Pinterest, a new-ish social network, like Facebook and Google before them, is settling in for, what looks like, a long ride on the copyright infringement controversy train . Long and bumpy though it may be, the ride is sure to be fraught with less-than-positive publicity — but as they say in the business: there’s no such thing as bad publicity.
What is Pinterest?
Pinterest is essentially the Internet’s refrigerator door. People can “pin” their pictures, recipes, artwork and homemade homilies for all to see. Think of it, also, as your own virtual bulletin board where you can “pin” things found online. Say you see a recipe on a website or a picture of a unicorn that you want to save. With the Pinterest pin, which becomes attached to your browser toolbar after signing up, you pin the recipe or image and it’s saved in your Pinterest account.
Like many social media sites, the pervasive attitude in the Pinterest community is “sharing (and admiring the works of others) is caring.”
Currently, if you want to be a pinner, you either have to be invited by an existing pinner or submit your request to be invited. Yes, there is a waiting line.
Pinterest’s Copyright Infringement Problem
The only fly in the Pinterest ointment, at this point, seems to be the pesky issue of copyright infringement — and it has to do with the way Pinterest is structured. Simply stated, the platform doesn’t make it easy to find the original owners of images.
When an admiring fan of your latest card trick pins it to their Pinterest account and it gets repinned by subsequent fans, your copyrights to the photo might get lost in the shuffle. While that may not be a big deal to some, you’ve just lost your ace-in-the-hole ticket to international card trick stardom. Instead, Johnny Magician has just announced his upcoming appearance on the Letterman show where he’ll be featuring the trick you created.
Google Sets Online Copyright Infringement Precedent
Back in 2006, Google was taken to court for copyright infringement over thumbnail images that weren’t properly attributed to their rightful copyright owners. But Google was vindicated the next year, which set legal precedence. As a result, ironically enough, both sides of the Pinterest copyright infringement issue point to the Google case in their arguments.
The Pinterest supporters claim that Pinterest’s posting of images is no different than Google’s. The naysayers proclaim that since Pinterest’s images are full-size, full-resolution images, the situation is different and the laws that gave Google safe harbor don’t apply to Pinterest.
DMCA Copyright Infringement Avenues
Currently, Pinterest is following the rules outlined in the DMCA. When a complaint is found to be valid, Pinterest need only remove the image. Trying to trace the image back to its original poster is no easy task, especially when it’s been repeatedly repinned from one place to another. If that image is yours and it’s been repinned more often than a 70s Farrah Fawcett poster, you’ll need to fill out a formal DMCA Notice of Alleged Infringement. Pinterest will then take action as they see fit.
If You Upload It, You Better Own It
Here’s the current rule as outlined in Pinterest’s Terms of Service: if you upload something to Pinterest and they sell it, which they can do, and it subsequently becomes embroiled in copyright infringement litigation, which it could, guess who’s butt is on the line?
Even without malicious intent, it’s so easy for a Pinterest user to pin something that could be an unintentional infringement of the owner’s copyright. That fact doesn’t escape the vengeful eye of the SOPA supporters who are lurking on the sidelines.
We’ll see how this Pinterest copyright infringement issue turns out; in the meantime, if you’re in need of some copyright protection or enforcement, give the Kelly Law Firm a buzz.