Pinterest and Copyright Issues: Protecting Yourself

To Pin or Not to Pin. That is the Question.

There’s a great deal of concern going on right now regarding Pinterest and the posting of copyrighted photos. It is of course a serious issue. Pinterest’s terms of service clearly state that you agree that anything you post is something you have the right to post, and if someone has a problem with you posting something, they can sue you (and not Pinterest.)

Pinterest Terms of Service states:


Which of course has the potential to take all the fun out of Pinterest.

So how does this affect you, the direct seller? Should you close your Pinterest account immediately? Not necessarily. But it does mean that you need to be careful how you use it.

One of the challenges as far as copyright goes is that you may be using your Pinterest account for commercial purposes, as well as pleasure. This is especially true if you’ve created boards for your business. When you do this, you’re putting yourself more at risk. Read the whole article that sparked this conversation here.

Here’s what I recommend:

  • Avoid uploading photos directly into the site, unless you’ve taken those photos yourself. Although you always have the option of adding a pin through uploading a photo, I would avoid this. It keeps you safer from litigation.
  • Articles with “Pin it” buttons are your friends. If you come upon a site where the Pin it button is placed, that website owner is telling you it’s OK to post those images.
  • Always link back to the original site where the image is. Don’t change the link. This is a way to ensure that whoever owns the image is getting the credit and benefits from his or her work.
  • Avoid posting photos from photography websites, unless you specifically have permission from the photographer to post the image. I think the biggest risk to using Pinterest right now comes from this source.
  • When in doubt, ask. If you are unsure whether or not you can pin an image from a website, use the contact form and ask the website owner. Once you have written permission, you are more protected.

I think it’s important for direct selling companies to be very specific with the sales force regarding what they may and may not pin from the company website, too. I believe it’s in a company’s best interest to allow photos from the corporate and replicated websites to be pinned as far and wide as possible. After all, it’s additional exposure for your product line. But realize when you do this, you are granting Pinterest rights to the image to use how they please. So be prepared for that. You may want to brand your “pinnable” images with the company logo.

I’m sure there will be plenty more conversation around Pinterest and copyright law. Honestly, I believe the outcome of this issue will make or break the site. I am not a lawyer, and I believe it behooves every direct selling company to get their legal counsel involved with an informed opinion which they share with the sales force. Be careful!

What is your opinion on this? Would love to read your thoughts in the comments below.

6 Responses to Pinterest and Copyright Issues: Protecting Yourself
  1. Gwen Mangelson
    March 8, 2012 | 8:09 am

    I have a specially made WATERMARK that I layer over any photo of my work before I post it to my blog or any other online site.

  2. belinda
    March 2, 2012 | 10:45 am

    What about the fact that when others pin my photos they then become Pinterest’s……to use and “exploit” as they see fit…..???? My photos are not MY photos anymore……..


  3. Traci Kuhn
    March 2, 2012 | 9:17 am

    Pretty scary stuff – I just read the whole article. I have a question that I hope someone can help me with. How do you know if the photo you have copied to your computer to use in a blog or to go on Pininterest is copyrighted? If there is no copyright, can you use it then? This issue could really complicate images downloaded from all over the web. I think I’m breaking out in a cold sweat.

  4. Mike Jaquish
    March 1, 2012 | 11:37 pm

    Why would anyone EVER have doubt about asking permission to use someone else’s stuff?
    Permission should be a first step in pinning, and that includes re-pinning.
    If Permission was your first point in your list, I think this post would be fantastic.
    It is VERY easy to not infringe copyright. Very easy. All one has to do is create and post ones own stuff. Link to others stuff, rather than post it.

  5. Karen Clark
    March 1, 2012 | 7:49 pm

    I agree completely. This is good advice. Love the suggestion to add a logo (or watermark) to images, esprcially any of a craft, recipe, or travel nature – these are popular!

    I would also recommend that companies train distributors to pin mostly non-marketing items so they aren’t flagged as self-promotional, another rule to watch.

    Though I love Pinterest (and was quickly addicted!) this issue has given me pause. Since we cannot trust that the original pinners did their due diligence, re-pinning is now a chore. But without it, the site isn’t as social!

    I’m glad you’re raising awareness of this issue. We have to be careful companies and distributors are aware of these ‘fine print’ details!

  6. Lisa Young
    March 1, 2012 | 3:24 pm

    There was a post recently focused on helping artists keep their images off pinterest, and someone asked why they would want to do something like that.

    Above all, we need to respect copyright, yet in the age of “information wants to be free” and open source living, it’s getting tougher to toe the line without running afoul somewhere.

    Your post, Jen, is another piece to the puzzle. With all the copyright drama floating around right now, sites like Pinterest obviously have to protect themselves, and it makes it a bit more challenging for us regular folks to figure out all the do’s and don’ts, in’s and out’s of being socially acceptable with our images. Thanks!

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