Can you put a pin on it?

0 Flares Twitter 0 Facebook 0 Pin It Share 0 Google+ 0 LinkedIn 0 0 Flares ×

Source: via Marie on Pinterest

We couldn’t let this week of Pinterest posts go by without addressing an important issue.


In the midst of all the Pinterest frenzy, one question seems to have been overlooked by the majority of users.

Do users have the right to pin an image that they do not own? 

How many users have actually read Pinterest’s user agreement which states that the company reserves the right to sell images users upload?

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.

In other words, while Pinterest itself are protected by their user agreement (although from a copyright law point of view, I am not so sure how this would stand up in court),  you the user are not - unless you unequivocally have exclusive, transferable, royalty-free license to upload the image.

If you upload an image that doesn’t belong to you and Pinterest sells it, you could be sued for copyright infringement.

Does this mean you should stop using  Pinterest?

Not at all.  We love it and will continue to use it ourselves.

But it does mean you should exercise caution when uploading images.

Don’t forget that while a lot of conversation has been generated online regarding copyright infringement and Pinterest,  you cannot legally upload anything that you do not have exclusive rights to on ANY website.

In practice, many of the online websites you pin from will be glad of the publicity generated by your use of their image –  the image will contain a hyperlink back to their website, and they will be hoping that this will generate more site traffic  for them.  (If in doubt, you can always send an email to establish they don’t mind you using their image.)

Indeed many websites have already incorporated a Pin It button which sits alongside other sharing buttons to encourage you to pin their content.

Now let’s look at this issue from another angle.

Note that according to its user agreement, Pinterest reserve the right to alter, sell, stream, etc. content on its site.  Now what if you are the owner of content you do not want repinned, how do you protect your Intellectual Property rights to your own work?

There are some steps you can take.  Pinterest has released code that will let publishers opt out of sharing their site content. Simply copy and paste this code into your website and any attempt by a user to pin an image will bring up a message on screen that states: “This site doesn’t allow pinning to Pinterest. Please contact the owner with any questions. Thanks for visiting!”

The Yahoo-owned Flickr photo-sharing site has just added Pinterest’s newly introduced do-not-pin code to all Flickr pages with copyrighted or protected images.

Of course using this code won’t prevent users from downloading images from sites using the code,  then uploading them directly to Pinterest, which leads us onto step 2 – watermark your images.

In conclusion…

By engaging online, you need to be prepared to share content and interact with users. Sometimes this can be a hard concept for business owners to grasp.  Whether you have written a cook book, you are a photographer, a social media guru, a business or life coach, the moment you decide to take your expertise online, you should be prepared to share some of your work – this is what lets us find the experts we want to buy and learn from offline as well as online.  You run more risk of having, a recipe or image used uncredited on another blog than you do on Pinterest. Not only does Pinterest embed a link to your website, but it also imposes a 500 character limit which restricts users from re-producing content such as a recipe.

While we have sounded a note of caution in the interests of keeping you informed, we will continue to keep an eye on the situation and pass on the latest information as it happens.

And yes…we will continue to pin.

You will find lots of great pins with links back to the original sources on our Write on Track pinboard

Over To You…

Are you concerned about Pinterest and copyright? Does reading our article make you think differently about using Pinterest? Or will you continue to pin as before? We’d love to hear your views.

Related Posts



Marie Ennis-O’Connor BA, MIAPR, holds an Honours degree in History from University College Dublin. She is a graduate of the Irish Academy of Public Relations and has worked in a variety of PR roles over the past 12 years. Marie is editor of several award-winning blogs ranging from life sciences to health to business. She is a panel member of the newly established Bloggers International and is a regular contributor to Health Works Collective, an online community for thought leaders in international healthcare. She is a featured blogger on Webicina, an online service that provides curated medical social media resources in over 80 medical topics and over 17 languages, and has been awarded a top blogger accolade by Empowered and most inspiring writer by WegoHealth. Marie is also in demand as a trainer in social media marketing and travels the country teaching small business owners how to get online and maximise their online presence.

Tagged with: , , , ,
Posted in Pinterest
  • Dee Sewell

    Woah! No I hadn’t read that about them owning the images (who reads all that small print anyway)… not sure how I feel about given them ownership of some of my favourite pics I’ve taken. Since you’ve been mentioning copyright recently I have been more careful about checking that the images link back to blogs etc.
    I don’t know if this new knowledge will change anything I’m doing, but will make me think about what I’m doing, so yes, I’ll still be putting a pin on it.

  • Anna Fitzpatrick

    Like Dee says I had no idea that this was an issue – thanks for letting us know about it – I will be more careful in future with what I pin, but no, it won’t put me off using it either.

  • deirdrehatch

    Oh I had no idea this was an issue either – thanks for keeping us informed – I will continue to use it but I will be more circumpsect in what I pin in future.

  • Celly O’Brien

    Copywrite is an interesting aspect of rightful ownership…do any of us actually have ‘ownership’ of anything we create?..I am a costume jewellery designer who uses varying degrees of ‘upcycled’ materials .. can i really say that I own the wire, the beads that were manufactured by a company probably somewhere in China, do I own the fabric i use to create my burlesque closing feature on the back of these unique pieces?..not one of my Celly O’Design Cuffs is the same and they come form my there is the catch what is intellectually my own thought process comes from images or materials that were produced in fact by someone else so to say i have copywrite on my product is to an extent correct but is it really mine? Can I stop someone else recreating my image my designs or my logo anywhere else on the Internet…
    I suppose if I wanted to destroy the aesthetic look of my designs by putting a big Copywrite all over the on screen image i suppose i could do that …but to what extent am I taking this a step too far? I say let it go out there I am recognised for my own designs people say ‘oh thats a Celly O’Design’ same as any other brand

    There are many women on this site who are creative directors, managing successful businesses for others but to say you creatively own that business is another thing as there is a big market of other fish in that pool doing similar things…. getting a niche in that big market is nirvana for some …
    Dont be afraid to release your creativity out into the net most of it will be repaid in monetary terms but the day you are recognised as an artist by someone or you sell your first commissioned piece is priceless!

  • Aine Casey

    I have just started using Pinterest, and had no idea these were the terms of use I had signed up! Thanks for the heads up and please do keep us updated of the changes as they happen. It will be interesting to see how this all works out – will it be another Napster I wonder…

* indicates required
Buy 365 Social Media Tips on Amazon
Buy 365 Social Media Tips on Amazon
Learn How To Use Pinterest
Learn How To Use Pinterest

We now teach Pinterest courses online. Click the image to see the course details and book your place.

0 Flares Twitter 0 Facebook 0 Pin It Share 0 Google+ 0 LinkedIn 0 0 Flares ×