This is a guest post by Geri Butner. Follow her on Twitter at @geributner.
Several years ago, before the social media craze that is Pinterest was even conjured up, I scoured the internet for a picture to post with a blog at my internship. I had just taken Media Law in college and made an A, so naturally I thought I was prepared to carefully navigate the web to find the perfect, legal fit.
Flash forward to today, when a stock photo company has sent the business I formerly interned at a bill for thousands of dollars, because one of those images was unknowingly posted after someone else had picked it off the stock website 730 days prior. Was there any warning? No. Was there any notification that allowed them to take it down without a fine? No. But, was it legal? Yes.
Welcome to the world of image copyright infringement on the web. It’s a dangerous one, and even seasoned professionals who take the proper precautions can find themselves coughing up some major dough as a result of an honest mistake, or face a legal battle against corporate giants. The most recent wave of copyright infringement battles reminds me of the good ole’ Napster days, when students and professionals alike found themselves under fire for utilizing what initially appeared to be an open resource.
Enter our beloved Pinterest. The beauty of this tool is that it can be very useful for both individuals and businesses, leading many businesses to consider adding it to their social media campaign. But is it too much of a liability? According to Digital Trends writer Molly McHugh, it just might be.
“At the heart of everyone’s inner ‘to pin or not to pin?’ debate lies the question of citation. While Pinterest has made attempts to address this … the site’s viral nature means it’s not entirely able to avoid copyright issues. No matter what, passing around images without properly attributing them is far, far too easy,” says McHugh.
As a result of the major Google copyright infringement case five years ago, technically, Pinterest’s current repinning, reposting model is legal. But detractors argue that because Pinterest circulates full-resolution images (much larger than the thumbnails that were OK’d in Google’s case) there should be new legislation requiring references to the source.
Pinterest does give the public a way to report copyright infringements, but as I learned through my recent experience, some copyright holders simply do not care to give warnings before taking more extreme action.
With this in mind, it seems that the only fool-proof way for businesses to safely utilize Pinterest would be to pin only original images they have taken themselves. Sticking to uploading and pinning original images would still allow businesses to showcase their products, but it does take away from the social, in-the-moment pinning experience that the entire platform is built around.
Do you think it’s safe for businesses to use Pinterest? Would you recommend it?