March 13, 2012

The Trouble With Pinterest

I have full permission to use this image! Pin freely :)
*** Post Update: Pinterest has updated their terms...a little bit. ***

Ah, the almighty Pinterest.

I've been reading up on the nuts and bolts of Pinterest lately, and to be honest I'm a little disturbed.

While Pinterest has been a phenomenal place of connection, inspiration, promotion and curation - it turns out that it's also a place where you could get into a whole lot of trouble.

And I don't mean the oh gosh, I just spent the last three hours pinning DIY projects and makeup tutorials while neglecting my real life sort of trouble.

I mean the oh gosh I'm being slapped with a copyright infringement lawsuit and I'm going to be broke as crap after I pay for everyone's legal expenses sort of trouble.

I came across this post via The Window Seat and was blown away at how much I didn't know about my beloved Pinterest. To summarize, y'all need to familiarize yourselves with Pinterest's Terms of Use. And fast.

From The Window Seat:

"If you’re not sure what Pinterest is, it’s a website where you can ‘pin’ almost any content you find on the internet to your own personal ‘boards’. Think of it as a digital corkboard where you can display and organize all the things you love. Other people can view your boards and re-pin your pins to their own boards. Great idea, right?

It is, except there’s one problem. When you pin anything, you are agreeing that you own whatever you’re pinning or you have permission to do so from the original source. Your contract with Pinterest says:
“You acknowledge and agree that you are solely responsible for all Member Content that you make available through the Site, Application and Services. Accordingly, you represent and warrant that: (i) you either are the sole and exclusive owner of all Member Content that you make available through the Site, Application and Services or you have all rights, licenses, consents and releases that are necessary to grant to Cold Brew Labs the rights in such Member Content, as contemplated under these Terms; and (ii) neither the Member Content nor your posting, uploading, publication, submission or transmittal of the Member Content or Cold Brew Labs’ use of the Member Content (or any portion thereof) on, through or by means of the Site, Application and the Services will infringe, misappropriate or violate a third party’s patent, copyright, trademark, trade secret, moral rights or other proprietary or intellectual property rights, or rights of publicity or privacy, or result in the violation of any applicable law or regulation.” source
But wait… there’s more. You’re also agreeing to let Pinterest sell anything you pin:
“…By making available any Member Content through the Site, Application or Services, you hereby grant to Cold Brew Labs a worldwide, irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, royalty-free license, with the right to sublicense, to use, copy, adapt, modify, distribute, license, sell, transfer, publicly display, publicly perform, transmit, stream, broadcast, access, view, and otherwise exploit such Member Content only on, through or by means of the Site, Application or Services. Cold Brew Labs does not claim any ownership rights in any such Member Content and nothing in these Terms will be deemed to restrict any rights that you may have to use and exploit any such Member Content.”source
And more. You agree to pay their legal fees:
“You agree to defend, indemnify, and hold Cold Brew Labs, its officers, directors, employees and agents, harmless from and against any claims, liabilities, damages, losses, and expenses, including, without limitation, reasonable legal and accounting fees, arising out of or in any way connected with (i) your access to or use of the Site, Application, Services or Site Content, (ii) your Member Content, or (iii) your violation of these Terms.” source
And even more. You agree that the entire risk remains with you:

Pretty scary, am I right? This morning I read another great article via Business Insider about a woman who is a lawyer and a photographer who was so alarmed she immediately deleted her Pinterest boards. And after hearing about the risks here, who can blame her?

If you're anything like me, you're asking yourself: "yeah, but what are the chances that I'll really run into trouble? Don't the photographers/designers/etc. like having their work promoted?" And true, the chances of Elizabeth Messina tracking me down and suing me for pinning one of her gorgeous photos is slim. But if I pin her image and Pinterest decides to sell it...then I'm fully responsible for the legal bills of everyone and their mom.

Apparently Ben and the Pinterest team are searching for answers to this massive set of problems, which is good news. At this point I'm not going to delete all my boards, but already I've limited my pinning. My main beef with them is how sneaky this all seems...but then again these have been their Terms of Use from the beginning, so we've had access to them from the start.

It's a tricky situation. What do you think? Are you going to leave Pinterest? Will you stay forever? I think raising these issues and discussing them will bring about change - share with your friends and fellow Pinterest enthusiasts!


  1. that's incredibly interesting... how would Pinterest plan on selling things pinned, though... I wonder? Through a book of pins? Actually thinking about it, that would be interesting to look at (depending on how categorized... by state, by gender, etc)

  2. also, I've always thought Pinterest to be better than some of the other (similarly based) sites... such as tumblr or that img fave (??) as it does automatically link to where you located it, rather than relying on you to manually input it.

  3. Regarding how Pinterest would plan on selling pins, I like the Window Seat's example:

    1. You pin a picture of a cat without permission.
    2. Pinterest sells it to ABC Marketing.
    3. ABC Marketing prints it on kitty litter boxes.
    4. Cat picture owner sees kitty litter box in store and calls lawyer.
    5. Lawyer calls Pinterest.
    6. Pinterest calls you.
    7. Bad things happen.

    But really, I think the core issue (via Kersey Campbell) is this: what's the point of Pinterest if you can't collect/share images that inspire you without consent AND pinterest owns them?

    Regarding Pinterest vs. Tumblr, etc. - I agree, the sourcing is a bit better, but still, according to their terms, that doesn't mean that you've adequately given the image credit.

    The more I think about it, the more I'm leaning towards leaving.

  4. "But really, I think the core issue (via Kersey Campbell) is this: what's the point of Pinterest if you can't collect/share images that inspire you without consent AND pinterest owns them?"

    this I agree with WHOLLY

  5. I was thinking about this more last night... I wonder if, "What is a pin (anatomy of a good pin)?

    A pin is an image added to Pinterest. A pin can be added from a website using our bookmarklet or you can upload images from your computer. Each pin added using the bookmarklet links back to the site it came from.

    Product Screenshot

    To make Pinterest the most useful to yourself and others, follow best practices when pinning:

    Pin from the original source.
    Pin from permalinks.
    Give credit and include a thoughtful pin description."

    could be a loophole... or could be used when asking them to change their policies. That's what's listed on their "help" page.

    and sorry for the 500 comments... but this really has me curious/wondering/etc

  6. hi! just recently started reading your blog. as far as pins go, i try to pin from design blogs (aka, people who are sharing content, for example design sponge) when i see a site that has a bold disclaimer "these are my pictures. do not reuse" i avoid pinning those. i also avoid pinning pictures of kids, because i'm a mom and i figure most moms don't want to exploit their kids.

    i personally love to see projects from my home design blog repinned. i have a private family blog that can't be searched. if you don't want your stuff pinned--keep it private!

  7. Another reason to stay away from Pintrest, even though everyone and their dog is on it!


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