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Thursday, 1 March 2012

The Pinterest Dilemma

Pinterest has exploded recently and I'm sure, by now, everyone in the crafting world has heard of them. There are articles all over the place about Pinterest etiquette and tips for optimising Pinterest use if you are a small business owner.

The other news, that's spreading slightly more slowly but creating an ever-increasing blot on their name, is about their terms and conditions. That's what I want to talk about here.

Direct Match Media presents an
alternative point of view
 in a
straightforward, logical way.
There are 2 aspects to the terms and conditions which are causing concern:

"You acknowledge and agree that you are solely responsible for all Member Content that you make available through the Site, Application and Services. Accordingly, 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"

This one means you are only allowed to pin images which you have the rights to and is necessary to support the next one:

"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."

This all seems quite scary and that's why it's causing such a fuss. Technically it does mean that if Pinterest gets sued for having images on their site, they can pass over that responsibility to the user who originally pinned those images. It's a requirement for any company that they protect themselves to the hilt with these outrageous terms because otherwise they simply wouldn't be able to do business, Pinterest is not the first company (and I bet not the only service you use - did you look at facebook's terms recently?) to have these kinds of clauses.

So what does it really mean for you?

Image from
As a Pinner:
As someone who uses Pinterest to pin images they find on the internet this creates a dilemma. I enjoy pinning other people's work and feeling like I am supporting them at the same time by helping to create awareness. There are lots of articles out there giving tips to small business owners on how to get people to pin their items so it is clearly a good thing. Etsy has added a "Pin It" button to every item on their site so they obviously encourage pinning. 

So what's the issue? Well it's that part about granting Pinterest a license to use those images for themselves, I'll talk more about what that actually means in the next section.

So what should I do? If you want to be safe you should stick to only pinning your own content or images which clearly endorse pinning, such as those with a "Pin It" button or ones on sites with a Pinterest badge or statements encouraging you to pin their work. For most companies, having their images pinned is only going to be a good thing so if you aren't worried about playing safe you can probably continue to pin as you choose. The only real exception is when a company's product is an image - an illustration, art print, photograph etc but there are also some people who just don't like people to see their work in case it gets copied. Copycats on Pinterest is a whole other issue, discussed very nicely on Handmade Success, if you're interested.

As a Seller with images being pinned:
This is actually less of a big deal than people who are pinning things but its the issue that people seem to be most worried about.

Fellow SF Etsy Team member Riley Noehren explained it very succinctly like this:
    "There are a few key limitations to what Pinterest is doing:
    1. It is just a license, not an assignment of rights. You keep the rights to your photos, etc. Pinterest just has a right to use them in a limited context.
    2. The license only extends to things related to the website.
    3. The license only covers the content you upload, such as your photos, not the crafts themselves.
    4. The license only extends to Pinterest, not other Pinterest users for use off the website."
So if your product is a physical one you have nothing to worry about. All Pinterest can do is to use your product images on their site. They don't have to credit you for the image and they can change it and sell it if they want to but in practice all they are going to do is display the image just like they display all pins. Add a watermark to your images to maximise any potential benefit you could get from this.

If your product is an image you may want to think a little more carefully about discouraging people from pinning your work. In practice Pinterest aren't likely to use your images in any way different to what happens already but if your images are your livelihood you may prefer to be a little more careful. Other people don't have the rights to grant Pinterest a license for your work but it could get messy anyway if they pin it and Pinterest uses it. The only issue you really need to think about is pinning your own work; weigh up the benefits of the Pinterest exposure vs. the potential risks.

If you don't want your images pinned you will be unable to sell on Etsy, since they have added a Pin It button to every product. If there is a way to remove the button I was unable to find it! (Not because I want to remove it for myself but because I would have shared it with you)

In conclusion:
Yes, those are some scary terms and conditions but the reality is that they probably won't affect you in the slightest. If you are worried or like to play it safe there are 3 levels of action you can take:

  1. Only pin images that you own or ones which the owner is clearly ok with pinning.
  2. Only pin images you yourself own
  3. Don't pin any of your own images and stop others from pinning them too.
Please note, I am not a lawyer and none of this should be considered legal advice. I'm just trying to lessen the panic somewhat since a lot of it is overhyped!

This article by Juliann Krute (@TheSickChick) on Craft Test Dummies is by far the best article I've seen on this subject and presents the issues very clearly and rationally, explaining both the worst case and also likely case scenarios.

Pinterest has responded, you can read all about it at DDK Portraits

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