Wednesday, July 25, 2012

To Pin or not to Pin

by A.G. Howard

I'd like to start off by saying that I LOVE my pinterest account.

I'm crazy visual, so when I first jumped onto  the pin-it bandwagon, I was in eye-candy heaven. It didn't take me long to start building up my boards. At first, it was mainly for character inspiration:

Then it evolved to include things that interested or fascinated me:

I now have 19 boards and almost 2,000 pictures pinned. If you've never had a chance to check my boards out, you'll want to do so within the next couple of weeks, because I'm about to delete most of them.

In lieu of some posts and articles that have recently come to my attention, I'm now second-guessing if it's worth the possibility of getting sued just for fun and some extra PR. One post that really scared me points out that we should also be very wary of the pictures we use on our blogs.

Roni Loren, a romance writer, was actually sued by an artist, even after she complied and took his artwork down. Here's the link to that post, if you're interested. If it could happen on a blog, it can happen on pinterest.

The possibility is so real that several businesses are jumping the pinterest ship. For example, The Boston Business Journal abandoned their account after rereading the pinterest user agreement and  realizing that pinterest literally reserves the right to sell images any users might upload. Which means if you upload anything that isn't yours without permission, pinterest will be protected, but you could be sued for copyright infringement. Here's that article online.

Sure, you might be thinking that only people who upload images have to worry. Not people who link to the picture online, leading the viewers back to the original, and thus attributing the artist of said image. But, how can you be sure that's the original artist? Unless you take the time to investigate every single image you pin, you can't be.

I've heard the other side of this issue, too. That pinterest is doing everything they can to address the copyright concerns. In May, they added a flickr attribution to the pin buttons.

But again, that was two months ago, and still murmurings and threats abound. I think what worries me the most is that pinterest's terms of use clearly states that each pinner is responsible for getting permission for everything.

Do we honestly all do that? Wouldn't that take up an inordinate amount of time? Most of us pin for a hobby or fun. Not a full time job. Also, and most importantly, how do we know the pins we're repinning off of other boards have followed the proper protocol? We really don't. We really can't.

This article here, written by a lawyer, reiterates that fact by breaking down the pinterest user agreement in no uncertain terms. Of course, it's just her opinion, colored by her profession, but over the last few days, this has been such a concern to me I actually emailed my agent for her thoughts. I was surprised to hear that she took all her boards down just recently after hearing Roni Loren's story. Better safe than sorry, she said. And I agree. I'm even going through old blog posts to take down any pictures there that have questionable origins.

So, as much as it breaks my heart to take down my pinterest boards (GAH! all those gorgeous pictures!), I feel it's the safest route for me right now. I plan to go back to pasting any inspirational images I find into private documents instead of having it all displayed online.

This isn't goodbye forever. I still think pinterest is an incredible concept. But until they get all the legal/ethical kinks worked out, I'm laying low. I'll keep my account sparse for now. I'm only going to have a board with my favorite book covers on it, and maybe my Etsy favorites. I think I can get by with that. ;) 

Once the litigation waters get less choppy, I'll hop back in again with both feet, because eye candy is right up my alley.

What about you? If you pinterest, do threats of law suits concern you at all? Or have you grown so attached to your boards you can't even consider taking them down (which I totally understand--sniff)?


**Special thanks to Bethany Crandell and Mindy McGinnis for bringing Roni Loren's post to my attention; to Bethany Taylor for pointing out the Shiny Shiny article; and to Katherine Ernst for the link to the lawyer's insights. You ladies ROCK!**


Jordan Dane said...

This is why I never jumped onboard. Maybe one day it will only be necessary to give credit or a link to the original artist, but with pinterest having the one-sided greedy right to resell anything posted, they are hands off for me. I can't even post my bookcovers because Harlequin protects those & even I need permission to post.

Blog posting is a tough call. I've gotten permission from artists before & have a library of images I've bought for book trailers & my websites, but for daily blog posts, I sometimes google image search those. What a convoluted mess for anyone to sue over that? Suing a kid with a blog...or a library? Good luck with that.

Nice helpful post, Anita. Thank you.

Anita Grace Howard said...

I know. What amazes and shocks me both is how pinterest has it worked so they're unnacountable for anything they might do. The user is instead the scapegoat. Doesn't sit right, does it? :( A part of me wishes I had never jumped on board. Because now it's going to be so hard to tear down those lovely pages.

Jordan Dane said...

We all sign user agreements without reading them as thoroughly as we should & we can't anticipate everything that can go wrong.

You can keep using your images on a persinal basis, just not sharable until Pinterest & Google & others take responsibility. They gain from enticing small fish to intentionally line their deeper pockets. Common sense guides law & the convoluted lawsuit potential does NOT make sense, but we have to play it safe.

Heather Dearly said...

I deleted most of my boards after reading Roni's post last week. I'm keeping my book covers and covers of my fav books, fav author photos, and movie/music covers up. And I now have this board: for anyone wondering why I took down 2,000 gorgeous pins.

Makes me sick.

Heather Dearly said...

I also switched most of the photos on my blog to creative commons usage.

Heather Dearly said...

I also didn't realize they could resell. That makes me want to delete my account. Yuck.

Anita Grace Howard said...

Heather, love your board w/no name. That's exactly what I was planning to do to let my followers know what happened to my many pics!

And yeah, it's going to be a pain to go through old posts, but it's obvious one can't be careless in this day and age. :(

Sarah (saz101) said...

Seriously scary... and it doesn't matter whether you're an author, a business, or a blogger. All quite frightening... but still true. I deal with this kind fo stuff in my day-to-day work, but still kind of took the 'it's just blogging! Everyone else does it!' approach to my personal blog... and now I'm really frightened. The amounts you can pay for copyright infrginement on a single image ar eupwards of $5000-$10,000... that's just... that would cripple me financially.

And you know what? It's not even unfair for the artist to sue, or serve a take down notice, or any such thing, any more than it is for an author to take action over a pirated copy of his or her work. That's their work, their time, and their livlihood.

As for Pinterest's legal T&Cs, and their saying they're completely unculpable (is that a word? :D), I think it's bollocks. Napster (and how many other torrent sites) were sued and taken to the cleaners for the same thing. Pinterest can say that they're only a medium, but they're still providing a platform for 'pirated' images. The point could be take that they're not taking fair action on ensuring their T&C's are enforced. PINTEREST should be scared and doing something about this, too O____O

Thanks so much for posting this. I'm not taking any chances. Anything I'm not sure on is going. It's just too damn risky, until, like Jordan pointed out, Pinterest & Google take some responsibility, laws change, and things get clearer :)

Anita Grace Howard said...

Agreed, Sarah. On all counts!

Carol Tanzman said...

Thanks for the post.I'd read about the lawsuit but this puts it all in one place. Very confusing - but understandable from artists' viewpoint.