Monday, 27 February 2012

Pinterest or how to confuse Photographers

You may be familiar with the company logo above. It might currently be filling you with a seething rage just by the mere utterance of it's name and you may not even be entirely sure why.
Well I'm here to add my 2p worth to the debate that seems to have 'kicked off' over the past week.

I've been aware of Pinterest for about 8mths or so. It had been the talk of the Crafting community long before Ad Land got wind of it. But I have to admit I've only just signed up, mainly because Ad Land has just got wind of it and I sensed an onslaught of questions from clients. "What is it?" "Should I join?" "Is full of pauses & cheese rolls?"* etc.

So I went about creating my profile, following some people and creating some boards. Boards look like this . . .

Pinterest, in case you're not sure, is a site to visually bookmark & moodboard any subject you want. So you create a board, let's say "Ad's I Love", and then you start to bookmark or 'Pin images' within that board. So if you're on an ad agency's site and you see some work you think is tops, you hit the Pin It button on your bookmark bar (you install this when you join). And up goes the image onto said board.

You're encouraged to follow people, much like Twitter. This you can do by following an individual or by selecting only certain boards of theirs. And also much like Twitter your home page then becomes a stream of all the pins, from all the boards you follow. In this instance it makes for a very aesthetically pleasing feed.

But now for the reason I'm writing this post. To address the Copyright & Usage issues everyone has been talking about recently. As far as I can tell this is the paragraph in the T&C's that has got everyone all rilled up . . .

"By making available any Member Content through the Site, Application or Services, you hereby 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."

Sounds a bit rights grabby, Clause 43 worrying right? Yes?
Ummm that's what I thought too but then I read it again, and again and then re-read it some more. And I spotted this bit . . .

"...and otherwise exploit such Member Content only on, through or by means of the Site, Application or Services."

So it's just on this site? And as yet there's no 'Buy This Image' button right? Yes?
Ah ha! Well that's not so bad.

This next bit's a tad sticky . . .

"... you represent and warrant that: (i) you either are the sole and exclusive owner of all Member Content that you make available through the Site, Application and Services or you have all rights, licenses, consents and releases that are necessary to grant to Cold Brew Labs the rights in such Member Content, as contemplated under these Terms."

But as I see it, if you're Pinning from original sources that author correctly, re-writing the author on your own pin notes or asking through your notes who did the work, and are fully prepared that if approached by the author to remove your pinning of their image, and swiftly do so, then you should be ok.

It also now raises the issue that instead of us all rushing to block the Pinability of our own websites, should we in fact be making sure we keep them open and thus allowing us to check the pinning traffic? And, more to the point, making it clearer who the authors of Pinned images are?

No doubt this post will encourage a comment or two. And I hope it does because we need to discuss sites like this, how we each interpret their T&C's and eliminate the grey areas.
Of course if I've been a massive donut and mis-read this do let me know, but as far as I can see Pinterest isn't doing anything YouTube, Instagram and their cousins aren't all already doing.

*Pinter joke


  1. Nice post the fog of confusion over pinterest is starting to lift!
    From experience it's a lot easier to track how your images are being used than say tumblr and other sharing sites are at the moment.
    Most people that are pinning are using original sources and it tracks back to the site which is better than the rest.

    1. David the tracking I agree is much better in this case. One of the reasons I'm happier with Pinterest than most others.

  2. Thanks for this post - very interesting.

    It now seems pretty harmless, that's if it stays 'nice'.

    I've never really watermarked my images - I've always thought that lo-res files used in presentations/pitches by (potential?) clients is a helpful way to reach them and to get the job! Could this be another way to do this? Time will tell I spose!

  3. Hi Emma, enjoyed your post and thanks for looking into it.

    As far as I can see, Pinterest allows people to easily share things they have found and like on the internet with others. It is a nice idea and well executed. However, I would be a bigger fan of the site if it made it easier to find out who created the work that is "pinned". The image and copyright metadata from the original source is stripped by Pinterest and there is no easy method of finding the original creator except using something like tineye reverse image search or google images. Pinterest does include a source link for the image but often this is not the original source, it is from a tumblr or blog etc.

    Given that the site is all about sharing images Pinterest could have really made a strong statement stance and be seen as a website which values IP and makes copyright a key point in it's business model. Instead it is a site of beautiful images many of whom are now orphans from their original creators. Right-click on a flickr image and see instantly the image source, licence and copyright details. That is how easy it should be for any sharing site to show details of an image.

    Along with Pinterest there is Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Wordpress all stripping metadata aswell. It reinforces the attitude that images on the internet are free and owned by no-one. The acutual content/image creator is of very little interest.

    A good article on Pinterest from a creators point of view here:

    1. Hi Gill,

      Thanks for the Metadata info. Agree that's an area Pinterest could mark themselves as different but still doesn't help when it comes to screen grabs.
      You've hit upon a great and much simpler point here. Possibly one we can win?

      I'm in agreement with David above though, it does seem easier to track than most others.


  4. Hi Emma, Yes you are right about screen grabs. It is impossible to do anything about images copied in that way in terms of metadata. What is frustrating is that removing metadata copyright information from images is illegal under UK and US law and comes under the same category as someone who infringes copyright. But publishers are rarely prosecuted as it is so difficult to prove that they deliberately stripped the metadata.

    Sadly, this routine removal of information is undertaken by all the big sharing sites and platforms.

    This key point was discussed way back in 2006! Link here:

    … by the Stock Artists Alliance who recognised early the benefit of needing to keep the metadata embedded within the image.

    Maybe technology will come to the rescue, it certainly is easier to track images online now than it was 5 years ago. I hope more websites recognise the need to credit and link back to source for creators and keep copyright and licensing info (aka metadata) attached to images. Especially those sites who exist to share or show imagery. One can only champion the ones that do as beacons of goodness and light and hope the glow rubs off on others :-)

    1. Hear Hear!

      I know that the Metadata stripping code on such websites is a main topic for action with the Stop Clause 43 group.

      Fingers crossed we can get that stamped out swiftly.