Recently, I was asked to review Pinterest by Mark Loundy. I thought I would share with our readers my conclusions after signing up and reviewing the social networking site.
Photographers have two different concerns regarding Pinterest. The first is whether or not to participate in the service. The second is whether to encourage others to “pin” your photography and whether to object if and when they do.
1) Using Pinterest- by using Pinterest, you warrant that the images that you pin are yours and that you have a right to use them. This is at complete odds with the pinterest browser “pinning” tool, which enables you to grab photos from virtually any website and pin it to your “pinboard.” Photographers should be aware that they are putting themselves at risk by using Pinterest.
If you follow Pinterest’s “Best Practices” which are recommendations from the company, you are doing something called “in-line linking.” This means that you are not pulling the photo off of the site and hosting it in your site, rather you are using code to provide somewhat of a window to the host website. Because copyright protects not just the copying, but the display of images, this could still be a copyright violation. In a very famous case from about five years ago, the Ninth Circuit held that Google was not violating copyright through its “google images” service, which utilizes in-line linking. See Perfect 10, Inc. v. Google, Inc., 508 F.3d 1146, 1167 (9th Cir. 2007). An important distinction is that google images are thumbnail images (as are the images that propagate when you post a link on Facebook) while Pinterest posts are large images and the use on pinterest is akin to an article or content you might find on a news website. Furthermore, unlike Google Images, Pinterest does not provide a transformative service like the Google image search, rather it enables average users to use photos in a way that they would also be used in the marketplace. So while there may be some defenses available to the Pinterest user, there is no guarantee that it would apply. Photographers who use Pinterest must realize that they are probably violating copyright when they post others’ images. Like everything, a decision to use Pinterest should involve a risk – benefit analysis.
2) Being the subject of “pinning.”
If you want to avoid being subject to “pinning” there are a couple of options:
Pinterest has a code that you can insert into your website’s html code that blocks pinning. The addition is “<meta name=”pinterest” content=”nopin” />” (with the brackets), and is found at this link:https://en.help.pinterest.com/entries/21063792-Prevent-pinning-from-your-site.
The problem with relying on “opt out” is that this is not the way copyright works. Google books has a similar “opt out” policy and I believe that both policies turn copyright on their head. Copyright works by requiring the user to get permission from the copyright holder. The concept of copyright falls apart if you require the copyright holder to opt out of every potential user who had developed an opt out policy.
You can also use a web company, software or code that is resistant to in-line linking, such as PhotoShelter’s website service. This is a better solution as it protects you not only against pinterest, but similar services. With new social media companies popping up every day, your best bet is to display your images in a manner that makes them difficult to rip off, but that still provides good SEO.
Of course these options are only helpful with websites that you control, which still leaves you out in the cold in regards to the work that you have licensed to a client for use online. There is also a DMCA takedown procedure for pinterest.
Many photographers have decided that Pinterest has value that makes it worth allowing pinning. Whether or not you want to allow it is a personal decision that should be based on your business model.