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Social media platform Pinterest is having a troublesome time in the wake of a blog post that went viral.

Kirsten Kowalski both a photographer and a lawyer. She who deleted all her pinboards after reading up a little more closely on Pinterest’s terms and conditions, from a professional interest on both sides of the fence, both as a creative making money from imagery and a legal professional.


She decided to look into the minutiae of the Pinterest terms, since “From a legal perspective, my concern was for my own potential liability. From an artist’s perspective, my concern was that I was arguably engaging in activity that is morally, ethically and professionally wrong.” Her findings made her “tearfully” delete her Pinterest boards in fear of breech of copyright and facing a huge fine.

On reading her post, Pinterest founder Ben Silbermann contacted Kirsten to discuss her thoughts on how to make copyright issues fairer for Pinterest, which still appears to be a subject in debate. (via Global post).

As it stands, Pinterest is unclear in the t’s and c’s as to what constitutes an image that does not have the necessary copyright to be pinned onto the site. This is a fundamental foundation for the whole concept of Pinterest, since the site actively encourages users to “Pin” images from websites and build moodboards as the very essence of it’s core use. The “Pin it” button on blogs and sites encourages exactly that, and users can effectively pin any image from a website. The issue of “fair use” of a copyrighted image is the center of the issue, since it is illegal to reproduce a copyrighted image; however there are certain instances in which an image may be granted fair use – and where that fair use is defined is where the grey area lies.


In the Pinterest etiquette section, users are advised to accredit image sources where possible; “Pins are the most useful when they have links back to the original source. If you notice that a pin is not sourced correctly, leave a comment so the original pinner can update the source.” In the copyright section, Pinterest claims to respect “the intellectual property rights of others and expects its users to do the same”, adding “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.”

A risk taken when re-pinning images without certainty of their source or copyright status is set out in the Terms of Use section, saying “YOU ACKNOWLEDGE AND AGREE THAT, TO THE MAXIMUM EXTENT PERMITTED BY LAW, THE ENTIRE RISK ARISING OUT OF YOUR ACCESS TO AND USE OF THE SITE, APPLICATION, SERVICES AND SITE CONTENT REMAINS WITH YOU.”

Kowalksi’s post came at a time when the social media platform was enjoying a huge increase in users, and has been the “next big thing”. She says, “until Pinterest changes some things or until the law is more clearly established, I won’t be taking the risks involved in pinning other’s work.”

Blogger Lauren Busby says “surely it’s free advertising – learn to watermark!” and is not worried by the copyright issues. Jennifer Begg said via Twitter that she is not bothered so far “but will follow with interest over the next few weeks to see what happens”. Conversely, photographer Tigz Rice says “Pinterest is a legal minefield. People don’t realize that copyright law protects online distribution of images too.”