What not to pin on Pinterest

Screenshot of Tumblr's Explore page, by Wren M. Allen

Tumblr blogs are a notorious source of unattributed and unlicensed images found on Pinterest.

Part 4 in a series about the copyright-respectful use of Pinterest. Part 1 listed some concerns. Part 2 discussed fair use and Pinterest members. Part 3 offered some “do” tips for pinning.

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.

Here is a list of image files you should avoid pinning or re-pinning on Pinterest. There may be even more images that are non-usable for Pinterest. This is just my personal standard, which is still being developed through practice. You can safely assume these people do NOT want their images shared on Pinterest. Certainly you may contact these artists directly and ask for permission, but don’t be surprised if they don’t grant it and the image is unpinnable.

  • Artists who display a copyright notice saying “All rights reserved” anywhere on their blog, website, or Flickr page. If they have this notice, but also have a “Pin it” button, look around their site to see what their specific policy on pinning is.
  • Artists who have no copyright marking, no Pinterest or social media button and/or no Creative Commons licensing on their blog, website or Flickr page.
  • Some artists are unclear about their permissions. These people have a copyright notice, and may even be contracted with Getty Images on their Flickr page. However, they’ve accepted invitations to share their images on a host of other social media sites. They may even be Pinterest members themselves. I suspect these artists don’t really understand the exclusivity portion of their contract with Getty or other licensing agents. Nevertheless, ask them directly before pinning.
  • Unattributed images floating around on Tumblr (and other) blogs.
  • Images on Pinterest that link back to sites that don’t attribute or credit the image.
  • The images of artists who sell their work by licensing. Using these images on Pinterest directly affects these artists’ ability to sell their work to licensing agencies.
  • Images from art licensing sites like Veer and iStockPhoto. While there is news that Pinterest and some of these licensing agencies may be negotiating a usage agreement that will allow Pinterest users to legally pin these images, for now a careful pinner should avoid using these as an image source.

A final note about pinning web images onto Pinterest pinboards: Simply attributing credit to an image and making a clean link back to the creator is not adequate to ensure you are using the image properly. The image owner has to provide you a license to use the image, whether through a written email, notice on their website regarding Creative Commons licensing or royalty-free licensing for non-commercial use, or by indicating their participation in Pinterest and other social media that share images.

For artists and photographers who want to ensure that their images CANNOT be uploaded to Pinterest, the service now offers an opt-out code snippet that can be downloaded and placed on a website. (Scroll down, it’s the last topic.) Pinterest has created this in response to recent articles and complaints about the ease with which files are pinned without permission.


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