I’ve been following a few threads on the net that I’ve found that have linked to my various articles on Pinterest and the copyright issues it faces. One of them led to a discussion on Linked In, which I joined. One poster mentioned that Pinterest usage is “fair use” and isn’t doing any damage, since they aren’t making any money off of the “pinned” image. I disagreed, and the poster mentioned a specific business and that Pinterest “is a wonderful way to comunicate the brand universe”. Sounds like a commercial usage to me, and I’m always up for a challenge, so I dug a little deeper into this one. As with the other example where I did detective work, this is nothing against the business – they are probably not versed when it comes to things like this, but it provides a good warning for others.
Sher-Locke Gets Busy
The Pinterest business page is “Barcelona Flats“. Ironically, it is an online travel agency, which is the example I’ve been giving when talking about how a business is getting commercial benefit from “pinning” the creative works of others: “Barcelona Flats is an online vacation rental service for people looking for choice, high quality service and inforgetable stay in the Catalan Capital.”. This business has several “pin boards” dealing with “shopping” and “fiestas” and “where to eat tapas”. I’ve found food images are notoriously “pinned” from anywhere the “pinner” can find them, so I looked into that board.
I looked for a good “stocky”-type image. Something you might find on a stock agency, as that is usually the kind of thing people like to “pin” without licensing correctly.
First, I tried to track down the hamburger in the image above. This image was “pinned” or, actually, “re-pinned” from Sandwich and Friends on Pinterest. Clicking the image link on that page brings you to a 2048×1365 pixel sized image, hosted on Pinterest. A google search brings up nothing with regards to this image. Looks like Sandwich and Friends is actually the creator of that image. Why they put a huge un-watermarked image like that on Pinterest, instead of something reasonable, like 600×600, I have no idea. However, they knew what they were getting into when they uploaded it, so all seems to be good. The creator uploaded an image, following the Pinterest terms, and someone else “re-pinned” it.
A click on the image should bring you to where the image was “pinned” from, which looks to be “Ashley Smith”‘s Pinterest page. However, here’s where things start going bad. This image links to the business’ web page, instead of the source of the image – you can manually edit the “pin” and change the link. I then tried to view the data on the image to see if there was any copyright info:
No meta data. Well, we know that Pinterest removes meta data when it resizes images, so that could be the source of the problem. Or, wherever this was “pinned” from had removed the data. Onwards to Ashley’s page. Let’s see if we can find where she got it from. On her page, switching to the images she has pinned, I eventually find the Sangria image:
Clicking into that “pin”, we can see that it was “pinned” from an off site blog, ChewOnThat.
Luckily, the link to the offsite blog is still intact – this user is practicing proper “Pin Etiquette” and linking to the source of the image, or at least where she found it. Is it possible we’ve found the owner, or at least someone who has licensed this image or gained permission to use it? Not in this case. You can see the link to “source” next to the image:
The “source” in this case, is “Insider’s Passport”, which appears to be a promotional travel blog/site for several East Coast cities. The page in question is an article on Sangria, which you can see here. This looks like an official, legitimate business site – the kind that would license stock images from the source. Let’s check for the meta data on the image again.
A-ha! We’ve found something. The photographer of the image in question is “Michael Grimm”. Let’s head to Google search again with that knowledge. A search on “Michael Grimm photographer sangria” brings up a quality hit. I think we’ve found the official source:
That looks like trouble. Our image in question is actually represented by Getty Images. Also, it’s a Rights Managed image, which means that it is priced based on each usage. So, I priced out what it would cost to use this image on Pinterest. Web – Social Media. One year use. United States. The travel and tourism industry. These attributes price out at $630. However, our “pinner” is using it, commercially, for free. It’s no secret that Getty Images does not like to see its represented works being used for free – they send out collection letters quite often, and a Google search will bring up many complaints about these letters, like : http://www.extortionletterinfo.com/ . So, how do they feel about someone using their represented works commercially on Pinterest?
Coincidentally (?), CEO of Getty Images, Jonathan Klein just recently commented on Pinterest and its collection of hosted copyrighted works. Tech Crunch says:
… when does Getty snap into action? The moment that a website starts running ads alongside those images. … The second that Pinterest starts making money of its own, intellectual property owners such as Getty Images will have the right to ask that Pinterest pay up — or start deleting pinboards.
So, Klein et al are concerned with the obvious – Pinterest itself directly making money from ads run alongside the content it hosts.
However, are they missing the hidden usage – that of Pinterest’s users monetizing others’ works in a commercial marketing way? Is this any different from lifting an image from a blog and putting it on your blog to advertise and draw in new customers? Is Pinterest any more than a visual blog with a social network attached? We know the new terms of Pinterest still pass the liability for uploaded content onto its users. I covered that a few days ago. So when will Getty and any other creatives notice these usages in enough numbers to make them want to take action? Will they? Am I just imagining that this usage is a violation? Here, our photographer, Michael Grimm is out $630 – although it is unlikely someone would pay that just to put it on Pinterest. Which is slightly ironic – the image holds enough value that they want to use it to attract attention to their business, but they place that monetary value at zero. That also goes back to the original thought that pinning is not doing any financial damage – even if this “pinner” is not willing to pay the licensing fee, there may have been others who would have, but who decide to just “re-pin” it, because that’s how things are done.
What do you think of businesses using copyrighted works without permission on business related “pinboards” as well as Pinterest eventually trying to monetize the vast cache of works they have collected?