This weekend I participated in PodCamp Toronto, an unconference about social media with hundreds of participants. We had close to 80 sessions over the weekend, and a good number of them talked about or mentioned the newest social media darling, Pinterest. As a long-time blogger, I think of Pinterest as a photo blog with some advanced functionality, but the rest of the world sees it more like an online scrap book or bulletin board. With Pinterest, users "pin" images they have found around the Internet that inspire them to a "pin board". Individuals can have many different pin boards. People can repin images they see on other pinboards to their own boards. And the platform is taking the social media world by storm, feeding into the whole new content curation frenzy.
Because of its visual nature, pinboards are being used extensively for things like collecting design, home decor and clothing ideas. Libraries are collecting covers of books on different topics. And one of my favourite examples is marketing guru/speaker/author David Meerman Scott's Great Surfing Waves! pin board that he has tucked in amongst his boards of marketing infographics and ebooks.
So what's the problem?
Well,Kirsten Kowalski, a U.S.-based photographer who also happens to be a lawyer decided to dig a little deeper after the question of copyright came up amongst her friends on Facebook. The results are her extensive discussion in the February 24th blog post Why I Tearfully Deleted My Pinterest Inspiration Boards. Here is a brief summary of her discussion:
- The culture amongst Pinterest users is that sharing photos and other images you have created yourself is too much self-promotion. As a result, users take others' images from all over the internet for use on pin boards.
- A link is retained back to the original websites the image came from, so there is an impression people will click through to those sites; however, most people do not click through, but instead just "repin" to their own boards.
- The images being used are larger than thumbnails (which caselaw has shown are acceptable to use without specific permission).
- The Pinterest's user agreement says that users should only post that which they have copyright permission to post. And the company that owns Pinterest absolves itself of any liability.
- This is similar to the user agreement from the former music sharing site Napster, and a lot of people ended up being sued for their use of the site.
So, individuals need to ask themselves if it is worth the risk to pin others' images. Kowalski decided that, for her, it was not.
What about you–do you think the risk is low? And what about copyright laws–do they need to catch up to use as it is changing?