a little preview of your site to encourage people to click through.
And because most people are visual learners, I think as Pinterest grows, this could lead to more traffic for any visual-based site (food, crafts, fashion, etc) than any social media site where just links are shared. Think about it. You’re more likely to be interested in a recipe if there’s a picture of the finished product to entice you, right? Allowing pinners the ability to pin your posts can lead to a LOT more traffic than places where people just share the title/URL.
Of course, like with every social media site, some users are jerks. They pin pictures without linking to the original source. They copy/paste the entire blog post into the description so people aren’t encouraged to click through to your blog. They change the pin URL to lead to their own site. They download your pictures and then upload them as if they own them.
But these users are a VERY SMALL percentage of users, at least in my experience. Don’t let a few bad apples ruin the bunch for you. Pinterest is working to make the platform better (for example, there are plans to limit the characters in a description to avoid c/p of the entire post). You should definitely contact Pinterest if some users are pinning your work incorrectly…but don’t give the middle finger to the entire platform! You’ll be missing out on the potential for lots of new traffic if you do. (Allison, BlogWorld, Should You Block Pinterst on Your Blog)
I agree with her thoughts in that yes, people should not try and steal someone's work and use it for personal gain or as their own. That is just not right, unethical and can cost you legally as well. Yes, there are a few bad eggs that try and do this all the time, way before Pinterest. This is not a Pinterest problem, its an online problem. Once you publish artwork or really anything online or in electronic form there is a risk, a risk of someone "stealing" your work in some fashion.
I basically tell people "do not publish anything online or on Facebook that you do not want the world to see or know."
You publish your artwork on your blog because you want to share it, you want people to see it. For many of us, you want people to see your artwork or product and then recommend it to others, share it with others. That is why we all (well most of us anyway) have "share buttons" on our blogs, why gadgets like ShareThis or Add To Any (or various other share button gadgets) became so popular. Pinterest is basically that but on overdrive! Pinterest is simply another mechanism that allows you to be share and to be seen on a much, much broader scale where your exposure is maximized to the fullest! That is a good thing.
As long as you are doing "right" and simply sharing what you like (images you've seen and enjoy and want to share and pass along), then keep doing it. If you feel that you have done something wrong, then stop pinning and remove your boards or try and make it "right".
For me, the people I have pinned encourage it and am happy I did. I did email them all as well to get "permission" although I know I didn't need to as they all said "why are you asking me? Yes, you can pin my artwork!" Many of them had no idea why I was asking and what heat Pinterest was recently getting. Again, there are bad eggs but the majority of Pinterest users are just like you and me and just sharing artwork that inspire them, products they recommend or enjoy.
Pinterest Not Liable
In regards to getting sued, if you have done something wrong, then yes, it should be you who gets sued and not Pinterest. Pinterest is a tool, you are the user and should be held accountable if you are stealing someone's work, using it as your own or trying to profit from it in any way.
Tools are out there for people to use, whether its Pinterest, your blog, your word processing software, your accounting package. To use them to perform illegal tasks, you do so at your own risk.
What You Should Do
When I pin images I like, I always reference the artist (their name) and/or their blog. I am always one to "give credit where credit is due". I do this in my writing (as I have done above in referencing the article by Allison, BlogWorld). I do the same in pinning.
How to Protect Yourself
You can do what I did which was to email everyone and get "permission" so there are no questions asked down the road.
You can add the no-pin code to your site to block people from pinning from your site. I will write a how-to tutorial on this shortly, but it can't be done in TypePad unless you have Advanced Templates or the free WordPress.com. WordPress self-hosted users can download a plugin. Blogger users are in luck :D
Make sure you watermark your work! Put you name on it! Here is a recent article for TypePad users in adding a watermark using the new TypePad Image Editor. Others can follow these articles:
- Free program and tutorial on how to add a watermark to your artwork using FastStone.
- Use Paint.Net to create a watermark and then add to your images.
- Create a watermark in Photoshop.
Although I am sorry that many photographers or designers are getting work "stolen", and it is not right, I do feel that Pinterest is a great "sharing" tool and is meant to be fun. I think in time Pinterest will make some adjustments and all this "heat on Pinterest" will cool. Last bit of advice is just to be patient.
Happy blogging and pinning!