Pinterest is an online inspiration board that has some artists and professional photographers in an uproar due to possible copyright infringement issues. And yet, it’s also one of the fastest growing social media sites on the internet today—which, of course, brings in many other artists who want to market their own work while networking with other creative professionals.
So today we’re going to talk about ways you can protect yourself while using Pinterest and still respect the copyrights of others.
(Please bear in mind that I am not a lawyer and I don’t specialize in copyright infringement issues. Before you pin, re-blog, or otherwise use material that is not yours, make sure you understand what you’re getting into and when in doubt, seek the advice of a competent copyright attorney.)
The most important thing you can do to protect yourself is to make sure you have the right to pin someone’s work.
Ruth Carter, attorney and owner of Carter Law Firm, PLLC cautions against using Pinterest recklessly, saying “Assume you are committing copyright infringement until proven otherwise. Giving an attribution or a link back to the original source may not save you. . . be prepared to spend over $150,000 in damages every time you don’t verify that you have permission to use an image.”
1. Seek permission
There are a few ways you can verify that you have the right to pin someone’s work to one of your Pinterest boards:
a. Contact the originator of the work and formally request permission to pin their image to your board. Once given permission, print a copy of that permission and save it in a folder marked, “Pinterest Permissions.” (Naturally, don’t forget to give proper attribution by linking the image back to the source, and giving credit in the description box.)
b. Look for a “Creative Commons” license. This license usually allows you to share the originator’s work provided you give proper attribution by clearly stating who the originator of the work is and linking back to the originator’s website or online portfolio.
c. Check the source link before you re-pin anything. If the image you want to re-pin is not from the original source, don’t re-pin it. Spend time seeking the original source so you can pin that source instead. . . that way, you know you have the right to re-pin.
2. Don’t upload anything you don’t own
Pinterest offers two ways to share images on your boards. You can pull the image from the web via a source link, or you can upload the image yourself. You should never upload an image you don’t own, or weren’t given written permission to use.
In addition, just because you were given permission to use someone’s photograph or artwork on your blog, on your website, in your newsletter, or in your publicity materials (etc) does not mean you were given permission to use that same image in your social media networks.
According to Audrey Julienne, of RDE Marketing, “If you have a license, you should still check that license to ensure you are allowed to post the content on Pinterest. Different licenses, different rules. . .”
3. Link to the original source
Hannah Marr, content director for BizBrag, Inc. believes another way you can help avoid copyright infringement is by keeping the source link (which leads to the original web address) intact.
“By deliberately changing or deleting the [source link], you prevent future pinners from being able to find the origin of the picture. Changing the source link to your own site, for example, gives future pinners the idea that the picture originated from your site, which it did not,” says Hannah. “This is obviously bad etiquette. . .”
4. Give credit where credit is due
Hannah goes on to say, “Another thing to avoid doing while using Pinterest is writing anything in the description/comment box that suggests that the image you’re pinning or the idea held within is your own.”
It’s okay to tell other Pinterest users why you like the image and how it inspires you, but you should also take extra precautions by clearly stating the source of the image in the description box.
Finally, Jayme Pretzloff, Online Marketing Director of Wixon Jewelers says, “Don’t be afraid of Pinterest. . . embrace it! Just like any other social media platform it will take some experimentation to figure out how to get it to work best for you, so have fun with it. Pinterest is a great way to share your work, engage with others of similar interest and get inspiration for future artwork!”