How can artists use Pinterest and still respect the copyrights of others?

Photo by Wren M. Allen of messy magazine photos and binders

It's embarrassing how many pretty pictures I've cut out of magazines over the years! But does Pinterest offer a digital solution to enjoying images online?

Part 1 in a series

Please read this Prominent Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer, nor have I ever been a lawyer. I haven’t even played one on tv. I am an artist and designer who seeks to respect the copyrights of other people’s work and who requests that other people respect my own copyrights. The essay below is simply my thoughts and ruminations about the issues involved in using intellectual property in the age of digital and social media.

I joined Pinterest last week, and am already an enthusiastic user. What I find attractive about Pinterest is not only the chance to share my art with others who love visual beauty, but the opportunity to create gorgeous collages of all the things that inspire me. What concerns me about Pinterest is the ease with which an image can be detached from its owner, resulting in the creator being unable to make a living from his work.

The challenge for me, and anyone else using the site: How can I, as an artist who wants others to respect my copyrights and intellectual property, use Pinterest in a way that respects other creatives’ rights?

Here are some of the issues that bother me about the trading and use of images on Pinterest:

  1. Using other people’s rights-protected images without permission is theft.
  2. Many artists DO want you to share their credited images on Pinterest as a form of publicity. Unfortunately, they are not always clear in how they announce their usage policies.
  3. Pinterest terms of service specify that you either own all rights to a “pinned” image or have explicit authorization to use that image on Pinterest.
  4. Pinterest’s raison d’etre is the trading of other people’s images like baseball cards. The whole point of Pinterest is to share glamorous, aspirational images of other people’s fabulous lives and not poorly lit snapshots of your grungy kitchen pre-renovation.
  5. Images released into the Pinterest ecosystem spread virally. Finding the original link source can be impossible once an image has been “re-pinned” and re-labelled multiple times from multiple secondary sources.
  6. Any image file or link introduced to Pinterest remains on the Pinterest servers forever (unless removed by Pinterest admin).
  7. Many images found on Pinterest do not link back to the creator, but to an intermediate site and are not credited properly.
  8. An image owner has to follow a cumbersome snail-mail process to get Pinterest to remove their violated images from the site.
  9. Spreading others’ rights-protected images can damage their ability to sell that image in other venues.

Next in the series: Pinterest and the US Copyright Law’s Fair Use policy

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3 thoughts on “How can artists use Pinterest and still respect the copyrights of others?

  1. Pingback: Using Pinterest and the fair use provisions of US copyright law | Wrenaissance Art

  2. Pingback: Some tips for respectful pinning to Pinterest pinboards | Wrenaissance Art

  3. Pingback: What not to pin on Pinterest | Wrenaissance Art

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