In reading comments on other blogs about the Pinterest copyright problem, one of the things that people are taking issue with is poor “pinning etiquette”, one facet of which is not “pinning” to the original source image so that the original artist gets credit and a link. Again, credit and/or a link is not a way to get around copyright infringement. If you have the desire to use someone’s image on your blog, you should secure the proper license/permission to do so, not just copy the image for your own usage. People concerned with poor “pinning etiquette” are people who are likely trying to market themselves, their site or their product and are fine with their image being used, as long as it leads back to them. I don’t believe the person who created the original image in this case is one of those people, but it serves to illustrate. Also, I don’t believe the host of the blog in question is doing anything more than Pinterest (unfortunately) encourages a user to do.
An Image Gone Rogue
This morning, I found a link to my original Pinterest blog post in the comment area of a website: athriftymrs.com (edit: looks like the blog post has been removed – sorry. You can see the pin here.). I read the full blog post, which was about Pinterest, and things the host had pinned, and it had several large images included (400 x 600) with “credit lines” underneath, so I picked an image and looked at the credit line.
So, this image came from a Pinterest user’s board (iColette) who pinned it from a source (Down and Out Chic). There’s the credit the creator of the image gets for having the image used on a blog. I’m going to use the Pinterest “embed” code generator on iColette’s pin of this image so you can see how that would look, below:
Now, this is somewhat different from the credit on the blog posting, so the blog host must have a plugin in her blog to create her link, or she manually did it herself. I believe it is the former, as the URL of the image itself is unique (not just a hotlink to Pinterest, which is what comes with the embedding generator there), which means the host “owns” a hosted copy somewhere. Below is the text of this created link:
Where’d it come from?
Now, I had a feeling none of these were the original creators of the image, so I used Google Images to search for the photographer. After two quick clicks, I found a blog post on designskool.net that was clearly the original post about the image, as it describes the work the person did in the bathroom:
The upstairs bath was not functional when Stephanie and Jessie moved in. Thus it received a total overhaul with new paint (Benjamin Moore’s linen white and Stonington Gray) and historic fixtures. Jonathan built the small shelf which surrounds the entire room, nicely dividing up the tall wall and adding extra storage.
Scrolling to the bottom of the page, I easily found the words “All content copyright Designskool.net” – a reminder that all content is protected unless otherwise stated, and this was no different.
Both credit lines give kudos to “iColette” for originally “pinning” this image, and point to a blog “Down and Out Chic” as the source. So, I went to Down and Out Chic, but unfortunately, the link only led me to the main home page of the blog. I had to dig for a few minutes to find the actual blog posting with the image. I did eventually find it: Interiors: Black and White . The “credits” for the images appear at the bottom of the post:
Our bathroom image, of course, is image #7, which came from here ( a tumblr link), and the source is unknown! And that’s the end of the trail. So, not only is the original image now hosted by the tumblr user, Pinterest itself, and the blog host, we don’t even know where it came from originally. Thank goodness for Google Image Search! But GIS is not an end all answer. How is someone who sees the image and does want to license it correctly and compensate the creator supposed to find them if people are randomly pinning and hosting across the net? Pinterest and others are perpetuating this behavior.
There is a blog online, encouraging Pinterest users to follow some simple rules to, at least, credit the creator correctly: http://lovelife.typepad.com/my_weblog/2012/02/when-to-pull-the-pin.html However, again, a link or credit is not free the end user from a charge of copyright infringement. That’s something the Boston Business Journal realized and stopped using Pinterest to avoid legal action.
“I hope we’ll find another way to use Pinterest safely. The service shows fascinating potential,” Moore wrote. “But if you operate a business, or have any net worth to speak of, I recommend a careful read of the fine print.”
What Is Bothersome
Part of the problem arises from that the original artist did not seem to embed their information in the meta data of the image. If they had, perhaps it might have propagated along this path. That might have helped these other people using their image at least correctly identify the source.
What bothers me, though is that these blogs are clearly commercial, with box after box of advertising (sponsors), yet they fill their content areas with “free” images, partly encouraged by Pinterest.
Now there are two issues. Copyright infringement of art that people don’t want freely distributed, and improper crediting of those who do wish to distribute their work (via Creative Commons licensing or other terms) to benefit their business.
So, the problems in this example aren’t totally owned by Pinterest, but come more from that idea out there that anything on the internet is free to be used as you see fit. This is where Pinterest (and similar) could step up and try to educate its users that the content they are hosting (the majority of which is already an infringement) is not a free take what you like buffet of blog content. They could go further and include warnings or restrictions in the pinning process to protect copyrighted works. Will they? Probably not – that would take the “fun” out of it, and their market share might drop. Of course, in the end, the goal is to build a huge network of users so they can begin their monetization of the collections when the time is right.
The question is, where, financially, is the incentive for content creators to keep expressing themselves and making this art if the entire population feels they can take advantage of it for free? Why, if you plug “music” or “movies” into this argument, does it suddenly change, and there is no PinMusic site where people can pin their favorite bands freely?
I think “the crowd” is trying to work towards a solution to this issue. Let’s keep an eye on it.
Two New Articles
Here are links to two new articles about the issue. The first has a very interesting question and answer session with a lawyer about Pinterest and copyright. The second is a good overview of the whole thing.
edited: The creator of the bathroom image above has made some comments on her blog: http://designskool.net/cheer-up-mama/#comments