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Is Pinterest a Haven for Copyright Violations?

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Will Pinterest make Creative Commons images like this an endangered species?

Will Pinterest make Creative Commons images like this an endangered species?

The Problem with Pinboards

Pinterest is the new social media darling taking the web by storm. On Pinterest, you "pin" images you find online and share them with fellow Pinterest members. They in turn can "repin" those images and share them.

Pinterest is fun! And the site looks fantastic.

Most Pinterest members are conscientious about giving a credit and a link back to the source. That gives it a little free PR. So everything's hunky dory, right?

Wrong. Thousands of Pinterest members are breaking copyright and causing headaches for artists, photographers, and bloggers. Many image owners don't mind at all, and are happy for the publicity! But for many photographers and artists, the problems caused by these copyright violations outweigh the benefits.

Update Feb 21, 2012: Bravo to Pinterest for attempting to address copyright concerns by providing a snippet of code so that sites can "opt out". It doesn't entirely solve the issue, since one shouldn't have to "opt out" of a service you didn't join, but it does help. On Hubpages, if you need to protect your photos from well-intentioned Pinners, edit your Profile, click "Social Networks", and click the "disallow Pinterest" checkbox.

Read on for why pinning a photo you don't own violates copyright, breaks image licenses, and is causing special problems for bloggers, photographers and artists.

Copyright is the legal right of artists, authors, and photographers to decide how their own work is copied. (They may sell this right, and thus profit from their work.)

Therefore, giving credit and a link back does not satisfy copyright. You need permission.

Fair use does not say "it's okay to repost someone's work if you don't make money on it." Even if you don't, the copyright holder could — unless someone else is giving away that work for free!

Also, an image doesn't lose copyright when it's posted on the web.

What happens if you violate someone's copyright? Most artists and photographers are too nice to sue, and will simply request that you remove the copied work. However, a copyright owner can sue for damages, as one website discovered. That website paid $4000 in damages for a $10 stock photo they had used without permission, even though they removed the photo promptly after receiving a takedown notice.

Pinterest's Official Stance on Copyrighted Images

Pinterest's Terms of Use prohibit its members from posting copyrighted material without the copyright holder's permission. Here's the relevant legalese:

"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; and (ii) neither the Member Content nor your posting, uploading, publication, submission or transmittal of the Member Content or Cold Brew Labs’ use of the Member Content (or any portion thereof) on, through or by means of the Site, Application and the Services will infringe, misappropriate or violate a third party’s patent, copyright, trademark, trade secret, moral rights or other proprietary or intellectual property rights, or rights of publicity or privacy..."

However, most Pinterest members ignore these rules. A quick glance at shows that most pinned images are not owned by the person posting them.

Well, so what? It's bending the law, but what harm could it do, really?

Pinning an Image Competes With the Original

When someone pins an image, Pinterest doesn't just store a small thumbnail graphic with a link back to the site, as most social media sites do. Instead, pinning an image stores a full-sized copy, or at least a 500+ pixel copy, on Pinterest. A thumbnail tempts people to click and view the real thing; a full-sized copy doesn't.

Some people have defended Pinterest by comparing it to Google Image Search, but Google doesn't store copies (and defended itself in a lawsuit on that basis).

Say you remove a photo from your own site in order to sell it. Or say you find a copy of your art posted illegally on someone else's website and ask them to remove it. Once the image is removed, Google automatically drops it from search results, but Pinterest's full-sized copy of the image remains.

Again, so what?

Well, for starters, a lot of traffic comes to blogs and photography websites by searching for pictures of things. If someone pins a photo on Pinterest, they've created a competing version of the image, which could siphon image search traffic away from the source site.

For example, I have seen traffic to some of my own online articles drop, after a pinboard using my photos started outranking the original article in Google. This has resulted in real, measurable loss of income for me. Other artists, photographers and writers have reported similar problems.

But there's more serious problems to consider.

Pinning Violates Image Licenses

Online bloggers, writers, artists and photographers have a simple, legal way of benefiting from their images posted on the web: licensing.

An image license means the copyright owner gives permission for a specific, limited use, in exchange for something in return.

  • With stock photos, the "something" is money: people pay to use good-quality photos to make their websites or publications look great.
  • With Creative Commons licensing, the "something" is credit and a link back. A backlink is a valuable commodity: it not only sends traffic to the artist or photographer's website; it also can help a site rank better in search engines.
  • With affiliate marketing programs like or, the affiliate may use small copyrighted images like movie posters or artwork in exchange for a link back to the store selling the poster or art.

Pinning a licensed photo cuts through these legal, mutually beneficial agreements like a machete through a spiderweb.

For example: At the top of this page is a pice of Creative Commons artwork. Artist Sterin Gianinni made it available in exchange for a credit and link back. But when (briefly) Hubpages added a "Pin It!" button at the top of the page, scores of people pinned that graphic and credited it to me, linking to this page, so that the artist gets no credit or promotion. This misattribution happens all the time on Pinterest. Imagine how it impacts Etsy shopkeepers and photographers.

Some of the generous people who offer their images under a Creative Commons license may hesitate to do so, if they see that Pinterest is going to kick that arrangement to the curb.

But even this is not the biggest problem with Pinterest.

Pinterest May Sell, Distribute, or "Exploit" Pinned Images

Pinterest's terms of use state that if you upload content to Pinterest, then you're giving Pinterest permission to distribute, sublicense, and sell that content:

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 allows Pinterest to justify replacing affiliate links with ones that earn money for Pinterest.

Furthermore, Pinterest provides an "embed" button next to every pinned image so that it may be displayed on anyone's blog or website.

Reread that sentence and think about what that means. Why license a Creative Commons Photo or stock photo, when you can just grab a "free" image on Pinterest and use it to jazz up your blog or article? Copyright, schmopyright!

Remember how I said that Pinterest's copy of an image may compete against the original for Google traffic? All those embedded versions of the cloned image will link back to Pinterest, and those backlinks may give it the edge.

More importantly, the embed codes mean Pinterest is giving the images away to anyone on the web to use on their websites. [Update: And millions of webpages are doing just that -- see sidebar below.] Third party websites are springing up which print books and posters of pinned photos, or sell the designs, or simply using pinned photos to make money by drawing traffic to their websites.

THAT is the real copyright threat from Pinterest. THAT is why many artists, photographers and bloggers are worried about Pinterest.

[Update July 2013: Read this excellent blog post left on the comments of this page for ome of numerous examples of real-world photographers and bloggers hurt by image theft from Pinterest members, and how it impacted her. Or, for many other examples...]

A short blog post, "Information for Bloggers on Pinterest" by Amy Locurto, shares sobering real-world examples of how some Pinterest members are abusing copyright.

Amy reports on photos pinned without credit or link -- and this wasn't the rare exception. One correspondent found that of 100 copies of her photo posted on Pinterest, "maybe 5 were credited."

Worse, Locurto discovered that there are blog sites using photos found on Pinterest to get traffic: "People [are] actually creating 'Inspired by Pinterest' blogs based on this." Really, "Inspired by Pinterest" is a misnomer when you take the photo and parts of an article without even (in Locurto's example) a backlink!

So I did a Google search of: inspired by pinterest

and saw about 13 million results. (That search excludes itself). Some are original work inspired by pinned photos, but an awful lot of them are illustrated with those photos. Most are not Fair Use.

All the ones I checked earned money through advertising and/or sales. The page that comes up first in Google gives no image credits or backlinks. And two of the first five I checked included image credits to "" and "Google," which I doubt are the names of the original photographers.

Concluding Thoughts

Right now, Pinterest is not selling images posted on it; it's just making money off them with advertising. But we all know from Facebook, Google, and numerous other examples that websites grow and turn a profit by exploiting more fully the content that users share on them. And even if Pinterest bucks the trend, by providing images via embed codes, it's enabled thousands of people to make money off pinned images they don't own.

I'm sure most Pinterest members don't mean to violate copyright, and they wouldn't dream of pirating and posting a commercial movie online. However, it seems to me that they're doing something similar. The chief difference is the victim: a small-time artist or photographer trying to eke out a living, instead of a big-budget movie studio raking in the bucks.

Solution? Ask permission! Many will be happy for the PR, while others may have good reasons for saying no. If you want to share an image with friends, but don't want to go to the trouble of asking permission, why not share a link to the source page through Twitter instead? Facebook also works: it only shows a thumbnail, which is legal, and people are more likely to click a thumbnail to see the original than to click a full-sized copy.

There are ways to use Pinterest legally. See this quick post (not mine): A Hubber's Guide to Pinterest. It talks about sharing your work while being an active, contributing member of the community. It's the one how-to I've seen that reconciles Pinterest's Terms of Use -- don't pin content you don't own -- with Pinterest's policy against too much self-promotion.


Arivor from Evans, GA on September 20, 2017:

I will be the Devil's Advocate here, since the DMCA is being exploited as an easy tool malign and ruin reputable companies. Here I am, with over 30 years of digital forensic experience. BS in both CS and Math. An MS in Cybersecurity as well as an MBA. With continuing over 10 years with the DOJ. Simply, It's like this, If you're naive enough to put something out for everyone to see and even worse you did not even watermark it... I have no sympathy for you... just pure contempt. Secure your own stuff or don't put it out for easy access to the world. There are no borders on the internet you idiots. Yet, you love to whine about how your stuff was "stolen" when you were the one that gave everyone access to it. Did they hack into your system and take it from you? If not, get a clue and realize that you are the problem. You are the one that gave everyone access to it, you are the biggest threat to yourself. Seriously, get a clue from getty, they got this stuff down pact.

Jim17 on August 12, 2017:

Pinterest's entire business is built upon copyright violation. They know full well that the vast majority of posted content is in violation of copyright laws but they wink and look the other way. How they haven't been sued into the ground yet is a curious affair.

Care on July 22, 2017:

Here's another big problem with Pinterest that creators should be aware of. When you fill out the online DMCA take down notice provided by Pinterest on their webstie, Pinterest will remove the link to the image that was uploaded, but they do not remove the image from their database. Basically the image is still on their server and can be accessed by anyone. Spam websites often hotlink to these images so they show up on their own websites. If you have the spammers take it down, they only remove the link to the image because the image is still on Pinterest's website. When you fill out a DMCA on Pinterest do not use their online form. Fill out your own DMCA and send it to their copyright infringement email. Include the image address and specifically ask them to remove the image from their image files. To get the image address in Chrome right-click on the image and select "Copy image address". I do this now with every DMCA I fill out because many websites only remove the link and do not remove the image from their database. If it isn't removed from their image files, it will continue to show up on Google search and still link to the infringing website. I also always send a cc to myself and check back on these emails to make sure the image was removed from their database and isn't republished in the future.

The Abrahadabra Institute LLC on July 21, 2017:

Thanks for writing this, I had to have my company leave Pinterest because instead of reposting our credited images, they were downloading them and reuploading them to erase the credit.

Jonathan Quimbly on July 16, 2016:

Pinterest is obviously in the business of exploiting photographers. Photographers want to be paid for their creative work, like anybody else. Paying all the photographers whose work has been stolen to post on Pinterest would probably amount to hundreds of millions of dollars, or more.

"Credit and link" -bullshit, nothing but red herring. Photographers want to be paid for their creative work, same as anybody else!

Liz Elias from Oakley, CA on June 08, 2016:

WOW! This makes me re-think my use of Pinterest, and wonder whether I should quit the site!

Although, from reading the 'legalese' excerpts, it seems that would not matter at all, if we have granted a 'perpetual' license for them to do as they will with the images; they would likely remain in storage somewhere on their servers....

Bah! Sometimes, I feel like I was born 100 years too was simpler before technology, and there wasn't so much lawyer-driven drivel...contracts were simple, easy-to-understand plain English, and a handshake was as good as a signature!

Greensleeves Hubs from Essex, UK on June 07, 2016:

I must admit I use Pinterest to advertise my own hubs, in the hope that people will click on the Pinterest entry and link back to HubPages to read the article. And I always assumed that I would benefit from the free advertising on the site.

But reading this hub Ellen, it actually surprises me that Pinterest is legal, as the amount of copyrighted material there must be vast. It's very reason for existence is to host material copied from other sites. I don't understand why it has not been challenged or sued for its copyright content?

Charles W Taylor from United States on April 05, 2016:

It is a platform for all which includes Searchers, Business growth, looking for contacts or people similar to them or addicted to social media.

Carolyn Warvel from Henderson, Nevada on February 10, 2016:

I just noticed that Pinterest now has an embed link on every image. This means that anyone can embed your image that is on Pinterest onto their website, blog etc. and not be in violation of copyright law. I know this because I filled out an DMCA report about someone who was embedding one of my images from my web site. They said this is not copyright infringement because the image isn't actually on their web site and a bunch other crap. The only recourse you would have is to remove your images from Pinterest because they couldn't embed something that wasn't there.

Liz Elias from Oakley, CA on December 14, 2014:

OY, Yikes! I just learned to use Pinterest in the last year, and when you pin or re-pin ANYTHING, there is usually never any kind of notice or linkback or copyright notice displayed. How is anyone to know the original source?

It sounds like this site is potential big trouble, and maybe I should just take down my account. I have, at this point, hundreds of things pinned, and no way (or time) to back-track all of them to find out if there was original permission, or if it was public domain or not.

JIM on November 26, 2014:


Ellen (author) from California on November 02, 2014:

The problem is that people pinning other people's content do not have the right to "grant Pinterest and its users" any rights to that content.

MrAvelardoLopez on October 28, 2014:

Since this article was written, Pinterest has revised their terms of service to say:

b. How Pinterest and other users can use your content

You grant Pinterest and its users a non-exclusive, royalty-free, transferable, sublicensable, worldwide license to use, store, display, reproduce, re-pin, modify, create derivative works, perform, and distribute your User Content on Pinterest solely for the purposes of operating, developing, providing, and using the Pinterest Products. Nothing in these Terms shall restrict other legal rights Pinterest may have to User Content, for example under other licenses. We reserve the right to remove or modify User Content for any reason, including User Content that we believe violates these Terms or our policies.

Carolyn Warvel from Henderson, Nevada on July 23, 2014:

Another Problem with Pinterest -

Pinterest tells pinners to pin from the source, yet they change the source of the image to their own web site. I have pinned images from my web site and they have been repined onto many boards on Pinterest, yet when you go to those images the images don't have links back to my web site but link to a cached image on Pinterest. The repins do not go back to the source web site. So Pinterest violoates their own copyright instructions. They are doing exactly what they tell pinners not to do. They are changing the source of the image. Another big problem with Pinterest is you can't contact them via email. I replied to an email they sent me and they said they do not reply to these email but that if I go to their help page and click on the email link at the bottom of the page, then they would answer my questions. I spent some time composing my email asking them why they are caching images from my web site instead of linking to my site and got this reply. "We do not answer these emails." They added a bunch of crap about unrelated issues that was of no help whatsoever. I spend many hours writing take down notices for any of my images that do not link directly back to my web site.

Carolyn Warvel from Henderson, Nevada on December 04, 2013:

You can't assume that what is pinned is legal. If you use an image that is pinned in violation of copyright laws, you are also in violation of copyright laws. It is still your responsibility to find out if it is legal. It is the same with any other media. For example, if you purchase or accept a movie that is pirated, even if you aren't the one who copied it, you are still in violation of copyright laws. You should always check out the source, follow the link from Pinterest to the source. Most web sites that allow pinning will have "pin it" button on their images. You can assume they are legal if they have the "pin it" button. I have the "pin it" buttons on the images on my web site that I allow people to pin. However, some people assume that if they can pin the images, they can also copy the text from the page. But text is copyrighted. It is illegal to copy someone's text and publish on Pinterest without permission. When people pin my craft images and link back to my web site, I benefit from the link, but when they pin the supply list and directions, I lose business because people have no reason to go back to my site.

Ceres Schwarz on December 04, 2013:

While I've heard many things about Pinterest and while many say it can be a good source for traffic, I have yet to make a Pinterest account precisely because of all the stuff you said about copyrights and the like. All this can be really confusing.

So, just to clarify, the above image you used should not be pinned because it won't link back to the artist but will instead link to this article? I also use CC images for my articles and even some images of the products I feature from Amazon. I don't think I've heard that we can disable Pinterest on HubPages. I guess I should do that if we can't have the CC images pinned?

But what about images that you added some text to? I added some text to some images that have the CC:BY or CC:BY-SA license. Can those images be pinned or not?

Thanks for this useful and helpful article on Pinterest. I'm not sure I'll ever join Pinterest with all the issues about photos and pinning. I understand we have to make sure that we're allowed to pin whatever we pin but I wonder about repinning? Do you have to check and make sure that whatever you're repinning is not copyrighted or does that responsibility fall to the original pinner and whoever repins just assumes that whatever they're repinning is allowed to be repinned?

pinkydoo from New York on October 02, 2013:

Wow! If you think about it, Pinterest is all about using ("Pinning") other people's work and presenting it as your own in your "collection." The site does not really encourage original content at all. It's funny how everyone just accepts that this is "okay" to do! Actually, I hadn't really given it much thought until I started getting into art and photography myself! I wonder if Pinterest will eventually close down due to violations of copyright laws? Great informational article!

Carolyn Warvel on August 26, 2013:

It says, "You grant Pinterest and its users the right to use your images on Pinterest for the purposes of operating, developing, providing, and using the Pinterest Products." - That's Pinterest Products. (Pinterst can use them to advertise, send them in email, etc.) Meaning people can repin them and use them on Pinterest, but it doesn't mean they can copyr them and use them for their own web sites, or for their own purposes. etc.

It also says that you give them "permission to create derivative works". Sure people can use your ideas to make their own crafts, but if they publish those derivative works as their own ideas, they are violating copyright laws.

Pinterest says they respect copyright laws, and copyright law says that derivative works are covered under copyright law.

They state "Pinterest has adopted and implemented the Pinterest Copyright Policy in accordance with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. For more information, please read our Copyright Policy." I have found that they do respect the DMCA because whenever I have asked them to take something down that infringed on my copyright, they have always taken it down, not questions asked. So far no one has filed a counter claim. I don't know what will happen if that occurs. Also images from all over the web are being pinned by people who don't own the images and who haven't given their consent for them to be pinned. These images are still copyrighted even if they are on Pinterest, and are actually being used in violation of copyright law. Pinterest makes their users liable because they are the ones pining them. Copyright owners do not have to prevent people from pinning their images. That is impossible. People can be liable for pinning and using images in violation of copyright law. That is why I don't pin any images that aren't mine or I don't have permission to pin. I own a business and I don't want to be sued.

I pin images from my web site and they are copyrighted. I have copyright regulations on my site, if someone uses my images for purposes that violate my copyright I fill out a DMCA form and have the images removed, and I do this weekly. If someone makes a copy of my design without my permission, that is copyright abuse no matter where they saw the design on my site or on Pinterest. I have had very large companies that sell crafts and craft products steal my designs and have asked them to take them down, and for the most part they have. Also people have been pinning my images from my web site without permission before I even knew there was a Pinterest. These images are not free for anyone to use or make derivatives works just because they are on Pinterest no matter what Pinterest says. Copyright laws still apply. Their copyright Policy is very vague, but they do state "More simply put: We respect copyrights. You should, too." Under Copyright Policy #3. So far I have found this to be true.

Dan on August 26, 2013:

"Sure if you put your images up on Pinterest, you can expect people to repin them on to their own boards, but that doesn't mean you are giving them the right to use your images anyway they want, or to take your designs and copy them. You aren't throwing away your copyright. If every image on Pinterest was free to use anyway people wanted publishers, artists, photographers, and designers would go out of business."

Now i have not read it word for word myself but the OP stated in a comment above that when you "upload" your images to pinterest that is exactly what you are doing.

Dan on August 26, 2013:

A news paper is a published paper with text and images, it is copyrighted. Some are in a locked machine and others are not. If i own a restaurant and i walk up to a published paper that is not in a "pay" machine. I took a "copy" of the paper sitting there in the machine and brought it to my restaurant. Than I used it to wrap my hamburgers in. Is this copyright infringement? Is that theft. NO.

A free to view website is a "flyer/display/visual show", i am more than allowed to print it out and put it in my journal of websites that i like. Pinterest (which is what we are taking about) is not people taking other peoples stuff and calling it their own. It is people taking what you have done and lacquering it up on a billboard so that they and their friends and see it.

If people are calling something their own or making copies of something that they purchased and distributing it, that is different.

I work with printed material every day and i turn people away every day because of copyright infringement. IE. Is someone wants to make a hard copy of a news paper to send to there friends and relatives. They can make copies, however they have to black out the pictures prior to doing so. Most people just go back to the source and grab a few more and send them out. I did this for my baby's birth announcement.

My son like to "cut" and "remove" pictures from magazines. These are copyrighted. He pasts them on another paper and displays them for his friends. Should i shut down his "pinterest"?

Now what if one of his friends likes it and makes a copy of it to put in his room?

Carolyn Warvel from Henderson, Nevada on August 24, 2013:

Your argument doesn't make sense. You are saying that if someone publishes something on the web they are giving it to the public. It doesn't matter where an artist publishes his work, on the net, in a magazine, etc. according to you they are giving it to the public so anyone can use it for any reason. That is ridiculous. As far as copyright goes publishing on the web is no different than publishing in a book or magazine, or newspaper. But that isn't the case. The copyright owner doesn't lose his or her rights when they publish something (Or as you state give it to the public). The public still can't copy the published work and republish it as if it is theirs without permission. When someone copies a picture without permission or uses it to promote their own web site or blog that is copyright abuse. It is the same thing as someone copying an image from a book or magazine that was "put out there for the public" and reusing it as if it was their own image. And your "real world" flier example doesn't make sense. Fliers are meant to be distributed. But if someone copied the same flier and put their own business on it as if they created it, it would be copy right abuse, because it isn't their work. They didn't design the flier, come up with the catchy saying, etc.

You also say by uploading the image "Unprotected". - All original works are automatically protected by copyright law - they aren't "unprotected". Legally you don't have to put a copyright on them or do anything to the image to say it is copyrighted, although it would be stupid not to do that. But just because it doesn't say it is copyrighted, it doesn't mean it isn't.

And just because something wasn't "Tacked down" doesn't mean that it should be stolen, and reused anyway the thief wants to use it. When someone displays something at a store, on the net, or anywhere for people to see they are saying "Look at this!" not "Look at this, you are welcome to take anything you want and use it anyway you want." Your argument is ridiculous. Do art galaries have to post "For you viewing pleasure only. Do not take!" Of course not, people know they aren't for free. Again your argument doesn't make sense at all. A flier advertising your work is completely different. They were made for the purpose of distributing to promote your work. People can't use the fliers as art to hang on their walls or to promote their own business. When people steal images off the web they often use it to promote their own businesses, make money from affiliate networks, use it in other works. Even very small images can be profitable on the web. An image from a flier is not. You are trying to compare apples to oranges and it doesn't work.

It is not up to the copyright owner to make sure people can't steal their work. Although it would be smart to do things to prevent it. Just like it is not up to a store to prevent people from stealing things. It is not the store's fault because they didn't protect their products from being stolen when some one steals something. The person who stole it is at fault. No matter what measure you take to prevent it, they will still be stolen. It is the same with art. You are basically saying that if someone manages to steal your work because you didn't have enough ways to prevent them from stealing it, it is perfectly fine to steal it because the artist wasn't smart enough to prevent it. How ridiculous is that! Sure if you put your images up on Pinterest, you can expect people to repin them on to their own boards, but that doesn't mean you are giving them the right to use your images anyway they want, or to take your designs and copy them. You aren't throwing away your copyright. If every image on Pinterest was free to use anyway people wanted publishers, artists, photographers, and designers would go out of business.

I agree with you that you should not provide high quality printable images that people can just copy and print out, and I don't think most artist are stupid enough to do this, unless they don't care if people use them. But this is not the problem with copyright misuse on the web. The problem is with people who copy them and reuse them on other web sites. And if an artist wants people to see their work, it has to be big enough for them to see. If it is big enough for them to see, it is big enough for someone to copy and use on another web site. But all that doesn't matter because the work is still copyrighted, no matter what the size, or how stupid the artist is. You still can't legally copy something without the artist's permission and publish it somewhere else even if you give credit to the artist. You must have permission from the artist. Most people don't understand this. I think they should make all web owners and blogger take a copyright regulation test before they are allowed to publish anything. Most people think that if they take an image and just state where they got the image from they are following copyright law. I think they get this idea from freshmen English where they learn that they have to state the source to avoid plagiarism. But publishing on the web is not writing a English paper, and other copyright regulations come into play. Sorry to ramble, but I have thousands of images on the web and fill out copyright complaint almost daily, and I have found that most people do not understand copyright laws.

Tyler Gierke from Chicago IL on August 23, 2013:

great hub!

Dan on August 23, 2013:

The artist or photographer has already given that particular image to the public for free. By uploading that image unprotected and with the ability to "copy" or "reference" or "share" the artist has "given" that particular file to the public.

Real world example.... If i print an infinity amount of flyers and place them on the counter in "my" office and have them available for any visitor to take with no monitoring of the flyer. As long as they are not profiting, selling or degrading my business from the flyers. They are more than welcome to tack one up on there living room quark board and let there friends see how cool it is.

its not theft, it is taking a flyer/news paper from a public area and posting it up.

If you are selling your work at a booth you would put up a sign that says "For Sell" or "here is a sample, for the full version pay xxx" or "no cameras allowed", or in a retail store they screw the sample down and tell you not to take it. Now if i buy your full version, make copies of it and hand them out to my friends, yes that is theft.

On a digital front, if you do not want people to take your flyer/artwork and pin them up than you need to "opt-out" "screw them down" and post that you do not want people taking them. If you are posting your full version artwork up and walking away, i would consider that you are offering your artwork for public view/use at no charge.

Back to the real world. walk to the public area outside of your studio, put a stack of your art on the sidewalk with no "Opt-out" or "do not take" sign. and than try to have people arrested for hanging the art on the wall of the building across the street (on the public posting board). They did not steal it, they did not copy it, they did not break the law. If that coffee shop gets more business because your art is on the public viewing board, you put your art out there.

Okay, so you put your art on your site. lets say you have an actual store where people can come in and view your art. You have a copy button next to each piece on one side and you have a for sell button on the other. people can hit the copy button and bam they get a copy. You can opt-out and remove that copy button or you can set what quality they get as the copy. If the copy is a high quality original why would they need to buy the one. It is up to you. You cant go around yelling at people because they are satisfied with the copy (that you provided them) and dont want to pay you for the original.

Carolyn Warvel from Henderson, Nevada on August 19, 2013:

Pinterest has a new feature where you can pin to a private pin board that no one sees. If you use this feature, you would not be in violation of copyright since you are not publishing them. You are only storing them for you alone to see. You can also make any of your boards private with a simple click. Check it out. I use this feature now, if I really want to save something for future reference. You can also "like" something and the liked images will show up under a list of your likes. Since you aren't repining them and only saying you like them this may not be in violation of copyright laws. Another great feature to use is to follow boards you know are legitimate such as boards that only pin images from their own web site such as business web sites. That way when you get on Pinterest those will be the only ones that show up unless you select a different search criteria from the top list. (Although, be careful with this because I have noticed that Pinterest will throw in another board that I didn't think I "followed" every once in a while and I have to "unfollow" it.

Gloom on August 18, 2013:

I've been happily pinning and repinning for a couple of weeks now, naively thinking all would be good in the world so long as I credited the artist. I was pretty much using Pinterest as a visual bookmarking tool for all the inspiring stuff that normally clutters my browser's bookmark folder. I had a pang of conscience though, I guess, and googled "pinterest copyright infringement" and felt a little sick when I stumbled on your post. As someone who condemns plagiarism and pilfering creative work I felt like slapping myself for falling into this trap. I immediately went and wiped all my boards; I'm just glad I've only been using them for a short time. After months or years, that delete button would have been quite painful!

NewTress Virgin Hair on July 24, 2013:

For my website, the images that are not stock images, I use a watermark on! I also disable right click and copying on my site.

Ellen (author) from California on July 10, 2013:

There are many content sites, including hubpages, which do not allow watermarks, however. And Pinterest members shouldn't expect the web to bend over backwards pleading for them to respect basic copyright law, any more that someone pulling out into a four-lane divided road with busy traffic should say, "well, the driveway ia was pulling out from didn't have a stop sign, so I thought that meant I didn't have to stop!"

ss on July 10, 2013:

Pinterest photos are always prone to theft,the best way to prevent theft is by using a visible watermark

This article explains this problem

lisa on July 07, 2013:

thanks for providing material that helped with my post. will we ever find a way to educate and help others become more sensitive and professional with respect to image sharing?

Tonette Fornillos from The City of Generals on May 19, 2013:

I'll be doing that. Thank you very much, you brought light to my confused mind, honestly. Best of all and to you, Greekgeek. Cheers and nice meeting you. -:=)Tonette

Ellen (author) from California on May 19, 2013:

If you use photos found on Pinterest, be sure track down their original photographers -- NOT the person who pinned them without the photographers' knowledge -- and ask permission. Otherwise you could be violating copyright.

Tonette Fornillos from The City of Generals on May 12, 2013:

I have very few photos of my own and I'm using them. Just that there are so many at Pinterest that I like very much, lol... so perhaps I'd be using some of those (not my own) for my hubs provided with the right credits. Thank you Greekgeek, I was enlightened. I admit all these stuffs seems a little confusing to me. :=)Best of all!

Ellen (author) from California on May 12, 2013:

If they're your own photos and you have the copyright, you may! Just remember that some Pinterest members may repin them without giving credit/linkback, or may reuse them on their own websites without your permission. If you're willing to accept that trade-off in order to get Pinterest traffic, go for it.

Tonette Fornillos from The City of Generals on May 12, 2013:

Thank you for this, Greekjeek. Very useful info. However, I'm still confused as to the safety of using pinterest photos for my hubs. Does hubpages allow this? Thank you and Happy Mother's Day to you :=)-Tonette

Leslie Hawes on May 03, 2013:

I do not share my art. I display my art.

Here is how I define ‘sharing’…

I have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I show it to you. You want it. I want it, too, but I decide to ‘share’. I give you half. I expect that by ‘sharing’ that half with you, that it will be eaten and no longer available to me, and that my act of sharing will leave me with ‘less’ of a PB&J sandwich than when I started. Sharing, to me, implies that I am left with less than when I started.

When I show my art on the internet, I am ‘displaying’ it, not ‘sharing’ it. If I were actually ‘sharing’ it, then I would give you half, and that half would no longer be available to me. If I were ‘sharing’ my art, instead of what I am really doing, ‘displaying’ my art, then I would be left with ‘less’ of my art.

I am not sharing. I am displaying.

Thomas on May 01, 2013:

There is no such thing as intellectual property.

mjungnitsch on April 27, 2013:

I’m an educator currently enrolled in COETAIL (Certificate of Educational Technology and Information Literacy). My partner and I were assigned to read your blog post and then explain the main points in class. A roomful of educators were unaware of the issues you’ve brought up. Naturally, we suddenly had mixed feelings about using pinboard sites like Pinterest.

With technology now used as a ubiquitous research tool in K-12 schools, it is more imperative for educators to cover what copyright means including its infringements as well as intellectual property and fair use. It’s a topic that used to be the domain of Journalism classes, but now I believe everyone who uploads and downloads materials online should have an understanding of these concepts no matter what the age.

Additionally, I find that both parents and teachers alike must be vigilant when issues, like the ones you have brought up, are raised so that we can help our students make informed decisions.

Thank you for adding recommendations on how to approach this. You can be sure that your blog has been retweeted on Twitter and shared on Facebook!

webwatcher review on April 27, 2013:

Interesting. I have never thought about it like that before. I shall definitely take this into consideration in the future. Thank you for the information. Have a blessed day. Regzooka

ketage from Croatia on March 01, 2013:

Darn it, i just joined pinterest 3 days ago, I was under the impression I was creating a link to the owner of the photos webpage. And was actually helping them. After reading your article I will be removing those pins. I do not want to infringe on anyones copywrite. And the thought of taking away business/traffic from someone would give me sleepless nights.

Thanks for the well researched hub. Voted interesting and useful.

pezz on February 22, 2013:

It's been a bit more than a little mind boggling for me as a case study in human nature. In pondering it a bit more:

I would now advise any artist or artisan aggrieved by an unsolicited pinning NOT, NOT, NOT, to contact the pinner directly. Do NOT act as human being in trying to right a wrong. Do not take the risk of big personal aggravation with direct contact for perchance to enlighten the merely ignorant or the selfish and imperious. The sad truth is; if these pinners really cared about "beautiful" drawings and "astonishing" craftsmanship they would show some respect for original authorship by asking us if we want our stuff pinned in the first place. (I will always say "No" to Pinternet as set at present) And really, how difficult can it be to just ask? All the contact info can be readily found on the very websites from which the images are being taken. What I really need is to have no pinners at all so "touched" as to grab and take from my God given talent. The thing to truly hate about Pinternet is the way it forces some of us to surrender a chunk of our humanity, while it wants to make money in seducing gazillions.

So today I noticed another unsolicited pinning + (repining x8) of one of my images. Now, however, I felt forced to submit to the way Pinternet wants me to behave. This time I sent the copy right infringement notice through the Pinternet complaint form. (Go to "About", then

"Copyright" and then scroll to the bottom and click on the red "Copyright Complaint Form" button) Admittedly, my copyrighted material was taken down promptly. Thank you so much for the favor, P.

In the future I will be forced by Pinternet to squander my time in monitoring their site and in sending the Copyright Complaint Form. Whether or not I even want to I'll have to make going to the Pinternet site as part of my weekly work routine.

Ellen (author) from California on February 22, 2013:

Sounds fairly typical. People are often at their most rude when dealing with copyright notices, as if somehow the person who created the work is being unreasonable to ask that their work not be used, exploited, and distributed without their permission. It's a little mindboggling, but sadly very common. It's amazing anyone ever creates or shares any good, original work in this environment!

Pezz on February 21, 2013:

Dear Greek Geek,

Your article is a great educational resource. Unfortunately I think we are up against a whirl wind of powerful cooperate interests and "pinners" with an imperious sense of entitlement.

I make my livelihood from one of kind commissions of fine wrought iron work. Recently I was just floored to see that the owners of two metal working shops lifted my original drawings and images from my picassa web albums to post on their Pinterest Boards. My web site, clearly marked (C), has links to said albums. I never consented to

republishing and nobody asked me.

So I sent a firm business letter to the offending parties requesting a take down. They took the images down but not without repaying my request with patronizing insult. I thought of the other small folks who might be feeling as vulnerable so I sent a link to this very page as a public sevice.

Below pasted is the response to that attempt to communicate and proof positive of why original content providers have a lot to worry about. It is big injury kindly stated:

"Thanks for sharing the article with me but it is not necessary; I know how the internet and copyright work. I did not pin your work except to celebrate your skill and show that to others. I did not misrepresent your work as mine, I gave you full credit. I removed your pins from the pinterst when you rudely requested. My company name is not splattered across the top banner. The description of my board is (deleted here) Your drawings are beautiful and your craftsmanship is astonishing . I wish you the best of luck in your life and craft. I hope the talent you have been given by God continues to touch others as it touched me."

Maya Marcotte from NY on January 21, 2013:

As an artist and writer, this info is very valuable for me. Thank you so very much!

Kari on January 18, 2013:

Great article. I think that a lot of people do not read the terms of service when they sign up for something and therefore are ignorant about what is acceptable and not acceptable. (I know it's common sense, but some people NEED to be told what is right and wrong before they understand it.)

Therefore, I think people really need to start taking action regarding copyright - more people will start to read the terms of service and avoid breaking copyright rules.

Ellen (author) from California on January 05, 2013:

Except that watermarks are not allowed on many professional publishing sites, including this one.

Willow Carpenter on January 05, 2013:

While this article makes some good points, it is ultimately in the hands of the artist or photographer to protect themselves- and it is stupidly simple to do.

If someone truly doesn't wish their artwork to be shared without credit, all that they must do is watermark images before posting them online with their name and URL.

Anybody who could so easily write this article has likely never worked on pinterest. When they receive a complaint regarding copyright violations, pinterest is very quick to remove the offending image from their database and send notice of the infraction to each pinner with the image on their board.

Pinterest also does not give the option to select yourself as the source on an image coming off the internet. You would have to commit an action such as scanning an image, then uploading to pinterest in order to select yourself as the source- at which point, on a vague technicality, you are.

pinkhub on August 25, 2012:

Pinterest is a lot like tumblr, it encourages sourcing the original source of the image but not everybody actually does that. I made an account on pinterest to see what the hype was all about, many of the content on pinterest is stuff that's already on tumblr and at least on tumblr you can customize your page, all of pinterest looks the same. I'd rather be on tumblr.

I'm an artist and I've seen my artwork uploaded on tumblr, deviantart or on other social networking sites and I understand how frustrating it could be. People need to change their mindset of just because something is on the internet doesn't mean that it's free for you to distribute.

bhbphotos on August 20, 2012:

There is a connection between them and some known scraper sites

Ellen (author) from California on August 19, 2012:

And I see they've found a way to make money on each and every click on the stolen pictures, right on their website! Cute. And typical of what Pinterest's embed codes allow people to do.

bhbphotos on August 19, 2012:

a new site is showing copyrighted art with pinit buttons without the knowledge or permission of the copyright owners

Ellen (author) from California on July 26, 2012:

It does, dosn't it? Certainly wouldn't work as a legal defense: "I'm aware of the law I broke, but I didn't mean it, so it doesn't count." Nor does it help the photographer trying to earn a living from their photos if people "don't intend" to destroy their livelihood while distributing their work for free.

Tracy Lynn Conway from Virginia, USA on July 26, 2012:

Thank you for your thorough information. I will admit this topic makes my head spin at times since there is no straight forward answer. Lately I have been seeing these words "not copyright infringement intended" and I am not sure of the legality of this, it almost seems to be self incriminating. Great hub, voted up and useful.


Bob on June 26, 2012:

I hate copyright nazis. It links to you. STFU.

Teresa Schultz from East London, in South Africa on June 18, 2012:

People should call you SHElock Holmes - excellent sleuthing! I haven't yet tried Pinterest, as I've been a bit scared t0 - I saw something or other about copyright issues with Pinterest so avoided it. I must say, though, that many people are really going all out with their pinning and activity on Pinterest, and say that it's really helping them increase their traffic. I've been tempted to go join Pinterest, but the copyright issues scare me off. People have been successful at getting traffic to their sites before Pinterest came along, and although it's tempting to join Pinterest and try it out, I say just stick with what you've always been doing. Use the time you would have spent on Pinterest to do more of what you usually do. Of course, perhaps Pinterest may change their terms and conditions down the line, but until that happens, I'm most likely not going to get involved there. More people should be made aware of the possible copyright issues associated with Pinterest. Your hub is voted up, and shared!

AJ2008 on June 11, 2012:

Let's you and I be "wet blankets" together :)

Ellen (author) from California on June 08, 2012:

I feel bad for being a wet blanket on this topic. Down the road, I think we'll hash out new copyright laws that let artists and photographers earn money for their work AND share it easily, but right now copyright laws are still not ideal for the internet age.

Lisas-thoughts101 from Northeast Texas on June 08, 2012:

Greekgeek, I had no idea. Thank you for explaining the copyright infringement so succinctly. I have several boards. It will make me sad to give them up should I decide to do so but my conscience will most likely get the best of me if I don't.

Take care,


Ellen (author) from California on June 07, 2012:

Really? From all the news and Quantcast numbers I've seen, Pinterest is still growing in popularity. Of course, now that marketers have come aboard, I'm sure there are some community members who feel it's not quite what it was in the heady early days of the site.

Ellen (author) from California on June 07, 2012:

The Google vs. Perfect 10 case is not an exact analog for Pinterest, because there's significant differences in how they work:

-- Pinterest uploads full-sized copies of images rather than thumbnails

-- Google Image Search automatically removes the thumbnail image when the original is removed from the web, whereas Pinterest's copy remains unless manually removed by Pinterest after a DMCA notice

-- Google Image Search automatically links to the page where the image is found, whereas it is completely optional for Pinterest users to provide a link, and they often don't

-- Pinterest provides embed codes like YouTube so that any pinned images may be displayed at full size on another website, serving to drive image traffic which can earn ad revenue for that website

Therefore, the grounds on which Google defended itself in that case -- barely, and only on appeal -- wouldn't work for Pinterest. Of course, according to current "safe haven" laws, Pinterest members rather than itself may be liable for the actual infringement, but at any rate there are copyright issues with Pinterest which I don't think have been sufficiently resolved.

(I would have far fewer objections to it if they got rid of those embed codes.)

I do agree that it's fairly complicated, however!

claire on June 07, 2012:

It's too detailed to go into within a 'comment' section, but from a legal standpoint, the law surrounding displaying thumbnail images of copyrighted material and linking to it on the internet is far more complicated than your article suggests.

Whilst your article is great for raising the issue of potential copyright infringement, whether pinning constitutes such infringement is definitely not clear-cut.

As another person commented, the case of Perfect 10 v Google has analogous facts. It highlights how unclear this area is. But even that case doesn't clearly identify what a Pinterest user's legal responsibility is, since it concerns the liability of the host (cf the user). It gives Pinterest some guidance, but is less helpful for users.

Again, your article is great for raising the general issue, but I hope readers are not mislead into thinking that it is legally correct.

iefox5 on June 04, 2012:

It seems that Pinterest isn't increasing as expected and registered members are abandon the site, so I'm not so positive of its future.

RedElf from Canada on June 04, 2012:

I opted in, but certainly haven't been terribly active. There's a lot of good info in the comments, too. Thanks for this!

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on June 04, 2012:

I am so glad that I read this and other articles before joining Pinterest. I have opted out. Thanks! It is too bad that it is an all or nothing opt in or out. I would not mind sharing some of my hubs, but certainly not all of my photos including some of my art. Appreciate being better informed about all of the pros and cons. Voted up and interesting and SHARING.

Ellen (author) from California on May 30, 2012:

Yep! Also, stop serving as a free image host: there's no reason for them to be giving other people's images away for free with embed codes.

Alice on May 30, 2012:

Couldn't Pinterest solve much of the problem by changing the full size image to a thumbnail image and setting a character limit on the description box?

Rob Reel from Los Angeles, California on May 28, 2012:

Nice work. I think pinterest is definitely a haven for copyright violations.

Kaili Bisson from Canada on May 22, 2012:

Thank you for sharing this information. I'm new to all this, so consider myself warned :-)

reagu from Los Angeles on May 17, 2012:

Thanks for the report and analysis. I'm a Pinterest member, and I'll be cautious whenever I'm pinning anything henceforth.

Thelma Alberts from Germany on April 30, 2012:

Thanks God I have read this hub. I was thinking of joining Pinterest but now I don´t want to. One of my readers comment on my hub, a few months ago, told me that he pinned my photo on Pinterest. I did not know then what Pinterest was and I just ignored it. Now I have to search it in which hub comment was it written and what photo. It would be a hardwork finding out from my 59 hubs.

Thanks for sharing.

Amy on April 28, 2012:

I appreciate you letting the world know that there may be serious issues tied to the use of Pinterest. I too believe there are many legal issues associated with the use of Pinterest that need to be ironed out within their user agreement before the masses should feel comfortable. I just don't think may understand the possible implications of their actions. See my article for more information.

Ellen (author) from California on April 27, 2012:

No. Try rereading this article; all your questions are answered in it (and in fact that's exactly what this article is about). I explained pretty carefully the difference between pinning a photo and other social media sites, and the ways in which that pin violates copyright and competes with the original.

Melinda on April 26, 2012:

"If you want to share an image with friends, but don't want to go to the trouble of asking permission, why not share a link to the source page through Twitter instead?"

Just curious -- what's the difference between sharing a link to the source page on Twitter vs. sharing that same link on Pinterest? I always try to check my pins' links and edit if necessary; isn't that giving copyright credit where it's due?

Ellen (author) from California on April 12, 2012:

Thanks so much for doing this, AJ!

I'm afraid some people may not care about breaking copyright on Amazon or other product images, but it's definitely something that affiliates need to think twice about.

AJ2008 on April 12, 2012:

Ellen, you may recall that I have written to Amazon requesting clarification regarding the fact that their Product Images are being pinned and the link to the product page is broken - thereby breaking the link required by their Terms of Use.

Yesterday, I received this response:

"I'm still researching to find out what the exact policy is for people that repin. It's quite possible if they are an Associate that their accounts could be closed, however I really want to ensure that I have concrete information to give you. I will continue to research and as soon as I have any additional information I will notify you via email."

Although we still do not have the definitive answer, this response clearly has implications for any Amazon Associate who pins or repins an image and they need to watch for the outcome.

At this stage I would say that an Amazon Associate who creates a page using a Product Image and follows the Amazon Terms of Use by linking the image, or the text relating to the image, to the Amazon Product page is safe. However, if they or anyone else, who is an Amazon Associate, pins or re-pins that page and the link goes back to the page and not the Amazon Product Page they could be in trouble.

Of course Amazon may decide that the benefits to them and their sales are so great that they revise their TOS.....

And this issue is relevant to many difference affiliate organisations, not just Amazon.

Ken Kline from USA on April 11, 2012:


What a comprehensive and practical review. I wanted to do this for some of my own photos and wasn't sure where the copyright started and ended. I assumed allot of things but had no real knowledge (and you know where assuming gets us). This is the Pinterest roadmap that I needed before joining.

I am off to request an invite.

Thank you!

Xenonlit on April 08, 2012:

Greekgeek, you have written a fantastic article and have done a great service by warning all of us who thought that there was some benefit to using Pinterest to publicize our images and work.

Now I have to do as AJ2008 is planning to do: dredge around to see who has stolen my images and misused them!

I think that Pinterest needs to be forced to bat cleanup for us. There is no way the site should continue to snag the full images without warning us!

Voted up, awesome, and shared at Facebook and Google Plus!

Ed on March 28, 2012:

Pinterest has ignored my request to join them for a long time... I think it is time someone look at the joint closely...

AJ2008 on March 22, 2012:

Thank you Ellen - I need to keep an eye open to see what happens when my image is removed from Pinterest. I also need to do a search to see where else it may be being used.

And it is this exact scenario that frustrates the heck out of me. We work really hard to build authority with Google only to see the cheats erode it away in a flash. The time it takes to sort out this sort of stuff is hugely annoying....

Ellen (author) from California on March 22, 2012:

Yes, the pinner has the option of choosing to link back to the page the pin came from. Some are conscientious about it; others are not.

However, I believe that when someone uses the images on a third party website via Pinterest's embed codes, the link points back to Pinterest. Unless Google image search deprecates images on Pinterest as a scraper site, the context of the blog and the backlinks from the embed codes might boost the pinned image's Google rankings above the original in image search. I wonder whether the images of yours that got pinned ALSO got embedded on third party sites.

AJ2008 on March 22, 2012:

I wonder if someone who knows more about the "history" of Pinterest can help me here. I am sure that when I first looked at how "re-pinning" works, earlier this year, I could see that the original pin went back to the source of the image (in this case a Squidoo page). However, what bothered me was that the images that were re-pinned were linked back to the original Pin.

Did I dream this? I cant believe I did because I am sure others remarked upon this on Facebook.

Because having checked again yesterday, I see in the case of one of my Images that the "re-pins" are now pointing back to the original source (the Squidoo page) and not the original pin.

Or does the "pinner" have an option as to who they link the image to? I cant check this myself as you wont be surprised to hear that I dont have a Pinterest account:)

However, something else that is really bothering me at the moment is the question of the "pins" beating the original Image in Google Images.

I have an Image (my own photo) that has featured on the first page of Google Images for its keyword for three years. I get traffic via that image.

Last week I checked, and yes, there it was on the first page of Google Images. This week it has gone and I could not find it when I scrolled through a few pages.

The Image has been pinned and re-pinned 5 times. Is this just a coincidence?

Eventhough all 6 pins point to my Squidoo page, I have issued a take down notice to Pinterest and cited all six pin-boards where the image appears. It will be interesting to see if the Image returns to its usual place on Google Images.

Oh, and I have received no acknowledgement from Pinterest, but I am not surprised at that.

Tracy on March 21, 2012:

I'm both bothered by my copyrighted work being pinned against my will, but even more, I found evidence today they are storing photographs locally. Big no-no if you ask me. I've already contacted them about removing my works and have had no response. I guess my next step is a cease and desist.

Thank you for posting this. I don't think they've thought of all the legal repercussion of their site and as far as I've dealt with, they seem to have no interest in helping out those whose works are stolen.

Ellen (author) from California on March 21, 2012:

If they stopped providing embed codes that other people are using to display pinned photos on their site as a means to earn money on other people's work without permission, that would also help. There are millions of pages, hundreds of blogs and websites, taking advantage of these so-called "free" images, which aren't. Oftentimes, the actual copyright owners are licensing them to get a benefit from them -- either a link back or actual money for a stock photo -- and now their own stolen photos are competing with them. Why pay the stock photographers or give credit and a link back, when you can just embed a copy of the photo (which is pinned, credited, and linked to the wrong person?)

However, when a new service comes along that exists by TAKING OTHER PEOPLE'S WORK, it should not be up to the owners of the work to install new, special proprietary codes to stop that site. Imagine ten years down the road, every week, we'd have to install more code on our sites to block various kinds of resource theft. The burden of blocking Pinterest from illegal activities should not be placed on its victims.

And you are wrong about pinned photos linking back to their source. When people pinned THIS HUB, they did not attribute and link back to the artist, as I did. They attributed and linked to me, which is wrong. As I explained in the body of this article, photographers are finding HUNDREDS of copies of their own photos misattributed and linked to the wrong place. Either it happens for the reason above...someone pinned my article without bothering to credit the artist when they uploaded his artwork... or because Pinterest members are not careful.

But even if they WERE careful, they're still killing people's ability to make a living through their images. They're still violating copyright if they upload someone else's work (which is what pinning does) without permission. They're still providing those images for Pinterest to sell, and third parties to make money on...and third parties are taking full advantage of this with those embed codes.

Kimberly on March 21, 2012:

I think most people are missing the point of Pinterest. Pinterest is like bookmarking a page you're interested in. Yes, I understand the copyright issues:

If it links back to your site, it's a free ad.

If you (as you mentioned) are using an image that must be linked back to its author, then you must add the code to not allow it to be pinned. You must keep up with technology - not hold technology back.

Pinterest little part where it says it can "sell, reprint" etc., it really just for the affiliate links. I do think they need to rewrite that, as it is really bad.

But because of assured mutual destruction (if they sell an image they don't own, the people will come after Pinterest and the person who pinned it - and pinterest has WAY more to lose), I'm not too worried about this.

The idea that they are taking traffic from the website is a non-issue. Right now, I hardly anybody changes the link that is associated with the picture. Again, the point for most people is not harboring images, but sharing ideas and tutorials and recipes...and you need the website link to do that. So even if you find a pinterest image in google (which I have yet to do), it will almost always link back to the image.

At the end of the day, I think the only big issue they're facing is not keeping the images on their servers. If they removed that issue, you've solved 90% of it.

Dubuquedogtrainer from Dubuque, Iowa on March 18, 2012:

Thanks for the information!

jamila sahar on March 15, 2012:

very interesting ! i have wondered about the copyright laws of all these images when i first saw pinterest. i guess this is going to be quite a controversial topic as the site gains popularity ! thanks for sharing this very useful info ! voted up

Ellen (author) from California on March 15, 2012:

Even this Hub had over 100 "pins" during the short time Pinterest had a "Pin It!" button at the top. All those pins uploaded the introductory text of the hub (mine) plus the artwork at the top (Creative Commons, which I linked and credited to the artist -- but all those pins linked and credited ME instead).

Most articles on the web use illustrative graphics. These graphics are usually licensed, as I described above. Pinning these graphics breaks the image licenses by failing to credit the actual artist and linking to the wrong page. There are real consequences to this misattribution which I tried to describe in this article.

In addition to the licensed and affiliate graphics which most writers use, some of us also drive traffic to our articles by writing photo essays or sharing our artwork. I have a number of educational pages on Greek art, for example, using my own photos as illustrations. When they get pinned and copied to Pinterest, the traffic that ysed to go to my educational pages -- which helps me earn a living -- may go to Pinterest instead.

But that's actually not my chief concern. My chief concern is for the Creative Commons and stock photos I've gotten permission from artists and photographers to use. *I* have made sure I'm giving them credit, linking to their sites, and providing them with traffic. In some cases, *I* have paid for those graphics. I've abided by the copyright holder's wishes. Then a Pinterest member comes along and pins my article, uploading that graphic illegally, and crediting it and linking it to my page, breaking the terms of use which I followed. I depend on Creative Commons and other people's photos. I can't, in good conscience, if I am posting on a site like Squidoo which has a "Pin It!" button inviting people to violate those licenses and agreements and credit me rather than the actual artist.

And, even more importantly, third parties are making money off of and SELLING pinned photos and art. Bad enough when it's mine. Even worse when it's someone else's. I don't have the right to do that to the Creative Commons artists and stock photographers from whom I've gotten permission to display their graphics on my articles.

Check out this site:

It's printing posters and books of pinned photos. Talk about copyright violations.

Ellen (author) from California on March 15, 2012:

We shouldn't have to look for, learn about and install special code on our webpages to block each and every website that has created a way to bypass copyright. That's like having to install a different lock on our house door to stop each and every kind of lockpick, crowbar, or other form of theft.

Look at it this way. Imagine a new music-sharing service starts up tomorrow that pulls everyone's music off their smartphones and distributes it for free. Then, when musicians protest, the music-sharing service creates a patch that will block their file-stealing software. Are smartphone users idiots for not knowing about and downloading that special patch? And when a new file-stealing service pops up in three weeks, do we then need to download and install another patch? Or can't we just say, "Stealing music files off our smartphones is illegal, and you will face legal consequences if you persist in doing it?"

Timothy Arends from Chicago Region on March 15, 2012:

Isn't Pinterest primarily a visual network, while Squidoo and HubPages are mainly text-based? I seem to be missing something here. How would a Hub or lens fit in on Pinterest anyway?

Casret on March 13, 2012:

When I read the following, I realised you're an idiot:

"Pinterest for attempting to address copyright concerns by providing a snippet of code so that sites can "opt out". It doesn't entirely solve the issue, since one shouldn't have to "opt out" of a service you didn't join, but it does help."

Capri on March 12, 2012:

I use pinterest to mainly pin things that I would like to return to and try to be cognizant of not just pinning photos that I find. I have however, pinned things that link back to a blog. Is this still a taboo since they lead back to the original posts?

Summer Derrick on March 10, 2012:

I have two questions. Regarding the Embed feature. Wouldn't it be the "embeder" breaking copyright not the original "linker"? I do have issues with the embed button but if I just link, I should be fine. Also, does the link to the original artist have to be on Pinterest if the credit is available on the linked site? Your example of the above CC Picture. Is it not enough that you have a credit on your site? Im thinking technically if people are more cautious to link to the original site, this wouldnt be a problem for the user even if it is a full res link. My understanding is that a link does not violate copyright laws no matter the size. Also, Pinterest probably shouldnt be storing the images but as a user, I agree that if it isnt MY image then the link I am creating is not breaking CR laws. I never said Pinterest could store a copy forever and ever if I take the link down. Wouldnt Pinterest then be liable, not me?? Im not a lawyer, but am a photographer just trying to get this straight.

Rosemary on March 10, 2012:

Having read this and several more articleS regarding Pinterest I unsubscribed to Pinterest. I followed instructions but have not received a confirmation. Does anyone, who has deleted an acct, know how long it takes for them to reply?

Sean Locke on March 04, 2012:

So, because it is now easy for you to take whatever you like, that makes something outdated and obsolete?

Ah, less "greed" on behalf of the people who actually create the stuff, but no limit on the "greed" of people who feel they can take all they like at the digital buffet? Nice how that works.

tomretterbush from San Antonio, TX on March 04, 2012:

Oh, come on! If we think that way, Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and every other social media network is a haven for copyright violations. The whole copyright system needs to be re-evaluated and revised. Copyright was established before the Internet and is outdated and obsolete. I think it is time artists, inventors, writers and the like realize this and accept the fact that the game has changed. They can make just as much money now, it just requires different strategies and a little less greed.

christine on March 01, 2012:

watermark what's precious... don't whinge... or don't use the net ... you cannot use this media and then whine because others use it too..

diazocat on February 29, 2012:

Due to the legal issues that may arise from pinning to Pinterest. Due to their extraordinary lack of clear disclosure and their continued support of how and what people are pinning. Because they want me to pay for legal fees, but are willing to STEAL my work. I am against Pinterest. SUPPORT THIS:

bmukherjii on February 28, 2012:

I have just joined pinterest. Till now have no idea about this site. Am I only allowed to pin my own contents?

Singaporean from Singapore on February 28, 2012:

You know, when I first saw the pins in Pinterest, I was wondering, "Why are these photos so professionally done?", it's like flipping through magazines (online).

I thought, with the high quality of mobile camera these days, everyone CAN be a photographer with their iPhones!!

now I know where these pics come from!!


Ellen (author) from California on February 28, 2012:

UPDATE EVERYONE: I'm on a trip with my Ipad, which can only post comments not edit Hubs, but I want to get the news out: If you do NOT want the Pin It! Button on your Hubpages articles, turn it off by going to your dashboard, click the Profile Tab at top, then Social Networks in the sidebar, then disable pinning on your account. You won't be able to pick and choose individual hubs.

MCatherine on February 28, 2012:

PS and pinned your article on the Hide A Heart Etsy and Small Biz Tips board.