the problem with pinterest

This is going to be a really unpopular post. Some of you might even get pissed off at me. Why? Because so many of you LOVE Pinterest. Believe me, I want to love it too. The concept is fun, photos are gorgeous, the recipes and crafts are inspirational. All of that is exactly what it is meant to be and it does it well. That’s why its popularity is exploding.

Except. Do you know what else is happening on Pinterest? Massive amounts of copyright violations.

I’m personally really struggling with this. In real life I’m a photo editor. I find publication quality photos, I contact photographers, I sign contracts with them, and I PAY them for the use of their images. It’s my job and my eyes and brain are trained to look for copyright issues.

In some of my spare time I go online, hang out on Twitter and FB, read blogs, take photos and share them on Instagram. A few weeks ago I realized Pinterest wasn’t one of those social media sites that flames quickly and then dies. It’s going to be around for awhile, so, I caved and joined. And loved it. So PRETTY! SO ADDICTIVE!

Then I took another look. Deeper into where these gorgeous images were coming from. Who shot them? Who do they really belong to? Who is getting the credit? The link love?

And then I started to squirm.

I followed trails back to original sources. A few were linked to the actual photographer. Great! PIN AWAY! Some pins were from Tumblr sites or other blogs that had pulled the images from Flickr or the like. If the original photo was listed as creative commons, well fab, but what if they weren’t? Some of the pins I looked at were actually watermarked with copyright information but there was no link back to the website clearly on the watermark. Just as grievous – that many pins are pulled directly from Google images, a clear violation of any copyrighted image.

SO MANY of these are stolen photos my friends. Stolen from the photographers who took them, some who make their living off of them.

This is not okay.

Pinterest does address this issue in their Copyright section. I suggest if you haven’t read it then you should before you add any new pins or repin any existing ones. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

So, here’s the part that really bothers me:

If you are a copyright owner, or are authorized to act on behalf of one, or authorized to act under any exclusive right under copyright, please report alleged copyright infringements taking place on or through the Site by completing the following DMCA Notice of Alleged Infringement and delivering it to Pinterest’s Designated Copyright Agent. Upon receipt of the Notice as described below, Pinterest will take whatever action, in its sole discretion, it deems appropriate, including removal of the challenged material from the Site.

This puts the onus on the PHOTOGRAPHER to make sure none of their images are on the site without their permission. Really? How the heck will they ever know?? And if you do find a photo in violation, and jump through the hoops to get it pulled or properly linked, how do you keep the next person from pinning it yet again? You can’t. It’s impossible. So copyright infringements will proliferate.

Now let me be clear about this. I think that 99% of the people who pin stolen photos don’t do it on purpose. Most people just don’t think about it at all. They just pin or repin what they like, without any concept of copyright law. People think twice when it comes to copying WORDS – well everyone knows that’s plagiarism! Except the same is true for photos!

If you are a blogger, or a photographer, (whether professional or amateur doesn’t matter) how would you feel if you found one of your images pinned directly from your blog or your Flickr account or wherever? Great, right? Someone really liked your work and you get the clicks and everyone is happy. Now think how you would feel if if you found one of your photos on Pinterest but the link went to some other blog post that someone created using your image with no credit back to you? A little different right? Yeah.

Clearly Pinterest is not going anywhere any time soon, and neither is this rights issue. So I ask you, please,  if you are on Pinterest, please be mindful of photographer’s property. If you are uncertain about a photo’s original source, try to find it and if you do, pin it from there instead. Most of the time it only takes a few extra clicks to pin from the actual owner, instead of from the person who knowingly or unknowingly stole it from them. At least give the copyright holder the credit and the click-throughs.



13 Responses to “the problem with pinterest”

  1. Nancy Phillips on February 14th, 2012 10:36 am

    Definitely makes me stop and think…I must admit I’m one of those “didn’t think twice, just pin and repin” people..this will make me look closer! Thanks!

  2. Annette on February 14th, 2012 10:52 am

    Thanks Nancy! That’s all I want, is for people to be aware. 🙂

  3. Candy on February 14th, 2012 12:47 pm

    Well said, Annette!

  4. Leighann on February 14th, 2012 3:13 pm

    Greeblemonkey has a post about this today too. There is a link you should check out.

    I try to watermark my photos with my URL but not all my earlier posts/images have it. I’m seeing traffic to my blog from Pinterest, but it is frustrating when I click on an image and it takes me to Tumblr. I want to see the image in context, that’s the whole point!

  5. Annette on February 14th, 2012 3:25 pm

    Thanks Leighann! Check this out y’all:

  6. BryanM_Photo on February 15th, 2012 6:14 am

    Assuming you are a photographer who is not signed up to their service, you are not bound to their terms and conditions.

    If you find your photos there, do what you would do if you found them in magazine or newspaper and send them a payment invoice for it’s use.


  7. magpie on February 15th, 2012 12:59 pm

    Yes, annoying on a lot of fronts. I’ve clicked on images that take me to Tumblr – and again and again and again – and I never find the original image.

  8. Allyson M. Kane (@ADL_Kane) on February 15th, 2012 2:21 pm

    So – Not sure if you remember a photo my husband took when my oldest was a baby involving her lying on our bed next to our extremely fat, now passed, cat? The photo was posted on Cute Overload and published in their 2010 calendar with Dan’s permission. However, it’s STILL circulating the internet! We see it on BuzzFeed in their TOP WHATEVER countdown things ALL the time. We just saw it on a Facebook page. Literally, my kid and my dead cat are everywhere. Is there ANYTHING we can do that isn’t going to cost us a small fortune in legal fees? I’d love your input.

    And I totally get your feelings on Pinterest. I’m on it, but I’m not as active with pinning and repinning. I use it more as a search engine. And whether I’m searching “homemade valentines” on Pinterest or Google, the same infringed upon photo will appear. Sometimes the internet sucks.


  9. Thoughts From Others on Pinterest | on February 15th, 2012 5:22 pm
  10. Jay Lee on February 16th, 2012 11:16 am

    As a photographer, I struggle with liking Pinterest. On the one hand, I am happy someone likes my photo. On the other hand, it is not always clear that the photo came from me. If a Pinterest user pins from my blog or my Flickr it is clear. But sometimes my photos show up on Pinterest with Google or Tumblr as the source. ARRRG!

    As to policing this sort of thing? Well, I have had good luck with DMCA takedown requests. But as you mentioned, how do you even know if your photo has been snarfed?

    In answer to that, I recommend a plugin for Google Chrome called “Search by Image” which lets you right click an image in your Web browser and search Google with it. I was pretty floored by the number of times a certain photo of mine was being hijacked. But I was glad to have a tool that let me find out.

  11. PHOTOGRAPHY & THE LAW: Copyright Issues | on February 22nd, 2012 3:01 am

    […] taken down, but for the most part they have gone viral with some discussions on Facebook and other sites. The NPPA president even wrote a blog about the […]

  12. Christian Gross on February 22nd, 2012 4:29 am

    Here is what gets me with pinterest… Their programmers are LAZY! Their management team is LAZY! It would have required a bit more work to respect copyright laws, but NOOOOO they don’t do it. It is not that hard IMO, and I am a programmer.

    What you are asking is not the world. The ironic part is that the open source community would completely agree with you.

  13. Lindsey on February 23rd, 2012 6:30 am

    Great post! We really do need to be aware of this stuff and think about what is happening below the surface of media. We need to remember there’s a who behind any image, every pin.

Bad Behavior has blocked 298 access attempts in the last 7 days.