Pinterest Lets Publishers Protect Their Images from Getting Pinned

Pinterest is letting publishers opt out of being pinned.  The change is in response to criticism that the online pinboard violates artists’ copyrights.

The biggest concern about the online pinboard seems to be that the company’s user agreement places too much responsibility on the users. “By transmitting content to our server you guarantee us that you have the  right to make this content available for use,” it reads.” At the same time you  grant us a right of use in such content.”

“Right of use” could mean just about anything. Currently, Pinterest has been testing out an affiliate link program, which gives the company a share of the profits if someone makes a purchase based on something they found on Pinterest. The photographer at Lowe’s whose picture of a dishwasher you pinned to your “for the home” board does not give a crap. Lowe’s, in fact, is more likely to be grateful that you are showing your friends the picture with a link back to the site. But the wedding photographer who took a picture of your bridal shoes might be upset to find out that Pinterest and J Crew are making money off her work. And because you are the one who put up the picture, you could be liable.

But there is also evidence that Pinterest is in line with other copyright laws that protect the Internet from itself every day. The Fair Use Act specifies that copyrighted works may be reproduced depending on:

  1. The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes
  2. The nature of the copyrighted work
  3. The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole
  4. The effect of the use upon the potential market for, or value of, the copyrighted work

Business Insider asked Itai Maytal, an associate at Miller Korzenik Sommers LLP, if Pinterest was in compliance with copyright laws under the Fair Use Act. The media law attorney said that photography is inherently creative, which makes rule number two an issue.

Maytal also pointed to Perfect 10 v. Google, a landmark case in which a nude-image subscription service sued the search engine for using images that were behind a paywall. Because Google only showed thumbnails of the pictures in its search results, the use was considered transformative, and therefore protected by the Fair Use Act. If Pinterest users post an image in its entirety on the site, they could also be in violation of rule number three.

Really, rules number one and four will determine whether anyone chooses to come after a pinner for a copyright violation. The law is more likely to get involved when the damage happens on a massive scale, like the founders that made an estimated $175 million in profits through advertising revenue and premium memberships. This is not likely to happen while Pinterest is testing its business model.

For some examples of how to use Pinterest as your personal art gallery and marketing tool, The Wall Street Journal has a clever and illuminating introduction to the social network. If you have a website and do not want users to pin your photographs or artwork, says Pinterest, “We have a small piece of code you can add to the head of any page on your site:”

<meta name=”pinterest” content=”nopin” />

When a user tries to pin from your site, they will see this message:

“This site doesn’t allow pinning to Pinterest. Please contact the owner with any questions. Thanks for visiting!”

Image by vilax via Shutterstock.