I've been asked (sometimes politely, sometimes not) to explain my objections to Pinterest. I've also been ridiculed by those who think that Pinterest is poised to become the next great Social Media Network. So roughly, here are my reasons, boiled down to a bullet list.
- Pinterest says that it requires every image to contain full information about its origins. That's true, insofar as every pin asks for a URL that takes the viewer to the source of the image. But unlike the "Description" box, which you must fill in, (although you can fill it with something as absurd as LOL) the URL box can be left blank entirely, and usually is. I found I couldn't find out who owned more than a handful of the images I had posted because I thought they were clever or pretty.
- The next part of that agreement you accepted says that since you "own" whatever you pin, you are now assigning all rights to the company that created Pinterest. The actual statement says that you grant to "Cold Brew Labs a worldwide, irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, royalty-free license, with the right to sublicense, to use, copy, adapt, modify, distribute, license, SELL, transfer, publicly display, publicly perform, transmit, stream, broadcast, access, view, and otherwise exploit such Member Content only on, through or by means of the Site, Application or Services."
- Got that? By pinning an image, you give the company the right to sell that image. But what if you don't hold the rights to that image? Then you have infringed upon someone else's copyright, and there are strict laws against doing so.
- So what happens if you pin a copyrighted image, and Pinterest sells it? Well both you and Pinterest can be sued for damages by the lawful copyright holder. The site's terms and conditions, however, are designed to ensure the users take the blame - not the company itself. You acknowledge and agree that 'the entire risk… remains with you,’ says the site's legal documents. "You acknowledge sole responsibility for and assume all risk arising from your use of any such website or resource." Yep, if someone sues Pinterest, you are liable for all their costs as well as your own.
- The counter-argument is that having an image out there is "good publicity", and no one is going to sue you for making their work more visible. No? What about the websites that offer stock photos for a price, limiting their use to the person who makes the purchase? If you buy a photo, or re-pin an image that used to be for sale and then put it on Pinterest, you have effectively stolen it from the original photographer, who cannot make any further profit from that photo because you have made it available for free. Moreover, if you don't know the source of an image, you cannot assume that the creator is willing to have his intellectual property used without permission.
- I'm a big fan of the internet, but I also recognize that it moves too fast for most of us to keep up with all of its ramifications. Just because you CAN do something does not mean that it is RIGHT to do it. I'm afraid Pinterest is one of those ideas which seems so good--and is so much fun--that we have failed to see the moral and legal implications.
So there I stand. I am a creator myself, and I hold legal copyrights to my work. I would not tolerate people stealing my book and putting it on their websites just because they like it. Therefore, I will not do that to other creative individuals, whether their work is a piece of music, a photograph, a painting, a poem, a line drawing, or a clever sign.
U.S. Copyright laws serve a purpose--they are the only protection artist have for their intellectual property. Pinterest encourages its users to violate those laws. Simple as that. What part of illegal don't you understand?