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Could Your Pinterest Addiction Actually be Illegal?

Could Your Pinterest Addiction Actually be Illegal?

"backing itself into a wall"

Pinterest is a quickly snowballing virtual image pin board that lets users pull together a wealth of ideas to do things like decorate their home, plan a wedding, find a fashion sense, aggregate recipes and create a book reading wish list, to name a few. With each "pin" is an image. It's these images that have some squalling about copyright infringement, which if you read Pinterest's terms of use, is a burden placed on each individual Pinner.

Business Insider reports that a lawyer and photographer named Kristin Kowalski was so stunned by the potential for copyright violation on the site, that she decided to delete her Pinterest account. She is one of many joining the ranks concerned about copyright law on the social pinboard site. Business Insider has more on Kowalski's findings:

She browsed Pinterest's Terms of Use section. In it she found Pinterest's members are solely responsible for what they pin and repin. They must have explicit permission from the owner to post everything.

"I immediately thought of the ridiculously gorgeous images I had recently pinned from an outside website, and, while I gave the other photographer credit, I most certainly could not think of any way that I either owned those photos or had a license, consent or release from the photographer who owned them," Kirsten writes.

Pinterest encourages repinning community photos though, so Kirsten found it hard to believe the act was unlawful. She continued to dig.

Kirsten turned to federal copyright laws and found a section on fair use. Copyrighted work can only be used without permission when someone is criticizing it, commenting on it, reporting on it, teaching about it, or conducting research.  Repinning doesn't fall under any of those categories.

Pinterest's terms of use, to which anyone who pins on the boards agrees to, states that as a "member" you are responsible for all the content you make available through the site in that you are either the sole owner of the content or that you have obtained consent or release for the content. In addition, Business Insider points out that in the event you are sued for copyright infringement on Pinterest, you may also have to pay the company's legal fees should they become involved.

Pinterest describes itself as a place where users can "organize and share all the beautiful things you find on the web." Pinterest members can not only create their own pin boards but also can follow and browse other users' pin boards to glean more ideas. Watch this brief Pinterest tutorial to learn more about how it works:

Websites such as Flickr, a popular site for those seeking to beef up pin boards, are beginning to introduce "do not pin" code that would help protect its own users from copyright infringement, Venture Beat reported. Venture Beat also notes that similar anti-pin code was developed, and is now available on Pinterest, for others who wish to protect content on their site.

Business Insider says that Kirsten compares Pinterest to Napster in its viability for copyright infringement and the stance the company maintains in its terms of use. Here's what she wrote:

So, the next question is “how real is this risk and do I really need to worry about getting sued for something everyone is doing?” Well, my only response to that is to look at what happened with people who used Napster. Many users were, in fact, sued by music companies and artists for unlawful downloading of songs. Users like you and me and a 12-year old girl (not kidding). [...] I’m a lawyer and I see people suing for really dumb stuff every day. And, frankly, this isn’t “dumb stuff.” We are talking about intellectual property rights. Those of you who make your living as photographers know the importance here.

On the flip side, TechDirt is saying the copyright "freakout" and "hysteria" over Pinterest is pointless. Why? It believes that the traffic Pinterest brings to the source website of the image -- when you create a pin the website from which it came is associated with it -- will benefit it enough to trump copyright concerns. TechDirt sources a recent Mashable article about the amount of traffic Pinterest is driving to women's magazines as an example:

Beginning this summer, Pinterest became the top social referrer for marthastewartweddings.com and marthastewart.com, sending more traffic to both properties than Facebook and Twitter combined. Pinterest is on track to become the second highest traffic driver (after Google) to Cooking Light‘s website, up 6,000% from just six months ago. The social bookmarking site already drives three times the amount of traffic to Cooking Light compared to Facebook.

Elsewhere, Pinterest is the fourth largest source of traffic for Country Living, up 150% from August to the end of January, and accounts for 3% of all referrals. It was the ninth largest traffic source for both Elle Decor and House Beautiful last month, both of which have seen triple-digit percentage increases in referrals over the last six months, and was among the top 10 referral sites for Self magazine.

The Atlantic Wire thinks that Pinterest is "backing itself into a wall" with the terms of use potentially turning off Pinners and preventing pinning capability by issuing code. What do you think?

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