What Can Pinterest Do to Make Me Want to Continue ‘Pinning’?

Birthday Treats by Lisa Sullivan

I have some ideas, but first let me fill you in on a little background.

I have to be honest with you – I didn’t get it at first. I was like, “WHAT is this fascination with ‘pinning’ things?” and more importantly I was also like, “You’ve got to be kidding me ANOTHER social platform? I don’t have time!”

And then I received my invitation and everything changed.

“My name is Lisa Sullivan and I am addicted to Pinterest.”

There. I said it. I am addicted to Pinterest. You’d never know because I haven’t pinned in a couple of weeks, but boy do I want to! I’m DYING here. The itch to pin is KILLING me. Seriously. But, I won’t. Why? Well, as they say in space, “Houston, we have a problem,” and that problem is this archaic thing called copyright.

Now, we have a vast array of places to search and link to to help us tell our story online.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m actually all for protection of original work. However, I truly believe that copyright law as it was written a millennium ago really can’t apply to now. Now, we have the internet. Now, we have a vast array of places to search and link to to help us tell our story online.

Remember when you were in high school and your English teacher taught you how plagiarism is a bad thing, that it wasn’t acceptable and violated some law (copyright), and more importantly, if you wrote your term paper and it was in a language that clearly you would not use or could possibly understand, the teacher just might research your sources (because you had to have a bibliography and/or footnotes) and if that teacher found that you had “copied word for word” the language used in your source, you were plagiarizing and as such, there would be consequences – you’d get a lower grade, might fail even, or worse yet, you might get suspension (GASP!)? Well, Pinterest doesn’t stray that far from this concept, though suspension wouldn’t be your problem, being sued would.

That’s why for me, it’s scary to use the platform.

Lisa Sullivan on Pinterest

My profile on Pinterest. It looks beautiful doesn't it? Too bad I'm not pinning any more (for now, anyway).

Over the last month, I have read every article about Pinterest and their Terms of Service (TOS), copyright, Pinterest and copyright, etc. The experts (I’m talking about the lawyers that have been interviewed for pieces) say there are ways to avoid the copyright issue –

  • Only pin your own work (as long as you don’t mind that it will most likely be repinned).
  • Pin only work that you have authorization to (verbal, written, or from the use of the “Pin It” plug-in seen on many websites now that have adopted the idea).
  • Re-pin only the images that have followed 1 or 2 above and have a legitimate link to them (i.e. “Google.com” doesn’t serve as a legitimate link if you found a picture through a Google image search; you must still use the original link).


And while that is noble, I have to ask – where is the fun in that?

If as a creator I’ve taken the time to develop and use my talent (sometimes costing money to do so – for lessons, equipment, travel, etc.), then why shouldn’t I expect that whomever is sharing my work acknowledges that it’s mine, doesn’t sell it, what have you?

I have barely enough time for the networks I’m on as it is. Now, I have to TAKE the time to ensure everything I’m pinning is either mine or I have permission to pin or the person I’m thinking of re-pinning from has also followed the same logic? Come on. I’m tired just writing that. Where’s the fun?

Birthday Treats by Lisa Sullivan

Birthday treats for my beautiful friend, Courtney. Image by Lisa Sullivan. You have my permission to PIN this IF you give me credit. 🙂

However, I get it. If as a creator I’ve taken the time to develop and use my talent (sometimes costing money to do so – for lessons, equipment, travel, etc.), then why shouldn’t I expect that whomever is sharing my work acknowledges that it’s mine, doesn’t sell it, what have you? I should. The problem is many users don’t see it that way. They’re just as addicted as I am and all they want to do is share their interests in this picturesque way. I get that too.

So, where’s the happy medium? Well, I’m not entirely sure there is one end-all solution but, I do have a couple of suggestions for Pinterest to help its users identify that they do, in fact, have permission to pin each pin or to re-pin:

Provide a permission system that is easy & makes sense

Each time a user goes to pin an image from the web, don’t just allow the image itself be shared. Include a couple of dialog boxes that must be answered for each pin. Questions like –

“I have permission to pin this image” with check boxes for yes or no

“Insert correct URL for this image” (probably more for re-pinners than pinners)

“Image credit to______” with the ability to insert name of person or company in which image was obtained.

This is just off the top of my head so take it as a grain of salt here. I don’t know if there are further implications as to whether or not this would work. All I know is that if I were asked those questions in order to protect myself and the original owner of the content, I’d happily fill in the boxes each time. Besides, the last one gives the ability for each individual or company to track their names on social networks as well as the advantage of SEO too…and that’s a plus!

Another option – provide one question users have to complete before officially pinning their selected image, a kind of “Did you remember to credit the creator of the image and include the original link?”

Provide the ability for the above to “travel” with each pin

By doing so, this would allow users that wish to re-pin to know exactly where the content is coming from and how it was obtained further allowing for those same users to make an informed decision as to whether or not the content is legitimately shared.

The only problem I see with this though is the act of re-pinning still constitutes a copyright violation and I’m not sure how to really rectify that.

Provide a system that allows for the original description of the image to stay in tact prior to re-pinning of the image.

This is especially helpful for image creators who do upload their own material and wish to keep their names as well as their description of the image in tact so that it will travel with each re-pin of the image.

Those of us that are doing it right really just want to help promote YOU too.

For the content creators I also say you should: (a) watermark your images with some kind of watermark somewhere on the image; doesn’t have to be in the middle, (b) add the “Pin-It” plug-in to your website, blog, blog post, what have you, and (c) when you do find something of yours used incorrectly, at the very least acknowledge that it was, work to resolve the issue first, and THEN make an informed decision before pursuing legal action. Because here’s another point – those of us that are doing it right really just want to help promote YOU too.

Those are just some of my suggestions. While they still don’t completely address the issues of copyright, at least they’re a start.

As for me and my addiction, well, I think I’m going to avoid it for now. I’ll admit, I’m so troubled by this issue of copyright that it scares me. I’m one to follow protocol, follow the law and the idea of violating it just leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

And it’s too bad too because I really REALLY enjoy expressing myself visually and I really REALLY want to promote the products, designers, artists, photographers, businesses, that I pin (or re-pin) from. Always happy to plug good work!

So, where do you stand? How are you dealing with this whole issue of copyright? Please comment below.

However, as I always say, if you can’t provide a comment that is positive and encouraging versus one that is negative and discouraging, I won’t approve it. Simple as that. I have that right. It’s my blog after all. 🙂

p.s. To the folks at Pinterest, if you take any of my ideas for solutions, please kindly acknowledge that it was I that gave you the idea. Consider this as ©2012 Lisa Sullivan. All rights reserved. Thank you.


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