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.

 

Some tips for respectful pinning to Pinterest pinboards

My Pinterest botanical art pinboard, © 2012 Wren M. Allen

As a Pinterest member, I authorize fellow Pinners to pin images of my botanical art.

Part 3 in a series about using Pinterest and respecting other people’s copyrights Part 1, listing some concerns, can be found here. Part 2, about fair use, can be found here.

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:

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:

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.

Using Pinterest and the fair use provisions of US copyright law


Screenshot of my Pinterest board, © 2012 by Wren M. Allen

My burgeoning Pinterest pinboard collection.

Part 2 in a series about artists using Pinterest and respecting other people’s copyrights. Part 1 introduces some of my concerns about using Pinterest.

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.

It seems to me that the big question about using Pinterest is whether pinning and re-pinning image files to Pinterest constitutes “fair use” for the individual member. Section 107 of US Copyright Law:

§ 107 · Limitations on exclusive rights: Fair use40

Notwithstanding the provisions of sections 106 and 106A, the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright. In determining whether the use made of a work in any particular case is a fair use the factors to be considered shall include—

(1) the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;

(2) the nature of the copyrighted work;

(3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and

(4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

The fact that a work is unpublished shall not itself bar a finding of fair use if such finding is made upon consideration of all the above factors.

Here are some examples of fair use:

  • A teenager wallpapers her room with popstar photos clipped from Tiger Beat magazine.
  • A homeowner keeps a binder notebook full of magazine spreads to show her contractor when she starts that kitchen renovation.
  • An illustrator buys a copy of a dance magazine for anatomical reference of the arabesque pose when creating a poster for a dance company.
  • A political cartoonist draws a satirical caricature of a famous politician to look like the trademarked clown figurehead of a fast food company.

As you can see, these are all examples of analog use of analog images. Pinterest users use their pinboards in similar ways, but is the translation to digital exactly the same? One of the important requirements for a use to be “fair use” is that the usage must not damage the ability of the original creator to sell that image.

Here are some examples of how a well-intentioned Pinterest user could pin an image and damage an artist’s ability to sell their work:

  • A Pinterest user uploads a landscape painting by a favorite artist to Pinterest. Somone else re-pins it, downloads it to their computer and sells it as a greeting card on a print-on-demand commerce site. The original artist gets no credit or royalites from the card.
  • There are bloggers who are downloading images and copy from other websites, uploading these to their own blogs, then pinning that material to Pinterest, claiming ownership by linking to their own website. Unsuspecting Pinterest users re-pin the image and drive traffic to the stealing blogger. The original creator gets no credit or payment.

I sure don’t want to do anything like that! And I’m sure you don’t want to either.

Next: Some ideas for respectful ways to use other’s images on Pinterest.

Some interesting resources and discussions:

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