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.
The first place to look for beautiful, pinnable images are sites run by creative artists who explicitly or implicitly authorize their images to be used in social media. This way, Pinterest’s link-back function will go directly to the artist/designer’s own website, and you are safe knowing these artists want their images shared online.
- Artist members of Pinterest who pin their own work there.
- Artist/designers who place Pinterest buttons on their blog or website.
- Artists with Etsy shops. Etsy has a Pinterest function embedded on their site to make it easy for “pinners” to transfer images of items for sale to Pinterest boards.
- Artists who publish their work online using a Creative Commons license, which permits non-commercial use of the image.
Many newspapers, magazines and television networks are releasing their images via social media like Twitter and Pinterest. The intent is very obviously to disseminate these images virally with the hope of increasing readership. Some examples I have seen:
- Picture of the Week or Day Twitter features by newspapers like the Daily Telegraph and networks like MSNBC
- House Beautiful magazine re-tweets readers’ tweets of House Beautiful images. Most of the images on their site have an HB watermark, to make it even easier to trace.
- Nina Garcia of Elle magazine creates Pinterest boards with the help of her assistants and the photo licensing services that Elle contracts with.
Cultural institutions like museums and science foundations which disseminate photographs via their Twitter feeds, blogs and Flickr sites. Again, it is hard not to view this as anything but an implicit or explicit permission to use their images in social media, in hopes of getting eyeballs on their own site. Here are some:
- New York Botanical Garden’s blog offers an “eye candy” photo of the day, which they Tweet and offer a share button for
- NASA tweets APOD, the Astronomical Photo of the day.
Another group of sources for safe pinning are shopping websites, whether online storefronts like Etsy or Amazon, or the online version of bricks-and-mortar shops like department stores or other retailers. Not only will your link function like a tiny ad, but Pinterest contracts with some commercial websites for ad revenue via a service called Skimlinks.
How about re-pinning groovy images from within Pinterest? Pinterest is like a giant baseball-card trading party, and a big part of the fun is the social aspect of viewing and admiring other people’s pinboards. Here are some tips for re-pinning respectfully:
- Choose images of work created and uploaded to Pinterest by an artist member, especially if the link goes back to their online shop.
- Follow the link on an image before you re-pin. Does it go to the original creator? Does the original creator authorize use of pinning? If not, avoid re-pinning.
- Instead of re-pinning from a secondary source (like a Tumblr blog), go back to the original creator’s site and pin from there, if that creator authorizes using the image for social media.
Next: Some don’ts for using other artist’s images on Pinterest.