Pinterest Copyright Policy vs Pinterest Terms

    March 5, 2012
    Mike Tuttle

While Pinterest is a great inspiration source for artists, and generally a great place for finding designs and recipes (my wife made a pineapple upside-down cake from a Pinterest recipe just yesterday), the debate over how Pinterest handles its copyright issues have some people up in arms.

Recently, Pinterest set up a bit of code that could be put onto websites to allow those sites to “opt out” of being pinned on Pinterest. Trouble is, copyright law enforcement is not based on “opting out”. Businesses have to take proactive steps to ensure copyright holders that they will not tolerate infringement.

Here’s where the difficulty comes. Let’s compare Pinterest‘s copyright policy with another of their own stated terms.

Pinterest states their stand on copyright issues like this:

Pinterest (“Pinterest“) respects the intellectual property rights of others and expects its users to do the same. It is Pinterest’s policy, in appropriate circumstances and at its discretion, to disable and/or terminate the accounts of users who repeatedly infringe or are repeatedly charged with infringing the copyrights or other intellectual property rights of others.

In fact, the Terms of Service say:

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.

But, under the topic of “Pin Etiguette“, they also say:

Avoid Self PromotionPinterest is designed to curate and share things you love. If there is a photo or project you’re proud of, pin away! However, try not to use Pinterest purely as a tool for self-promotion.

And, here is the rub. If you pin only your own material, you are self-promoting, and thus violating pin etiquette. While you may not be booted for this, it is clearly discouraged. So, what does that leave? Pinning other things you find. This is the very intended purpose of Pinterest: pin things you find.

This tightrope that users, and Pinterest itself, must walk is where the entire issue hangs. Lots of people out there don’t mind their material being pinned, so long as they get credit for it. But, some people do. And, as things are written, those that do mind have the law on their side. It is not their responsibility to “opt out”. The very act of holding copyright ensures their rights and exclusivity.

If the Pinterest business model – whatever that ends up being – is to work, they are going to have to find a way to moderate content that copyright holders do not want pinned, while still allowing that “pin what you find” atmosphere to flourish.

YouTube has been walking that tightrope for years. Time will tell what Pinterest‘s intentions are about handling this sensitive issue.