iStockphoto Officially Holds Hands with Pinterest

About a year or so ago, Pinterest and copyright issues became a topic of discussion.  If you need more details on how Pinterest works and how it affects the photographer or stock contributor, you can read the aforementioned linked post.  Long story short, a user “pins” (copies) any image they find on the internet to the Pinterest servers, for viewing, sharing and hotlinking by the site’s users.  Yesterday, iStockphoto announced that they are going to officially maintain an active presence on the site, which seems to be implicit approval of the way Pinterest works and serves up content.

This month, iStock will be joining the ranks of inspired pinners around the globe. Similar to our other social media channels, we’ll be inspiring a broader creative audience with the quality and breadth of our content, while also driving brand awareness and traffic.

You’ll notice boards like Tips and Tricks, The World of Mobile, Design Elements and Free Images to engage creatives with iStock’s current free image of the week. We will also be highlighting our exclusive artists and showcasing locally relevant work; all attributed and linked accordingly. In addition to this, we will only be using small, watermarked images that link directly back to the file close up pages.

We know we’ve talked at great length in various threads about Pinterest and specifically about copyright protection. Getty Images is taking steps to add all iStock content to Image IRC in 2013. This means that all your content will be “fingerprinted”.

What I read from this, is that iStockphoto staff will be going through the library, using the standard Pinterest tools to “pin” iStockphoto thumbnails to Pinterest.  As well, they will be traversing the net, “pinning” articles and images of interest from others.

The ImageIRC mention (“fingerprinting”) has almost nothing to do with Pinterest.   It is a searchable database for people wishing to license images.   If a buyer has the browser plugin installed, the system would help them find the original licensing page of the content to legally purchase rights.  The usefulness of an image being “fingerprinted” depends only on the saturation of the plugin in the marketplace.

Back to Pinterest.  It looks like the editor is manually editing the pin, adding a tracking code to the link, like “” as opposed to when I “pin” a similar image, and it doesn’t have that end bit.  Also, they are adding a link in the description, which can also help add to search engine importance.

One of the concerns from my earlier blog posts, is that people without licenses were “pinning” thumbnails to their boards, and deriving benefit from them.  In this case, iStockphoto has permission to “pin”, under promotional usage guidelines in the contributor ASA.

However, this still has two issues.  One, is that images can still be “repinned” onto other boards that would derive commercial benefit without paying for a license.  For instance, thumbnails of cat images could be “pinned” onto a board run by a business that sells pet items.  The images are used to create interest and draw eyeballs, yet, the contributor receives no benefit.  Secondly, Pinterest actually encourages these thumbnails to be used outside of Pinterest without regulation by providing the “embed” button to the side of all content.  This makes it easy to grab code to put on your website which will display an image.  For example:

<div style=”padding-bottom: 2px; line-height: 0px;”><a href=”” target=”_blank”><img src=”” alt=”” width=”380″ height=”351″ border=”0″ /></a></div>
<div style=”float: left; padding-top: 0px; padding-bottom: 0px;”>
<p style=”font-size: 10px; color: #76838b; text-align: center;”>Source: <a style=”text-decoration: underline; font-size: 10px; color: #76838b;” href=””></a> via <a style=”text-decoration: underline; font-size: 10px; color: #76838b;” href=”” target=”_blank”>istockhazcatz</a> on <a style=”text-decoration: underline; color: #76838b;” href=”” target=”_blank”>Pinterest</a></p></div>

Now, this example does show links and attribution, as I grabbed it straight from the embed generator.  However, there is nothing to stop anyone from just picking out the image source code.  There are no rules displayed anywhere near the code.  Someone could use Pinterest as a source of  (watermarked) content for their blog with no worries about licensing or attribution.

Will this be a big deal?  Probably not.  These issues are things that a contributor needs to be knowledgeable about and concerned with.  Not having some idea on how content is being used and distributed can devalue that content.  As seen in the recent “Google Drive” scheme.

3 thoughts on iStockphoto Officially Holds Hands with Pinterest

  1. Thanks for your insight on this. I am withholding judgement on this since it at least does include a mechanism to drive viewers back to the original image on istock and to drive traffic to istock (which if my sales are any indication is sorely needed.) Also there is nothing I can do about it if I don’t like it but leave.

  2. In the newsletter where this is coming from, there was no mention of any progress on the reseller site. Sean’s analytical skills are much appreciated, as displayed here (and already missed on the iStock forums). I wonder if a “balance of probabilities” conclusion could be reached about the reseller, no matter if it can be no more than speculative. The thing just stinks to me, but I don’t know enough of the background info to articulate my main suspicion about API, promotional deals, and things going rogue…

    Thanks Sean for your continued involvement.

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