Pinterest has recently changed its Terms of Service (as of April 6, 2012). To get a better idea of where you stand with the pinning of copyrighted material, you should first familiarize yourself with Pinterest’s current and official position on the matter.
In addition to defining its policies regarding Pinterest etiquette and acceptable Use, the terms of service explicitly state that, “any User Content that you post to the Service does not and will not violate any law or infringe the rights of any third party.” Remember that the onus is on you to make sure that you have the legal permissions required to upload and pin images on Pinterest.
“Fair Use” Images
Copyright law allows reproduction of copyrighted material under very specific circumstances. If you are pinning images for purposes including critical analysis, satire, and news reporting this may be considered “fair use” of the images and may not require explicit permission from the copyright holder.
For questions surrounding the U.S. Copyright act, Pinterest itself refers to a website compiled by the University of San Francisco. To find out more about fair use guidelines and decide whether these provisions cover your use of images on Pinterest, consult the section entitled: “What is copyright infringement? Are there any defenses?”
Creative Commons Images
In order to allow a freer flow of creative material in the age of the Internet, a not-for-profit organization called Creative Commons was born. According to its website, the mandate of Creative Commons is to “provide a set of copyright licenses and tools” that makes creative content more accessible and “compatible with the potential of the Internet.”
Content creators who designate their content licensed under “Creative Commons” maintain certain rights to their original work while permitting others to use and reproduce the content under specific conditions. Content creators can assign their work Creative Commons by displaying an official designation provided by the organization. Alternatively, content creators can choose to designate their work as Creative Commons on content-hosting websites like Flickr and YouTube.
Just because an image is designated Creative Commons does not automatically mean you can reproduce it anywhere — including on Pinterest. Review the various Creative Commons license classes, and search these resources for images that are appropriately licensed for use on Pinterest.
Only Pin Your Own Content
Notwithstanding the fact that Pinterest frowns upon pins that are overtly self-promotional, pinning only content that you’ve created is one way to ensure that your pins are legal on Pinterest. Of course, your content doesn’t have to be self promotional. You can upload a variety of content like nature photographs, lifestyle pictures, or portraits (assuming you have model releases for those).
You can also participate in the Pinterest community by commenting on and liking other people’s pins. Granted, you may be limiting your Pinterest experience if you’re not pinning images. An alternative to pinning your own images is to upload images from friends and colleagues who have given you express permission to do so (but who may not have gotten around to designating their images as Creative Commons).
You don’t necessarily need to be a photographer to pin your own content. Quotes are also pretty popular on Pinterest and these can be created relatively easily using just about any image editing application.
The article is for general information only and does not constitute legal advice. In order to make sure that you are adhering to all applicable copyright laws in your jurisdiction, we recommend that you consult with a lawyer who specializes in intellectual property and copyright law.
Have you ever been asked to remove an image that you’ve pinned on Pinterest? Are you a photographer who’s been surprised (or annoyed) to see your work displayed without permission on Pinterest? Let us know in the comments below.