Pinterest – Copyright Infringement Made Cool?

To start out on a positive note, let me say that I think the story of Pinterest is inspiring. It is tempting to believe that many of the simpler ideas associated with innovation have been thought of, and only very complex, time consuming, expensive initiatives can break new ground. Along comes Pinterest, offering an extremely simple idea – providing the electronic paradigm of a corkboard with photos, recipes, and other notes that people want to keep handy and visible, and giving them the opportunity to link to those of others. If anyone doubts that there is always a simple, yet powerful idea lurking around the corner, look no further than Pinterest.

Pinterest is turning out to be a great opportunity for small and large businesses to gain exposure and increase sales. Other blog and news sites, such as Mansurovs, are garnering additional traffic as a result of people pinning its articles to various photography boards. Many entrepreneurs are developing social networking and marketing strategies based on Pinterest. I believe that Facebook and Google+ are likely scrambling to emulate more of Pinterest’s capabilities, lest they find themselves being marginalized. Pinterest’s user base has exploded over the last few years, so it is clearly gaining momentum and has captured the latest buzz within the internet community.


Despite the positive aspects of Pinterest, however, I believe there are some real issues with its business model, specifically related to copyright violations. The idea for this article came from some recent “lively” debates between the members of the Mansurov team. Some in the group were arguing quite vociferously in favor of Pinterest’s Terms of Service that enables anyone to pin someone else’s photos to a board, without his/her permission. Some of our team believed that this was good for our site, relative to promoting our articles, tutorials, reviews, and eBooks. I happen to agree with them on this point, but have a difficult time overlooking the copyright issue.
As someone that has negotiated a few contracts that include copyright concerns, I am less than convinced than my esteemed colleagues regarding the legitimacy of Pinterest’s operations. What follows are some of the points from our discussion along with my more detailed research into Pinterest. Lest anyone start lining up to buy shares of the IPO, perhaps a little more scrutiny is in order.

1) “Pinterest Is Cool”

Anytime I hear this one in regard to some website, my ears perk up along with my guard. Pinterest is getting all manner of accolades and for some very good reasons. According to many, it is a “cool”, “hip”, “innovative” site that facilitates sharing of photos in meaningful, easy-to-manage ways. How can that be wrong? Well, before anyone gets too enamored with any service claiming to be “free”, it pays to comb over their various policies that cover such items as Terms, Acceptable Use, Copyright Notices, User Licenses, and others that fall under the heading of, “boring legal stuff people never read”. Why? Because the money eventually has to come from somewhere. If you are not paying for the service, you can bet your soon-to-arrive Nikon D800 that the path for revenue and profits is buried in the company’s Terms of Service (TOS). Pinterest’s TOS related items extend to 23 pages, with the obligatory white space. If you would bother to read them, there isn’t much “cool” about them. I will believe the hype about cool internet sites when I can someday find a site’s legal section in a few sentences. So far, I have found few. I will get into some of the details of Pinterest’s legal section in a bit.

Pinterest received $37.5 million in venture capital money. Good for Ben Silbermann! What comes along with all that money? Plenty of attention… and attorneys. It’s a funny thing about receiving venture capital money – it never comes without strings. That is not a fault of the capitalist system by the way, nor is it a criticism of Pinterest or its partners. Heck, most people have quite a few opinions regarding the food and service associated with a simple $15.99 dinner at the local Dead Lobster restaurant. Why shouldn’t people loaning an entrepreneur millions of dollars, with no assurance of receiving a return on their investment, have some opinions regarding how the money is spent and how the business is run?

Thus despite the hip, cool, novel, etc. terms being applied to Pinterest, there are some very serious “suits” somewhere behind the scenes, and they are most likely scrutinizing Pinterest’s business model, product plans, product development efforts, sales projections, and legal concerns. So while Ben plays the disheveled, with-it entrepreneur part in his faded jeans, sneakers, and shirt hanging out, there is quite a bit of seriousness behind all that venture capital money and the legal stipulations that accompany it. I say this only to remind people that, despite appearances, Pinterest is a serious business, with serious money behind it.

While we are on the subject, always take some time to read the legal sections of the various sites you use. Yes, they may be boring, but you are agreeing to those terms. You should at least know the commitments you and the website are making to one another. At Mansurovs, we don’t have to worry about such details, however, as our staff of 50 full time attorneys routinely review legal documents for us! Ok – maybe not…

2) “Pinning Photos – What’s The Big Deal?”

In a word – plenty. Why? The main issue with Pinterest is that it is both encouraging and providing a mechanism for people to violate the copyright rights of others. If you take a photo, it’s yours, along with all the legal rights the law provides. Here’s one of my photos that links back to an article on this site. Take a good look at it; it is a decent sized photo. If you click on it, you will be redirected to the article. What’s the issue? Strictly speaking, I didn’t authorize Pinterest or any of its users to “pin” a large version of my photo to the Pinterest site. I uploaded the photo to the Mansurov site, but not to Pinterest’s site. In this case, someone clicking on my photos will get back to the source of the photo, the article. This is actually one of the better uses of Pinterest – gaining attention for internet sites that you want people to visit. On many pins, however, there are no such links. People simply pin a photo without references.

What if you don’t want your photo pinned to a Pinterest board? Should others have the right to determine where they can post your photos? Absolutely not. Copyright privileges allow you to control your photos – no one else unless agreed upon you.

3) “But They Are ‘Just Photos!’”

Much to the chagrin of some, it doesn’t matter; copyright laws apply equally to photos as much as anything else. Yes, digital cameras are proliferating faster than complaints about Greta Van Susteren getting a Nikon D800 before many others, but that doesn’t translate into the dilution of our copyright laws. Does anyone really believe the Beatles put more effort into the lyrics of “She Loves You (Yeah, Yeah, Yeah)” than some put into a week long photography trek hiking through the mountains of Maine?” Hard to believe that one. And I have yet to figure out what possessed anyone to pay nearly $12 million for a painting of a bunch of Campbell Soup cans by Andy Warhol. Your photo of some nature scene may one day be just as famous and valuable. What right does anyone have to determine that your photography doesn’t warrant as much protection as the works of the Beatles or Warhol? You can bet that both the Beatles and Warhol would not have handed over their copyright without some serious financial consideration. In the case of the Beatles, Sony sold the rights to 200 of the Beatles’ songs to none other than the late Michael Jackson for nearly $48 million. Lest anyone thing copyrights do not have value…

Unfortunately, people do tend to look at photos differently, perhaps because they are so often shared on sites such as Facebook, flickr, 500px, Smug Mug, Picasa, and others. The rapid proliferation of and improvements in digital cameras, and the myriad of social media sites is likely affecting our notion of the value of a photograph as well as the rights that accompany it. But because people willingly share their photos on the internet, it doesn’t mean they have relinquished their copyright protection or agreed to let everyone else repost their pictures to other sites without their permission. You might park your car in a public parking garage, but that doesn’t give the parking garage personnel the right to take your car out for a joy ride or road trip. Neither does parking your car in a public area give someone the right to steal your car. And while most people may routinely go over the speed limit, if you are clocked at 70mph in a 65mph zone, you are speeding and have broken the law. Copyright laws are no different. “Everybody does it” is never a good excuse for breaking the law.

4) “If It’s On The Internet, It Must Be Free’”

It may be a slight exaggeration, but “free” is the paradigm of the internet. Some people do pay for some content, but the notion that everything should be made available at no charge to anyone that wants it is a constant theme. And along comes Pinterest and it offers everyone the right to distribute the content of others. Considering all these factors, it is no wonder that few stop to consider that pinning a photo that belongs to someone else might be against the law. And not to play “Conspiracy Theory”, but I do wonder if some aren’t pushing Pinterest forward to see how much they can get society to let down its guard about copyright issues and cause a shift in values associated with the respect of such concerns.

That would be ideal for Pinterest and other aggregator sites attempting to build a business model off the creativity of others. Imagine it – Pinterest builds a nice business getting paid for click-through buys, collecting demographic information that product companies and advertisers can mine for insightful consumer behavioral patterns, and perhaps provide some targeted advertising. The foundation of the business includes millions of high quality images – and not one of them paid for by Pinterest. Not exactly a winning formula for the photographers and other artists attempting to eke out a living.

5) “Pinterest Is No Different Than Flickr Or 500px”

Sorry, but it is. What’s the difference? Only you can post photos to these other sites via the upload button associated with your account. Pinterest? Anyone can repost anything – that is one of its most compelling features. And the pinned photos are not eye straining thumbnails, but rather full size image from the originating site.

From Pinterest’s site:
What is Pinterest?
Pinterest is a virtual pinboard. Pinterest allows you to organize and share all the beautiful things you find on the web. You can browse pinboards created by other people to discover new things and get inspiration from people who share your interests.

Hmmm… it certainly sounds like Pinterest is advocating that its users post the photos from others (e.g. “beautiful things”). You remember Napster, Grokster, Kazaa, and Limewire – sites that enabled people to upload music and videos that others had created, which could be downloaded by anyone with a subscription (if required)? Funny how the music and film industries, as well as the court system, took a dim view of these sites and their practices. The courts ruled that the organizations were operating sites with the sole purpose of profiting off pirated content.

Considering that Pinterest intends (and is likely now) making money from its vast collection of original content from others without their permission, one could make the case that Pinterest is little different than these music/video sites that were shuttered or had their business models changed to that of pay-per-download. As mentioned earlier, Pinterest does have some redeeming qualities for those that wish to actively participate on its boards and direct traffic to their site. But that should be their decision, not anyone else’s.

What does Pinterest claim it can do with content you have pinned? Read on:
How Pinterest and other users can use your content. Subject to any applicable account settings you select, you grant us a non-exclusive, royalty-free, transferable, sublicensable, worldwide license to use, display, reproduce, re-pin, modify (e.g., re-format), re-arrange, and distribute your User Content on Pinterest for the purposes of operating and providing the Service(s) to you and to our other Users. Nothing in these Terms shall restrict Pinterest’s rights under separate licenses to User Content. Please remember that the Pinterest Service is a public platform, and that other Users may search for, see, use, and/or re-pin any User Content that you make publicly available through the Service.

Now here’s an interesting question: Can I pin your image to Pinterest and then grant Pinterest the license rights indicated above? Nope – I don’t have that right. And neither does Pinterest. If you link your photo to Pinterest, and agree to these terms, I can understand Pinterest’s position. But the vast majority of Pinterest’s pinned photos are submitted by those who did not originate the content. I would go so far as to say that without such wanton copyright violation, there would be no Pinterest. If it did exist, it would have a much smaller user base. Does anyone think Pinterest and their investors are not aware of this?

With flickr and 500px, others may “favorite” your pictures, but they stay within the site. If someone does link to your photos, the links stay within the site, the full size image does not get copied to someone else’s server. With Pinterest, that is not the case. You can see both a thumbnail and the full size image and you do not necessarily have to navigate back to the originating site.

6) “Pin Etiquette – Pinterest Wants To Do Good!”

Perhaps, but I found some of the Pin Etiquette a bit puzzling, particularly these two items:

1. Be Respectful
Pinterest is a community of people. We know that individual tastes are personal, but please be respectful in your comments and conversations.

Shouldn’t “respect” start with the law and not violating the rights of others?

2. Be Authentic
Pinterest is an expression of who you are. We think being authentic to who you are is more important than getting lots of followers. Being authentic will make Pinterest a better place long-term.

When I think of a site based on rampant copyright violation, “authenticity” is not exactly the first word that comes to mind. Authenticity also implies that it is your work being posted, not that of someone else that you did not consult. What exactly is authentic about posting someone else’s photos? Without their permission?

7)“So Who Is Violating The Copyright Laws?”

Pinterest can only bind people to their terms of service if it is the original content owner that provides the link. No one pinning your photos has the right to negotiate away your copyright. So, when Pinterest is inviting their users to pin “beautiful things,” they are encouraging them to violate the copyright rule. When Grandma finds your once-in-a-lifetime photo of a chocolate cake (you know – the one taken on your patio deck as the sun’s golden rays struck the chocolate layers just so, and the magnolia tree in full bloom acted as a colorful backdrop), and she posts it to her Pinterest board, she has broken the law. Think about that – Pinterest is encouraging Granny to lead a life of crime. Heinous… truly heinous…

Is Pinterest innocent in this dastardly crime of violating your copyright and potentially sending Granny upstream to the Big House? It will claim they are and “pin” (pun intended of course!) the blame on Granny, despite her tears as she is led away in chains! That doesn’t seem so “cool” or “hip”, does it? What is Pinterest’s way out? Claiming protection under that 94 page monstrosity, called the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998, or DMCA. The purpose of this law is to ensure that intellectual property and copyrights are respected around the globe. This incredible collection of legalese will put you to sleep faster than you can say, “pin it”. Fortunately, there is a summary of the DMCA here (only 18 pages and technically shorter than Pinterest’s Terms of Service!).

What is the importance of the DMCA? Individuals and businesses are reluctant to invest time and effort in the creative design and development process when competitors can simply copy the result of their hard work without the corresponding effort. The DMCA is an attempt to preserve the copyright protection of those engaged in any form of creative process, whether it involves artists or engineers. We are all better off when people can count on their hard work paying off, and not being hijacked by others. This is a huge source of contention between the United States and China. China is notorious for violating the USA’s (and those of other nations) copyright laws. It is estimated that 8 out of every 10 software programs implemented in China in 2010 were pirated copies, costing the USA nearly $4 billion. The cost of all copyright infringement by China alone is estimated to north of $50 billion.

Pinterest could argue that it does not violate section 1201 of the DMCA, which covers the devices or services that fall into the following categories:

1. They are primarily designed or produced to circumvent
2. They have only limited commercially significant purpose or use other than to circumvent
3. They are marketed for use in circumventing

I would argue that Pinterest doesn’t pass the sniff test for 1 or 3. “Pinning” is a cute phrase for “reposting the photos of others”, nothing more. I would say guilty as charged on these two. 2? That is a bit trickier. Skimlinks, the service that enables Pinterest to get paid if someone clicks through a pinned photo and buys something from a linked site, may some income to Pinterest. If Pinterest starts selling advertisements, that is yet another potential source of income. This could be a bit of an issue for Pinterest, if some of the businesses flocking to it to generate sales discover that Pinterest is changing its links so that Pinterest, not the originating website, is getting credit for the sale. Pinterest could also accumulate some very interesting demographics and data regarding people’s behavior, interests, likes, etc., that might be very valuable to advertisers.

Pinterest might argue that it is not charging users for the opportunity to access others’ copyrighted images, as was the case for some of the Grokster and Limewire sites. But this argument is a bit weak, since as we already discussed, the vast majority of people are posting others’ photos. Thus without the use of pirated photos, Pinterest’s appeal to both users and advertisers tanks. I suspect a good attorney might convince a jury that Pinterest meets the criteria for all three.

This section provides Pinterest with a bit of an out – the ability to manage copyright infringement claims and take action.

Section 512(c) limits the liability of service providers for infringing material on
websites (or other information repositories) hosted on their systems. It applies to
storage at the direction of a user. In order to be eligible for the limitation, the
following conditions must be met:
• The provider must not have the requisite level of knowledge of the infringing activity, as described below.
• If the provider has the right and ability to control the infringing activity, it must not receive a financial benefit directly attributable to the infringing activity.
• Upon receiving proper notification of claimed infringement, the provider must expeditiously take down or block access to the material.

Under the knowledge standard, a service provider is eligible for the limitation on liability only if it does not have actual knowledge of the infringement, is not aware of facts or circumstances from which infringing activity is apparent, or upon gaining such knowledge or awareness, responds expeditiously to take the material down or block access to it.

Pinterest might claim that they have no knowledge of each individual infringement, but are they really unaware that infringement is taking place across a wide spectrum of their user base? Good luck convincing a jury of that. As indicated earlier, they not only know, but encourage such activity. There are a few major lawsuits between content originators and those that are aggregating the content on the internet. These battles will play out over the next year or so and likely have a significant impact on companies’ business strategies and legal positions.

Pinterest is now providing a “no pin” button, which enables a meta tag to prevent someone from uploading a photo. But this must be done by the owner of the content. Why should I have to start tagging each of my photos to prevent someone from tacking them on Pinterest and violating my rights? Someone can still download a photo of mine and then upload it to some other site. In such cases, the no pin button serves no purpose.

Another issue is whether Pinterest provides a means for people to have their photos taken off of Pinterest’s site once it has been made aware of the infringement. That seems to be the case. But even this doesn’t seem to carry much weight upon even casual inspection. Pinterest clearly knows its service provides the capabilities to infringe the copyrights of others. It may not know the specific cases until it is made aware of them, but I suspect that a judge and jury might take a dim view of massive infringement occurring on a regular basis.

What’s the worst that can happen under 512(C)? Pinterest takes someone’s photo down. That is of course, unless a jury believes that violating copyright law is simply part of Pinterest’s business model and it really doesn’t have any willingness or mechanism in place to avoid the practice. Of course, if no one complains, Pinterest will continue on its merry way.
So if Pinterest can’t hide behind the DMCA, what are the implications? Big bucks… Ouch!

The US Patent Office lists statutory damages between $30,000 and $150,000 per image if you can prove that it was a willful act. Thus these damages can start accumulating rather quickly.
Some of these fees will depend on whether the photos were on file with the patent office, the timing of the registration, and the overall sequence of events. Based on a cursory examination of Pinterest advocating copyright violation, and structuring a business model around it (including that $37.5 million in funding), one might conclude that Pinterest could be in trouble, despite some of the arguments I have suggested it could make in its defense. I think if someone mounts a solid case against Pinterest, they might win.

8)“The Battle Of The Have Nots And The Have Nots”

So you have to be asking, “Gee, Bob, prognosticator that you are, why hasn’t someone sued Pinterest won?” I think it has to do with a number of factors, with one of the major ones being the relatively newness of Pinterest. Another key factor is the consideration of “Who’s Going To Sue?”:
1. It is onerous for the average photographer, to track every violation of his/her copyright. Photography in the digital age is hard enough. Playing the patent policeman isn’t something you likely warm up to at the end of a long day. There are ways to track your photos on the net, but it is time consuming, particularly if you have quite a number of them.
2. That same photographer likely doesn’t have a huge budget allocated to “legal battles”. As such, he/she isn’t going to be any more enthusiastic about getting into a legal tangle than he/she would be for fishing through Pinterest to determine the daily copyright violations. The only people enthusiastic about lawsuits are individuals that have never been part of one, and of course, lawyers.
3. The photographer whose rights have been infringed will likely complain to Pinterest, fill out its form associated with taking down copyrighted material, and be done with it. Until next time…

On the “Who Do You Sue?” side:
1. As we have seen, Pinterest has enticed Granny into a life of crime, encouraging her to post those chocolate cake photos she has pinned illegally from unsuspecting photographers. Does a photographer really want to sue Granny? Doesn’t feel right, does it? Granny likely doesn’t have much in the way of financial resources, particularly with Obamacare taking $500 billion out of Medicare. Where are you going to find a sympathetic jury that wants to convict Granny of violating the copyright associated with your chocolate cake photo? That jury doesn’t exist. So we are not taking Granny to court.
2. Pinterest. Now we are talking. It likely hasn’t spent the entire $37.5 million… yet. And they probably have some money coming in the door. The real problem with suing Pinterest goes back to the humble professional photographer that is too busy and can’t afford a protracted legal battle with the suits of Pinterest. With many photographers working harder for less, it is difficult to imagine many of the getting excited at the idea of taking on a multi-million dollar funded internet company that seems to the new poster child for innovation.

Pinterest is counting on two groups of people, both relatively short on resources and time (compared to decent sized companies), to shy away from the confrontation of a lawsuit. I suspect Pinterest believes it can stare down a photographer that doesn’t have the time, money or inclination to take it to court. In short, Pinterest is counting on more than a bit of apathy and being a daunting adversary.

Think I am off base? Consider this; do you think Pinterest will enable users to “pin” full length high definition copies of their favorite movies, and make them available for viewing by others? Why not? Clearly many are streaming high definition video across the net. It would be a bit hit, wouldn’t it? Who wouldn’t want content uploaded on the net, and available for free with one click of a pinned image? No more HBO, Cinemax, Netflix, Starz, or Video On Demand fees! The reason why you won’t see this happen anytime soon is not due to a technical challenge, but rather financial and legal concerns.

Anyone capable of creating a moderate-to-big budget film has the legal and financial resources and willingness to exhaust Pinterest’s venture capital money faster than the current Administration can add another $100 billion dollars to our national debt! Pinterest will likely not be taking on any deep-pocketed film studios anytime soon.

So Granny doesn’t have much dough, and taking her to court will only harm the photographer’s reputation. Pinterest seems too big to take on in a legal battle and the beleaguered photographer doesn’t have a lot of time to time or money for copyright battles. What’s a photographer to do?

Pinterest seems safe… for now. But I wouldn’t count on it lasting.


Admittedly, this is quite a bit of material to digest, and I am sure there are a variety of other angles, considerations, legal twists, etc. that I have not covered. In short:

• Pinterest is a very innovative concept that has broad appeal and some significant potential for driving traffic to various blogs and commercial sites.
• Pinterest’s Pin Etiquette bullets sound lofty, but are incongruous with the realities of how the site is being marketed and used.
• I see nothing wrong with photographers using Pinterest to promote their photography, but it should be their decision. They need to carefully consider the pros/cons.
• Unfortunately, Pinterest is on the wrong side of the copyright law, in encouraging violation within its user community, making money based on copyright violations, and operating a service that facilitates copyright violation on a grand scale.
• I suspect that the majority of Pinterest users are also in violation of the copyright law. Some are simply naive. Others that share the mindset that everything should be “free”, simply have no respect for copyright laws.
• In order to properly protect his/her copyright, photographers should consult with ASMP or other sites that provide guidance on proper copyright registration. This will ensure that in the event of an infringement, he/she is in the best legal position possible.
• While social media sites are rapidly fostering photo sharing, copyright laws still provide rights to photographers and others that originate content.
• If you really want to see how “cool” Pinterest is, check out its Terms of Service and decide how much the legalese matches the image in your mind.
• Much of Pinterest’s appeal is being fueled by the “if it’s on the net, it must be free” paradigm that gets more popular by the day.
• Sharing information on a global scale can indeed foster creativity, build sales, and spur readership, but it should be (and is according to the law) up content owner if he/she wishes to share that content with and under what circumstances – not Pinterest or anyone that signs up for a free Pinterest account.
• Wanton disrespect for the copyrights of individuals does not enhance, but rather diminishes the creative process.
• My money is on someone eventually being successful in a suit against Pinterest (assuming they continue the same business practices) and racking up a hefty settlement.
• Like the rogue music and video sharing sites that were shut down or pressured into becoming legitimate pay-per-download businesses, I believe Pinterest will eventually feel the heat of running a business that is built primarily on the unauthorized content of others that have not been compensated or consulted relative to their copyright protection.
• Some form of digital clearing house, with encryption keys and permissions associated with digital photos, and can validate the rights associated with images and enable content aggregators such as Pinterest to automatically post or restrict photos from its site, would be a step in the right direction.
• The solution above could prove a useful mechanism to safeguard the rights of photographers and those that consume various forms of media, without making the rights management process burdensome for either party.
• In the meantime, as the law takes time to catch up with the technology, if you want to use Pinterest, post your own content.
• If you do want to pin content from others, afford them the consideration and respect Pinterest advocates – ask for their permission.
• And whatever you do, make sure Granny doesn’t end up in the slammer!

My thanks to Hanne Adam of Berlin, Germany, who was gracious enough to allow me to use one of her textured backgrounds for my Pinterest photo.
I did not use the Pinterest logo, but created one that used a similar font.


  1. 1) Watch Out Granny
    April 28, 2012 at 10:38 am

    Hi Bob,

    I am going to be that bad guy suing chocolate-cake granny. I hate to do this, but I’m cornered and I have no choice. I have to do it for the common good of creative artists and photographers.

    My entire website has been pinned to Pinterest by “granny” and I’m losing income and traffic. I’ve spent 5 months chasing my content, sending DMCA and they’re really sloppy with the removals. I can’t even chase my work that’s been pinned off Google Images, that’s nearly untraceable.

    What am I supposed to do?

    I know I’ll never collect a dime, appeals and all, but I’ll collect my share of infamy and sleepless nights for doing this.

    It’s a question of principles.

    • April 28, 2012 at 1:23 pm

      “Granny Goes to the Hoosegow – The Novel”
      Truly a sad day for eldery Pinterest thiefs that have led astray and down the path to a life of crime. Granny likely would have continued down the straight and narrow, except for the high tech pushers of Pinterest.
      Now she will spend her final days looking outside from inside of the iron bars. For want of permission, Granny ran afoul of the DMCA and now all is lost. Her last words will likely be, “My children, don’t choose the path I took. Always ask for permission before you pin.”

      These are dark times for Granny lovers everywhere… sigh…

  2. 2) Mark
    April 28, 2012 at 10:49 am

    My head hurts !!!!!!!!

  3. 3) Watch Out Granny
    April 28, 2012 at 2:02 pm

    Grannies everywhere would be smart to delete their pins.

    A portion of my work is registered, that’s thirty grand per image. There is a pinner called JANE WANG, who is Ben Silbermann’s mother. Two of my registered works are among her 15,000 pins. His mother, who is also a co-founder is going to be a cornerstone of the legal argument to prove that the infringement is willful, and that Pinterest is therefore not covered by the safe harbor provision as it has knowledge of the infringement, and is participating in it. Jane Wang is infringing, she knows she’s infringing, and she’s involved with Pinterest. They can’t wiggle out of this out. I have screenshots.

    • April 28, 2012 at 4:25 pm

      Granny Watcher,
      Man, you are tough! Both Granny and Ben’s Mom are on the hit parade! BTW, that is a a minimum of $30K/image. It can go upwards of $150K/image. You should start keeping a running log on this one. Sounds as if you are well aware of what is happening on the Pinterest front. You may be the one to force its hand and win. I will be rooting for you! Keep us apprised of your efforts.

  4. 4) Mark
    April 28, 2012 at 2:44 pm

    Hi Bob,

    What I wasn’t expecting was sarcasm and snydyness . But I guess you are feeling a bit on the defensive after last weeks d800 post. All I meant was it was a monster post. With a lot to take in and the whole concept is a minefield. I will be clearer with my intentions in the future.

    • April 28, 2012 at 3:41 pm


      You misinterpreted my comment. No sarcasm or snideness was intended. Pinterest is indeed hoping the level of complexity and issues associated with it lead people to not want to deal with it. It is quite a bit to digest for the average professional photographer struggling to stay afloat, keep abreast of technology changes, and deal with the laws affecting copyright. I have a lot of empathy for those in this position.

      Relative to the Greta post, there is nothing to be defensive about. People blew this issue way out of proportion and mistakenly blamed B&H. The irony that these people could spend so much time complaining about the delivery of a camera costing $3,000 was lost on them. If that is the biggest gripe they have, the really have little to complain about! Hence my article poking fun at some of the people involved and the notion that Greta received my camera.

      Some people got it and enjoyed the article, while others continued their complaining and turned their guns on me. I have no problem calling them like I see them and taking the slings and arrows that go along with it! It takes all kinds, as they say!

  5. 5) Mark
    April 28, 2012 at 3:51 pm

    Sorry Bob just misread signs. Thanks for the honest reply. By the way I found the d800 post and subsequent flurry of posts from angry people waiting on their cameras very amusing. I don’t know if I would be the same though if I were one of them.. All the best and keep the posts coming. For what it’s worth I think you are right about pintrest and the copyright.

    • April 28, 2012 at 3:57 pm

      No problem. Unfortunately, electronic communications can leave out up to 96% of the total message. I have had email since 1981, and am well aware of the various ways we can misunderstand one another when we are not able to see faces, hear inflections of voices, and interpret other body language – all of which help deliver the fullness of what we are attempting to convey. Despite the popularity of email, it can be a lousy way of getting the message across!
      It will be interesting to see how Pinterest unfolds. Sadly, it is just one more thing for the hard working professional photographers to deal with.
      Thanks for checking back to the site from time-to-time.

  6. April 28, 2012 at 4:50 pm

    What a great article! Clear and to the point. Thanks for this.

    Surely this is the case for a Class Action suite? Preferbly using a high profile Law Firm, who would take this on for no fee except a % of the winnings.

    II think we as photographers, should collectively stand up for our rights and not let someone rip off the fruits of our labor. I think that there are enough photographers to easily challenge Pinterest, or anyone else.

    I also think that the likes of Yahoo (Flickr), Google (Picasaweb), Getty Images and the other legit site oowners would have a sufficient interest as well as funds, to have a go at shutting down copyright infringers. After all they have large investments of their own, and stand to loose mucch revenue if traffic is robbed from their sites!

    • April 28, 2012 at 5:10 pm

      Thanks, Paul. As long as the article is, it only scratches the surface of the many aspects of this complicated issue. Just the DMCA legal analysis of Pinterest’s efforts could likely fill a small book.
      Pinterest really is counting more than a bit of apathy and people “looking the other way” as it continues to expand its business while the copyright validations mount.
      I need to check in with my local ASMP chapter and get the group’s sense of Pinterest and what, if any, actions the main ASMP has underway.

      • 6.1.1) AMusingFool
        April 30, 2012 at 5:30 pm

        You’re really thinking about his the wrong way, on several levels.

        On a legal front, they’re counting on Section 230 safe harbors, which are much stronger than your fairly flip statements about them. Unless they’re failing to take things down when notified, they’re almost certainly safe. The bar on willfulness is quite high, as it should be.

        Look at it this way, if someone posts one of my photos, how CAN they know whether the person posting is me, or someone I’ve authorized, or whether the person has a fair use defense. And all of that is assuming that the EXIF hasn’t been modified, and that they can safely assume the image is still under copyright (and not under a creative commons license, or something similar).

        Universal sued youtube some time (case still ongoing), and some of the files that they said proved willful negligence by youtube were actually uploaded by Universal’s marketing folks.

        It isn’t easy to make these determinations.

        Another part of where your arguments went off the rails, for me, was when you tried to compare copying a photo to stealing a car. These are not analogous cases, nor should they be treated as such.

        Another thing to keep in mind about this; for someone like me, just starting out. Which is the bigger problem: someone liking my work enough to copy it, or no one having heard of it?

        • Profile photo of Bob Vishneski Bob Vishneski
          April 30, 2012 at 6:00 pm

          AMusing Fool,

          Just what are those “beautiful things” Pinterest is encouraging others to post? Couldn’t be the photos of others, could it? Pinterest is clearly aware of how their service is being used.

          Was my analogy regarding the car really off the rails? You steal my car, you break the law. You steal my photo, you break the copyright law. In both cases, you broke the law. If you steal a Ford Mustang, or you steal some aspect of the intellectual property to make it, which do you think Ford cares more about? Hint – it is not the actual car… Copyright law applies to many aspects of the creative process. In many cases, the actual object itself likely pales in value compared to the intellectual property required to create it. Why should anyone decide for a photographer, how his/her work can be used, apart from the photographer him/herself?

          If you want to post your work on Pinterest, knock yourself out. That is your choice – but only for your work – not that of others. What if others don’t want others distributing their work all over Pinterest? I guess they have no say in how their work is shared or used? Or must they spend all their time searching for violations and writing to Pinterest requesting the photos be removed.

          Pinterest is primarly geared for people to copy the photos of others to Pinterest’s servers for their and Pinterest’s use. That is what will likely get the service in hot water.


          • AMusingFool
            April 30, 2012 at 6:58 pm

            Pinterest is in no legal danger, at least not based on anything I’ve heard.

            Can their site be used to violate copyright? So can a VCR. How’d hollywood’s attempt to characterize that as the Boston Strangler work out?

            I should actually look at the site more, but they might even have an argument that they are enabling transformative works. That’s promoting progress, not hindering it.

            • Watch Out Granny
              April 30, 2012 at 9:05 pm

              “Pinterest is in no legal danger, at least not based on anything I’ve heard.”

              That’s not what my legal team is saying, la la la la la.

            • Profile photo of Bob Vishneski Bob Vishneski
              April 30, 2012 at 9:13 pm


              I guess Napster… Grokster… Limewire… Kazaa… and others weren’t in any legal danger either, huh?

              How about Kim Dotcom? What are they going after him for? “Copyright Infringement”…


            • AMusingFool
              May 1, 2012 at 11:44 am

              Kim Dotcom appears unlikely to be an example of anything, when it comes to copyright prosecution, except for government abuse of power. I don’t know how strong the government’s case was, originally, but the number of ways they’ve found to bungle it are pretty staggering (start with taking the site down despite significant First Amendment concerns in doing so, then go on to asking the court to destroy evidence, then trying to freeze ALL of Megaupload’s funds (ie: not even allowing them to pay for legal representation)). If they’re looking to make the case explode in their faces, they’re doing a good job.

              Anyway, the main point is that the contours of copyright law MUST change. Why? Because technology demands it. The law is ill-suited to deal with the current situation, where copies are plentiful, cheap (basically free), and easy to make. It does not allow consumers to do things that technology enables, and that feel natural.

              Have the technological dinosaurs been putting their fingers in the dike? You betcha. Have they had some success? They have. But they will not continue to do so, indefinitely.

              Basical economics demand that the cost of a digital copy must be close to zero. Simple question of supply and demand. If the supply is infinite, the cost must be around zero.

          • Watch Out Granny
            May 1, 2012 at 12:53 pm

            So basically, because cheap copies can be made, the law must change to end protection of artistic works? Consumers should get copies of everything for free.

            ROGER. Got it.

            In the mean time, we’ll soon see how the courts legislate on Pinterest. The court’s opinion is the only one that counts.

    • 6.2) Watch Out Granny
      April 28, 2012 at 7:49 pm

      In the case of registered works, the court awards both damages and legal fees, so it’s not hard to find someone willing to work pro bono – it’s a no-brainer.

      Before launching a class-action lawsuit, though, someone needs to show up in court with registered works being infringed, so that the law can be laid, so to speak, paving the way to the class action suit.

      They’re allowing pins from Google images, if there is any doubt that Pinterest is acting in bad faith…

  7. 7) Annie
    April 28, 2012 at 5:17 pm

    Thank you for this excellent article, Bob. I’ve been struggling with pinterest and many of my photos being ‘pinned’ without permission. It’s been extremely difficult dealing with pinterest and having my photos removed.

    In order to have my photos removed I have to provide a link to each and every one on their site. At first, it seemed no problem because I could search website url. It’s clear to me now, as Bob said above that there are many more images that are not available through a search on their site or via google etc. Terribly frustrating to hear back from pinterest staff that without a link to each and every stolen photo, they will not remove them even if it’s the same photo, linked to the same blog post over and over.

    I also appreciate that you touch on the fact that there are users (Granny) who do not read the fine print or understand the ramifications of ‘pinning’ other people work without permission. I believe that most of the people who have ‘pinned’ my images weren’t doing it maliciously. I just wish there was an easy way for me to have them removed in one fell swoop.

    I have been told that I should be flattered that my images were ‘pinned’ or grateful that it gave me more traffic on my blog. It just feels like stealing and the extra traffic is without value.

    • April 28, 2012 at 5:36 pm

      Sorry to hear about your Pinterest woes. The burden should not be on photographers to have to search out the violations and then go through the effort to inform Pinterest, as they coast into financial Shangri-la. That is why I think they may lose their DMCA coverage – they encourage and make it easy for others to violate your copyright interests.
      I agree – most casual or even hard-core Pinterest users are likely clueless about DMCA, copyright issues, and other legal concerns. That is why I added the piece about changing societal norms that encourage and make it “acceptable” to steal the work of others and believe it is either their right or not really illegal.
      People can have all the opinions they want about whether you should feel “flattered”, “grateful”, or any other emotion. But they are YOUR photos and people have no right to make those decisions for you. It is stealing on their part. Offer to show up at these people’s homes and take their car out for a weekend drive, telling them that they should “be flattered” that you like it so much to bother driving it! Let me know how plays out! ;)_
      Thanks for writing.

    • 7.2) Watch Out Granny
      April 28, 2012 at 7:54 pm

      Annie, don’t use the DMCA form on the Pinterest website, email them at

      Don’t chase the repins. All repins have different page identifiers, but they call up the same original pin, so the image URL is the same. Unless there are several original pins directly from your website, of course. Get the URL of the image. Demand that they remove ALL COPIES of this image IN EVERY SIZE AND FORMAT from their servers.

      Send them the list of the images, the list of where they are on your website, and copy and paste the blurb t the bottom of their DMCA complaint form. Email it to them.

  8. 8) Jenn
    April 28, 2012 at 9:32 pm

    Most pins have links attached. Ones that don’t are considered broken. I don’t pin them. I would like a way to flag that. I think copyright laws need to change in support of electronic sharing of information. You aren’t losing money. Pinners wouldn’t pay for you photos if they had to… they would use them at all… they wouldn’t even know they exists. This is free publicity. If you don’t want your work seen don’t put it online. If you don’t want your work seen don’t make art. I would think an artist should know that it is meant to be shared.

    • April 29, 2012 at 5:24 am


      You are missing the point. The photographer – not you – created the works. It is his/her decision where, when, how, and under what circumstances, the work should be shared. Because I put my photos on flickr, why should you or anyone else decide it is “ok” or “good for me” to have them posted on 1,000 other Pinterest boards? I may be ok with that decision, but that is my call, not yours.

      If you and everyone that pins my photos would want to send me a fee for doing so, I might be ok with that, but you, and the millions of other Pinterest users, are not contributing anything to me or other photographers. Pinterest, however, obviously believes they can make millions of having my and others’ content propagated all over their boards. So I and others take pictures, and Pinterest makes millions? That is a decent portion of their business plan.

      Why do you think PInterest is not allowing the uploading of videos of TV programs? Wouldn’t that be good advertising and help popularize the programs and networks? Pinterest doesn’t do so because it is well aware that it will encounter deep-pocketed studios that will clobber it in the courts to make sure that Pinterest respects the copyright laws. Pinterest’s business model is based on a fundamental premise – that photographers don’t have the time, money, or energy to confront them or others that violate their copyright. That is a cold, calculated bet on their part – not some magnanimous gesture made for the benefit of humanity. That is why I told everyone to check their Terms of Service. I guess you think it is a coincidence that Pinterest is attempting to build a multi-million dollar business, in part, based on people breaking the copyright law? Perhaps Pinterest is doing it for the good of humanity and because they care about people and want to see “art flourish”? Sure…

      BTW, would you be ok if I decided that, since you parked in a public garage and weren’t using your car for two hours, that it would increase your popularity and be good for others if everyone took your car for a ride during that time? Or maybe you will be out of your house for a few hours, and a bunch of us can come over and have a party. It would be a great way to see your home, “put it on the map”, and I am sure it would enhance your popularity as well. That’s different, right? Because it is “your” property – not someone else’s…

      “Sharing” is an interesting term. It implies that someone has made a conscience decision to provide something to someone else for some temporary, but defined time. If I post my item on flickr, 500px, and others, I have made that decision – not others. What you are describing is “Theft”, where it is not the owner of the item that has decided to provide the item to others, but someone that has no ownership or investment in the item.

      The simple answer is that it is not up to others to determine how any artist’s work is to be shared. It is up to the artist. That is the law in the USA, and under the terms of the DMCA, extends to other nations as well. And because Pinterest is building a business based on breaking theses laws, I believe they will be successfully sued by someone.


      • 8.1.1) Jenn
        April 29, 2012 at 5:25 pm

        I really disagree with your car analogy. When cars can be infinitely reproducible for free, ok. I’m not missing your point, I disagree with it and I am making my own point, thank you. I think that the photos used are not taking money away from the photographer. People aren’t using them in the ways people who pay for photos would use them. People are using photos on their pin boards. They aren’t printing them out to decorate their house or even using them on their own website (something they might make money on). Pinners are not making money off of photographers they are pinning. I think you are right, that Pinterest is breaking some copywrite laws. I, however, think the laws should be changed to suite the way people can reproduce, share, use, “steal” media these days. I’m not convinced that people sharing photos on Pinterest actually stops people from visiting photography websites. I’m not saying there shouldn’t be laws, I’m saying they need to evolve. If you don’t want someone stealing or borrowing your car, please lock the door.

        • Profile photo of Bob Vishneski Bob Vishneski
          April 29, 2012 at 5:52 pm


          Of course you do. That is because your car and house are something YOU care about. There are laws, Jenn. You and Pinterest are choosing to ignore them; it is not just Pinterest. Of the two, you and other “pinners” are actually more guilty, but not by much. I provided you links to the law.

          Your argument is the classic, “We need another law”. Pinterest is well aware of the existing copyright laws. I guarantee you its attorneys have been through them repeatedly. Pinterest is simply counting on people not to press the issue. It is betting on “apathy” and/or lack of resources on the part of the both sides of the legal equation and it believes the DMCA gives Pinterest a get out of jail free card.

          We could ask you to stop pinning, but you apparently don’t seem to care about the existing copyright laws. I have little reason, given your mindset, that you will pay attention to yet another law. What we really need is additional technology to stop Pinterest and you from using people’s photos without their permission, or perhaps a way of tracking you down easily enough and taking you to court effectively and efficiently.

          I am curious to hear your answers to these questions:
          1. What makes you believe you or others can decide what to do with others’ photos?
          2. Do you realize that you are breaking the existing copyright laws by pinning other’s photos – regardless of the reason?
          3. How many times have you asked permission before pinning a photo? Ever?

          Something else to consider:
          – Pinterest gives you the tools to commit mass copyright violation
          – You break the existing copyright laws by pinning
          – Your breaking the law enables Pinterest to generate traffic, interest, consumer behavior metrics, and other user based information that may be valuable to potential advertisers
          – Pinterest builds a business valued at $200 million (currently), in large part because you and others break the copyright laws already on the books
          – Few people are going to sue the pinners since they likely don’t have much in the way of resources.
          – Few photographers have the time, money, or energy to track down every copyright violation, so no one gets sued, and the photographers’ site loses traffic, and the photographer loses control of the distribution and promotional aspects of his work

          If you can find something wrong with my reasoning, I am all ears…


          • Jenn
            April 29, 2012 at 6:12 pm

            I’ve already explained my case to you. I’ve already addressed what you are asking about. You are obviously not trying to understand my points because your comments are ignoring what I’ve already stated. You are arguing with me over a point I’ve already acknowledged. Maybe you should think more than you type.

            • Profile photo of Bob Vishneski Bob Vishneski
              April 29, 2012 at 7:22 pm


              Trust me – I hear you loud and clear. This may come as a shock to you, but I have investigated this issue quite a bit. You didn’t answer my questions, however, because you don’t have any good answers. The only points you have made are the following:

              – You, not the people that create the photos, should be able to decide how they are distributed and what can be done with them
              – You are ok with violating the copyright laws
              – You are not convinced about any negative effects of Pinterest’s pinning process, so the people that created the photos must therefore live with your decision regarding how their photos are used
              – And of course, you want a new law to make your violating the existing laws, “ok”

              You just want to do what you want because… well, you want to – regardless of the consideration or the opinions of the photographers whose work you are pinning and the existing copyright laws that protect their right to control their work.

            • Jenn
              April 29, 2012 at 7:53 pm

              I can’t click reply on your comment so I will be replying to my own comment. I think that people who don’t want their photos shared/stolen already have ways of protecting them. I have media of my own that people can “steal” using pinterest – I am an artist myself. I am suggesting that there should be a way for people to share media, keep their media unshared, and fall within copywrite laws. I think this would require reform of the laws. You are trying to call me a plagiarist and a selfish brat when I’m really just calling for compromise. And yes, we disagree on the effect Pinterest has on the bank accounts of photographers.

            • Profile photo of Bob Vishneski Bob Vishneski
              April 29, 2012 at 8:23 pm


              Not sure how you would know what the impact of Pinterest is on the bank accounts of photographers. My solution? Listen to them, since the photos belong to them. Or do you still think you should decide for them?

              Regarding “compromise” – sounds noble – just like “Be Respectful” and “Be Authentic” on Pinterest’s Pin Etiquette. But what compromise is required? There are copyright laws. Pinners have broken the copyright laws, along with Pinterest. Maybe photographers should compromise on the jail time or fines the violators will face?

              One compromise is already implied on Pinterest’s website – Pinterest will take the photos down. If Pinterest does not take down the photo, after being requested to do so, then they risk the main loophole they have against being sued. Of course, why should any photographer be required to constantly be on the alert for copyright violations of his/her work, particularly when Pinterest encourages and allows it via its service?

              According to your logic, I should be able to steal your car, face no jail time, and then require you “compromise” with me regarding the price to get it back? Your “compromise” is not very different.


          • AMusingFool
            April 30, 2012 at 6:38 pm

            1) Fair use. An artist’s rights to their works are neither absolute nor infinite. Nor should they be.
            2) Not to put too fine a point on it, but you are almost certainly wrong.
            3) It might be the polite thing to do, but perhaps not. Imagine getting 10k requests a day for people to pin your photos. You going to be able to reply to all of them.

            Copyright, as currently framed, was done when copying a work took large amounts of time and money. That is no longer the case, so the absurd fines that apply are still out there, and must go.

            You want the ability to throw someone in jail? Then you better be able to back up claims of damage. Not, “all this copying has cost me $50k dollars”, I mean something along the lines of, “this copy on this web site did $5k harm, and here is how.”. Because your right to pursue your chosen profession does not outweigh the right of someone else to be able to pursue any profession (or to spend time with their family, or to enjoy works of art, or whatever).

            Pinterest is not violating your copyrights. The people posting your photos might or might not be. It isn’t pinterest’s fault if they do.

            You want to talk some more about copyright’s terms? Why is ‘Gone With the Wind’ still under copyright? Under the laws under which it was made, it would have entered the public domain decades ago. All those involved in making it stopped being paid decades ago. Yet it is still owned by one company. Where’s the public good of it still being owned?

            Don’t forget that the whole purpose of copyright is just to incentivize making art.

            Are you making your photos purely because of how long you’ll have copyright control over them? I doubt it, but if so, I suggest you find another business.

            • Jenn
              April 30, 2012 at 8:05 pm

              I agree that a lot of what goes on with Pinterest falls under fair use. And I think most people’s media that ends up there don’t mind/like it. Some people don’t like it and they need some protection. But that doesn’t mean shutting down the site. Thank you, Fool, for making some sense.

            • Profile photo of Bob Vishneski Bob Vishneski
              April 30, 2012 at 8:56 pm


              Have you looked over the law? The purpose of copyright is to protect intellectual property rights. Without such assurances, there is little incentive for people to take risks, invest their time and energy, or opportunity to benefit from the fruits of their efforts. Who are you or Jenn (or anyone else) to determine what can be done with the property of others?

              Since Pinterest is deliberately encouraging others to break the law and building a business based on it, it is running afoul of the piece of the law that gives them protection from prosecution. I already outlined the criteria for determining this – the same criteria that Napster, Limewire, Napster, Kazaa, and the others violated. Seems the courts have already decided against your argument. Download any “fair use” music from any of them lately?

              Rarely is the “public good” served by diminishing the rights of the individual. The public good argument is often made by people looking for “free stuff” and control over what they can’t produce on their own. If people choose to provide their works in public forums, it should be their call – not yours. If you wish to create works of art and give them away, no one is stopping you.

              I am not sure why Gone With The Wind should not be copyrighted it. It has value. Why should you get it for free? If you live in a house handed down to you by your grandparents, should it be turned into public property? Maybe it would also serve the public good? Perhaps it has been in your family too long? Maybe “fair use” of your auto or house should involve others using them?

              It is always easy to be magnanimous and generous with other people’s property, isn’t it? I anticipated the “freebie” argument in my post and already described the associated mindset. All you are doing is reinforcing it with your arguments. Complaining because you can’t do what you want with what other people rightfully own isn’t exactly a very compelling or appealing argument – legally or morally.

            • AMusingFool
              May 1, 2012 at 12:01 pm

              I hate to say it, Bob, but you have completely failed to understand my argument.

              Plus, your basic assumption about the purpose of copyright law is wrong: I suggest you start reading here. That makes it clear that the purpose of copyright law is to benefit the public. That it should do it by benefiting creators is merely a mechanism.

              The entire purpose is the (long-term) enrichment of the public domain. If you don’t understand what value that has, I’m not sure I can explain it. But let’s try this. Shakespeare’s works still have value too; should those still be under copyright? That would be absurd. But that’s what you’re arguing.

              You keep bringing up “fair use” of a car or a house. That’s so far missing the mark as to be completely useless. There’s no level of analogy there. The problem is that someone taking “fair use” of my car would necessarily mean that I can’t use it. Someone copying one of my photos does not preclude my using it. This is the point you’re repeatedly failing to comprehend. (And that’s why Jenn made her comment about “When cars can be infinitely reproducible for free, ok.”)

              This is why calling this stuff “Intellectual Property” is misleading and skews the discussion in ways that are not helpful.

            • Profile photo of Bob Vishneski Bob Vishneski
              May 1, 2012 at 7:45 pm


              I believe you are confusing the US Constitution with the “Gospel According To Marx.” An individual is part of the “public”. If you don’t protect the individual, you can’t claim to protect the group. What “public domain” is enriched by diminishing the rights of the individual? Our founding documents are a testimony to the concern for and protection of the individual against his/her government and the rule of the mob.

              The purpose of the copyright law is to protect the hardwork, ingenuity, creativity, and resourcefulness of the individual – not ensure freeloaders that they can have free/low cost access to the hard work of others. What you are describing is “from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs” – from the Communist Manifesto – not our Constitution or Bill of Rights.

              If you give others the right to control the the distribution of the photographer’s photos, you have deprived him/her of that right. Yes, it is different than taking and using your car, but in both cases, you have taken away a right guaranteed under the law. Someone copying your photos and distributing them according to their whims doesn’t preclude you from using them, but it does prevent you from executing, at your sole discretion, your ability to choose how, when, how often, and in which forums, your photos are distributed. 1 million people pinning someone else’s photos essentially take that person’s ability to control the distribution of the fruits of his/her labor. And the fact that Pinterest fosters and enables this to happen via their service makes them party to the crime – the same way that LimeWire was ruled guilty of providing a forum and service for pirates of music and videos.

              The notion that “technology demands” the copyright laws to change is absurd. We didn’t change the copyright laws when people began pirating music and videos. The companies didn’t acquiesce, but rather developed new technology to inhibit/prevent theft and stepped up enforcement of their rights by taking the content pirates to courts and shutting them down. Because more people and a few companies such as Pinterest find “new and innovative” means of breaking the law and engaging in piracy (so despised in its 18th century form that it was specifically called out in our Constitution), doesn’t necessitate our changing our laws to accommodate them, but rather using new technologies to detect and prosecute them. According to your philosophy, if enough people break the law using technology, we should change the law to make their crimes legal.

              But the most obvious flaw in your and Jenn’s (along with others) position is that society is somehow better served by your unfettered access to and use of the works of others. Why isn’t society better by having everyone that pins a photo send $1 to the photographer that took the photo? Why isn’t it better for Pinterest to give the photographer another $1 per pin and thus share their revenue stream with the very people that make the site worth visiting? Perhaps many more artists would make their works available to Pinterest if they actually got paid and were thus able to spend more time in the creative process, rather than filling our request forms on Pinterest to have their content taken off the site? How’s that for “public good?” Why don’t you and Jenn lead the way toward a mass change in Pinterest policy whereby the people providing the very content that makes Pinterest the least bit interesting actually benefit from both the pinners and Pinterest? Think about how much creative energy will be unleashed around the globe, when people that provide the content can count on being compensated by others that get value from their work. What a concept, huh?

              Or do you think that others should get value from the works of others, pay nothing, and Pinterest should amass a valuation of $200 million based on the creativity of others? Where is the concern on the part of the pinners’ and Pinterest for the very artists that provide those millions of “beautiful things” everyone seems to cherish and are proving so valuable to Pinterest? Nowhere… Funny how your definition of the “public good” seems to be rather self-serving – e.g. you getting something for free…

            • AMusingFool
              May 2, 2012 at 7:21 am

              Once again, you have utterly failed to understand what I’m saying. Let me see if I can simplify it for you.

              First, you cannot equate copying a picture with theft. They are not the same thing, legally or morally.

              Second, you cannot make something that the vast majority of the population is doing illegal.

              Third, you cannot legislate scarcity. All commerce is, at its heart, providing value to the customer. Legislating scarcity is removing value from the customer.

            • AMusingFool
              May 2, 2012 at 7:40 am

              And to get back to your attempt at a point about the Constitution, it says “To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts…” That would be the why for copyright law. You’ll note that it does not say, “To enrich Creative and Inventive individuals…”. This is not an accident.

            • Profile photo of Bob Vishneski Bob Vishneski
              May 2, 2012 at 4:48 pm


              You obviously don’t understand any of these issues. A 1 minute read of “Copyright” on Wikipedia will debunk most of your arguments. You simply keep rehashing the same worn-out notion that you have the rights to the property of others. You don’t – legally or morally. You would understand this if you would acquaint yourself with the law.

              And your notion of the public good seems to be inexorably linked getting something free, while theft seems to be perfectly acceptable, as long as it is done so in significant numbers.

              That’s not a world view I would brag about…


            • AMusingFool
              May 2, 2012 at 10:49 pm

              Well, you’re right about one thing. One of us does not have a clue what the other is talking about. You’ve completely misread what I’ve written many times (and misrepresented it, to boot).

              If you’d done more than a one minute read of wikipedia (or listened to someone not speaking for the RIAA or MPAA), you might see that what I’ve said is significantly more nuanced than the Marxism you’re accusing me of.

              You might also be less surprised when Pinterest’s business model survives legal challenge.

              Anyway, here’s something you might want to read (though I don’t expect that you will):

          • AMusingFool
            May 2, 2012 at 11:42 pm

            Here, let me put my assertions in a list, so you can show me how one minute with wikipedia is enough to put the lie to all my claims.

            The descriptive claims I have made:
            1) Pinterest is not violating anyone’s copyrights. Users on the site might be.
            2) Case law has established that the safe harbors that Pinterest would undoubtedly use, if sued, are significantly harder to breach than you’ve represented. Youtube is still in business, so I don’t see this as particularly controversial.
            3) An artist’s control of their work is less than absolute. Fair use can be asserted. The Supreme Court established (years ago) a four factor test to see if it applies.
            4) It is impossible for Pinterest to establish copyright on a photo they haven’t seen before, particularly in an automated way. It is also impossible for them to know, when copyright does apply, whether the usage is legal or not.
            5) For someone starting out, copyright infringement is less significant than lack of notice.
            6) Even if Pinterest can be used for copyright infringement (which it obviously can), it also has significant non-infringing uses. (I implied a reference to the Betamax case, which established the importance of this.)
            7) Theft and copyright infringement are not the same thing, and it is unhelpful to the discussion to keep equating them.
            8) Copyright law exists to serve the public good, not for it’s own sake or just to enrich a few people.

            The prescriptive claims I have made:
            1) The current contours of copyright law, especially with respect to digital copying, are unsustainable, and must change for legal, technological, economic, and even practical reasons. If you want the exact reasons, go back and actually read what I wrote.
            2) The current length of copyright is absurd, and counterproductive in just about every way possible.

            So, feel free to tell me where each of those points is wrong; you’ve just said that’s an easy task.

            As a side note, one of your comments asked if I’ve ever asked permission before pinning a photo. I have never pinned a photo.

            • Profile photo of Bob Vishneski Bob Vishneski
              May 3, 2012 at 6:37 am


              I have already addressed these issues in the article and subsequent posts. And I read more than a few paragraphs on copyright law. Your arguments arguments boil down to, “I want to be able to copy the works of others and since the technology and Pinterest allow me to do it, the legal system should change” – little more.

              1. Already discussed in the article – 3 tests and I believe Pinterest violates all 3.
              2. Limewire, Napster, Grokster, etc. are case law as well. Their primary purpose was to skirt the copyright law. I believe someone can make an effective case that Pinterest falls into the same category.
              3. Making a copy of a CD that you bought is different than a million users pinning photos they haven’t purchased on their boards. That is more akin to counterfeiting.
              4. While perhaps tricky, it is no excuse for breaking the law. If you routinely receive stolen goods and they are a large part of your inventory, it will be hard to feign ignorance.
              5. The law applies equally – not in one manner for the already successful and another for the aspiring artist/photographer.
              6. It can be used for non-infringement purposes, which I already discussed in my article (you might want to read it again, since I keep mentioning a number of points I already made), but it primarily is used for people to violate the copyright laws, by putting a copy of the photos of others on various boards.
              7. If you violate copyright laws, you can indeed be fined, jailed, and will have to return and/or shut down any service that distributes the copyrighted materials. I gave you links to the DMCA. If you read it, you would know this.
              8. Copyright laws exist to protect the individual and his/her ability to profit from his/her creative talents – not to provide a infinite source of freebies for people that have little respect for the intellectual property of others. You apparently don’t understand the concept. You describe a Marxist Utopia, whereby if someone creates something, everyone is entitled to it. Do I really need to show you the patents created in the US vs. the rest of the world? The disparity of inventions and business start-ups for the US vs. the rest of the world? Are the 8 out of 10 illegal software installations in China “good for the world”?

              More sophisticated digital rights management capabilities for photos are required, such as those for movies, along with additional enforcement of the current laws – not caving into massive copyright violation and changing the laws to accommodate those that break the laws. As I pointed out to Jenn, making the case that evolving technologies, that enable us to break existing laws, should therefore be made legal is a morally bankrupt (and disastrous financially as well) approach to establishing the Rule of Law and protecting the rights of individuals. You have no more right to free use of someone else’s photos or other intellectual property than you do the right to their car, home or bank account. That is the law and it isn’t up for debate.


            • AMusingFool
              May 3, 2012 at 11:29 am

              Ok, my original point in posting was pointing out how your very premises were wrong (and wrong-headed). But you got me to go back to re-read in more detail. Let’s go back to my list.

              #1) Your three tests are all in the context (in the DMCA) of whether a service breaks a digital lock. Pinterest’s service has no connection with digital locks. Bringing up those three tests is completely beside the point. It would only be relevant if people were posting encrypted photos, and Pinterest’s service provided a means to do the decryption.
              #2) Those are case law. Many people have recognized that copyright laws must change, in some fashion. All of those companies are ones that attempted to figure out what the new contours must be. And they’ve helped refine the discussion.
              #3) Copying a CD for private use is far from the only instance of fair use.
              #4) You’re again equating copyright and theft (I’ll come back to this)
              #5) I never argued that it didn’t apply equally. My point is that it is pretty much impossible for copyright infringement to hurt you, unless you’re very well known (even then, I have my doubts, but I’ll at least concede the possibility, and that it’s worth looking into).
              #6) You’re making a legally pointless argument. Whether something is the primary purpose of something is, for one thing, a judgement call. But legally speaking, it doesn’t matter what the primary purpose is. It matters whether it is the only purpose.
              #7) I didn’t say that copyright law doesn’t exist. I said that theft and infringement are not the same thing. One would think that the fact that there are separate laws for each is a strong argument in my favor.
              #8) No. That is not why they exist; that is merely how they work. They exist ‘To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts’.

              You still have not understood my arguments at all; they are not a “Marxist Utopia”. But I give up on trying to get that through to you.

              You make several classic, faulty assumptions. 1) Patents are not a useful measure of inventive activity. As an example, several countries do not allow patents on medical treatments (think drugs, in particular). Do these companies do nothing but copy things invented elsewhere? They do not.

              The rate of start-ups being created has far more to do with financial laws, and hiring/firing ones, and with infrastructure (ie: if I make a product, can I get it to market?) than it does with copyright enforcement. You’ll notice that there was no huge increase in business creation when the DMCA passed. You’ll also note that there was a decrease when Sarbanes-Oxley passed.

              You also mention that business losses due to Chinese piracy are estimated to be $50B. Estimated by whom? That would be the RIAA and MPAA. Essentially, to be even able to hope that they are close, you need to accept the following assumptions: a) all piracy is done by people who can afford to pay full price, b) everyone who copies something would pay full price if piracy were not an option, and c) the original is available for purchase where the person doing the piracy is. All of those are pretty iffy, at best, individually. Taken together? Pfft.

              As evidence that they are not near perfect, consider that the total size of the recording industry is
              ~$12B, and the movie industry is ~$30B. Would they be more than doubled in size, without Chinese piracy? Careful out on that limb.

              To get back to assertions I have made, one that I forgot in my list was that Pinterest was not (and is not) relying on apathy from individual photographers to stay in business. To state, a bit more clearly, what I’ve already implied: Every argument you made about Pinterest violating copyright law would apply equally to Youtube. I assure you that Youtube has not been met with legal indifference (nor were they, even before they were bought out by Google (ie: before they had access to gobs of cash to defend themselves)). They have not gone out of business and are, in fact, worth considerably more than Pinterest.

            • AMusingFool
              May 3, 2012 at 11:41 am

              Another note of historical interest. Hollywood is located in California because they were getting away from East Coast enforcement of Edison’s patents (and associated licensing fees) of filmmaking equipment.

            • Profile photo of Bob Vishneski Bob Vishneski
              May 3, 2012 at 7:58 pm


              I am afraid you still don’t grasp the core of the copyright laws, and it seems that you are not going to. Copyright laws do not have to change to accommodate theft, anymore than laws against robbery have to be relaxed because of an increase in bank robberies, or rape laws need to be lightened because people use technology to perpetrate their crimes, or identity theft made legal because technology now allows it. I could go on quite a bit regarding the perspective you have… but I won’t.

              The fundamental principles of our government exist to protect the private property and rights of the individuals against their government and mob rule. What you continue to advocate for is sacrificing the rights of photographers and others because someone invents a technology that makes it easier to steal their work, and because you think others are entitled to their work – without any compensation or consideration. What’s the slogan, “Demand Your Right To Take And Use The Work Of Others!”? Not exactly something to be proud of…

              Today, photographers lose their ability to control their photos. Tomorrow, filmmakers join their ranks. Software copyrights soon follow. Patent protection of engineer inventions and drugs are next to go. And then…? Quite a slippery slope, huh? What you advocate is not the public good, but rather the public greed. And societies that care so little about the rights of the individual can never claim to care about the group. I suggest reading Ayn Rand’s “We The Living”, to get some insights into the workings of the “public good”, to see how such arguments unfold.

              Thanks for sharing your ideas and thoughts, even if I could not disagree more with most of them. Your ideas have show some of the popular perspectives on this topic, just as those who have argued from the other side, such as our friend, “Granny”, have weighed in with their thoughts and concerns. This issue will undoubtedly play itself out in the courts yet.

              Good luck,

        • Watch Out Granny
          April 29, 2012 at 8:33 pm

          “People are using photos on their pin boards. They aren’t […] using them on their own website (something they might make money on).”

          You’re not putting the photos on your website. You’re putting them on Ben Silbermann’s website. You don’t make money from your pin board, but Ben SIlbermann certainly will. He has recently hired the fellow who managed the adverts on Facebook, because he intends to monetize the pages.

          “I’m not convinced that people sharing photos on Pinterest actually stops people from visiting photography websites.”

          I have 2000 visitors per day. I had 8 visitors from Pinterest this entire month of April. My whole website is pinned and repinned to the extent that there are more of my images on Pinterest, than on my website. You think this has no effect? OK.

          “If you don’t want someone stealing or borrowing your car, please lock the door.”

          YOU ARE CORRECT. Henceforth, my content will no longer be freely distributed from my website. With Pinterest and all the other Pinterest-like websites, my model of free content is no longer viable. I have to be flexible and adapt if I am to survive. I will post tiny thumbnails, and users will have to pay. I will, indeed, as you suggest, put everything under lock and key. The free content stops now. BTW, I’m not a photographer, my material is instructional graphics.

          • Profile photo of Bob Vishneski Bob Vishneski
            April 29, 2012 at 8:57 pm

            Watch Out Granny,
            There needs to be some form or digital asset management applied to photos, so that only photographers could have the ability to assign, sell, and manage their rights easily, and sites posting them would immediately be notified that the photo in question did not have rights associated with it. Ideally, the lack of appropriate rights would prevent the image from being shown beyond a small thumbnail.
            Jenn thinks it is reasonable for you to spend your entire day searching through Pinterest to find violations, and then filling out paperwork to have them taken down from the site. After all, you don’t have anything better to do, right? :)

            But she also wants her own rights to determine which photos she pins of yours for her own use. She wants the law changed to enhance her rights to copy your photos, and diminish your voice in the process. Now that’s what I call, “compromise”…


            • Watch Out Granny
              April 29, 2012 at 10:28 pm

              I don’t want to rag on Jenn too much, she is doing us the favor or expressing opinions that are held by a large number of people.

              It’s not really her fault. She can’t see that I have not seen the outdoors for a month because I’m filing take down notices, dawn to dusk. She’s not aware that it’s not just about photographs, but a large variety of graphical content that are differentially affected. Pinterest works out for some artists, but is disastrous for others. How can she tell which is which? Like many people, she thinks that photographers only make money selling rights to their photos. How could she know that some people out there literally live off a free-content-with-ads model, that depend on traffic? She can’t be expected to understand the underskirts of the internet – she uses it, she doesn’t run it. She can’t see that while eyes spend more time being occupied on Pinterest, they will not be spending time on the websites the material comes from. She hasn’t seen the effect of Facebook on other sites where people used to interact socially, the way webmasters have. She can’t predict the impact that Pinterest will have on the display of art on the internet, like I can. Images are something that once put the internet, the author surrenders all rights to it, never mind the artists that derive income from the very display of their art on their websites. She’s not privy to that world where the image is worth more than the object itself; how I have to sell work that is universally admired for much less than it costs to make it, but made tons of money from displaying photographs of it on the web. It’s not just Jenn. It’s the kind of thing that average people simply do not know about. It’s not common knowledge.

              She’s just a normal gal, out there, enjoying the pictures and wanting to line them up in columns and have strangers follow her and approve her good taste with repins. That’s all. If I didn’t know what I know, I would think exactly like her.

              As for the other matter of digital management, we have the EXIF data. We could make greater use of it, but then again, Pinterest strips it from the images that are uploaded in its vast gut. Getting the internet to agree on a convention of how browsers ought to handle different instructions on EXIF data – that will take 20 years.

              The only hope, in my opinion, is a test case. Once it’s all sorted out in the court, lawmakers and prosecutors will have the legal precedent to make arrests, grant expensive damages, shut down Pinterest, and discourage anyone attempting a similar scheme. Sure, people will try every once is a while, like Megaupload, but I’d rather have a legal whack-a-mole going that a giant free-for-all.

            • Jenn
              April 29, 2012 at 11:04 pm

              I don’t really like it when you put words in my mouth. I said that I would like people who want to keep their media off Pinterest they should be able to. And pinners should be able to pin content that is allowed to be pinned. Is Pinterest set up this way now? No. And the laws aren’t in line this these ideas because the laws are out of date. By the way, I understand that we are not just talking about photographers, I was using them as an example so simplicity’s sake. I don’t know why I’m being treated like the fall guy when I’m not saying “Leave Pinterest alone!!! Waaaawaaa! Don’t take away my pins! You all suck!” I’m saying it would be nice if people could pin, because I find it a valuable resource, but I think there should be safe guards in place for people who don’t want material on there. I am still not convinced if is taking money away from the people who make the media, but I do understand that they feel taken advantage of.

            • Watch Out Granny
              April 30, 2012 at 7:01 am

              “I said that I would like people who want to keep their media off Pinterest they should be able to.”

              We certainly agree here. Right now, it’s extraordinarily difficult to keep one’s media off. I am unable to, right now. If Pinterest would disallow pins from Google Images and other search engines, for instance, that would be a vast improvement – at least I’d be able to find my work to have it taken down. If the pins would be just small thumbnails, I would shut up about it completely.

              “I am still not convinced if is taking money away from the people who make the media”

              Wanna see my logs? Your jaw will drop at how much this is hurting. January, February, March, April… very steep decline for me. I am especially vulnerable, I think, because my sites are basically like Pinterest, only it’s all my content, 10 years of content. My audience is the same as Pinterest. It’s hurting real bad. I’ve lost 2/3 of my income. I am not exaggerating to make a point. Two thirds. Lost. Four months already, and more to come. I don’t know what I’ll eat this summer, summer is always slow, I always barely fit the budget. Usually savings from the spring bulge carry me through. I can find no other explanation for this decline. The only difference between this year, and other years, is that Pinterest has my content on their servers, and that’s where people are preferring to look at it.

            • Jenn
              May 2, 2012 at 9:01 am

              I got told I don’t understand the car analogy because photographs aren’t things I care about, things I hold dear. But really you mean they aren’t things I get paid for. Is it more selfish to want to look and share art for free or to get paid for art? I’m not saying you shouldn’t get paid for your art. I wouldn’t visit the blog and websites on pinterest if it weren’t for pinterest. So how exactly does it hurt your business? If pinterest didn’t exist I wouldn’t be giving you money (directly or in visits, or in any other way), so how is it taking money away from you? I don’t know why you are losing money but I don’t see how pinterest is to blame. Are you blaming pinterest for being your competition? As Fool said, the copyright laws are not to protect your income, they are to promote creativity. I agree that you should be able to keep your content off of pinterest. But that doesn’t mean pinterest or pinners are bad, technology and laws need to catch up.

          • Watch Out Granny
            May 2, 2012 at 4:11 pm

            And there’s this incomprehensible word mishmash:

            “Is it more selfish to want to look and share art for free or to get paid for art? I’m not saying you shouldn’t get paid for your art. ”

            Are you trying to say that pinners are selflessly sharing and looking at art, and that artists are being selfish for wanting to be paid for it, saying in effect that I shouldn’t derive advertising income from displaying my free ceramic tutorials, while denying that you’re saying that I shouldn’t get paid for my art?

            My brain hurts.

        • Watch Out Granny
          May 2, 2012 at 3:58 pm


          I’m beginning to think you lack either the ability or will to understand – I’ve already explained it in detail. Your comments are internally illogical and make little sense as a whole – at first I gave you the benefit of the doubt, but now I see, it’s just a babyish wa-wa-wa I-wanna-keep-doing-it, see-if-you-can-stop-me mentality.

          The argument that because a lot of pinners are doing it, it ought to be legal… jeez… THIRTEEN THOUSAND (13,000) people took a gun last year and killed someone… make it legal already!!! That’s not even counting shootings causing mere injury and not death! 180,00o armed robberies! Waaaa everybody is doing it! The laws need to catch up with firearm technology! We’re just sharing bullets! What is more inspiring than a well-executed stick up? We have 2.5 MILLION people in jail now, plus all the felons that have served their sentence and are currently free… crime is popular, I want my piece of the action! Please tell me you’re not serious with the notion that with everyone on Pinterest infringing copyrights, the law should just bend to allow it.

          “I wouldn’t visit the blog and websites on pinterest if it weren’t for pinterest.”

          I think you’re trying to say that Pinterest encourages you to visit websites hitherto unknown to you. Your individual behavior is of little consequence, I’m speaking not of individuals, but of AGGREGATES. In the aggregate, people that used to spend their finite internet time visiting creators’ websites, which are, from the lazy pinners’ perspective, inconveniently displayed on different domains, can now spend that finite internet time looking at the same content on Pinterest.

          ” So how exactly does it hurt your business?”

          Because all those people that were once going to MY WEBSITE to see MY CONTENT are now seeing it on BEN SILBERMANN’s Pinterest. He just hired someone to put ads on his website. I already have ads on mine. So who will reap the advertising revenue from MY WORK??? Ben Silbermann, that’s who. Do you get it now?

          “As Fool said, the copyright laws are not to protect your income, they are to promote creativity.”

          Gah! I’m pushing myself creatively and investing a lot of money in costly molding supplies and ceramic studio rental… because I derive an income from it! I derive an income from it, because before Pinterest, my copyright was respected, allowing me to make great online tutorials and show inspiring photographs of fantastic ceramic projects, and make a living! Of course copyright laws exist to protect my income… there is no other reason for copyright laws to exist other than for protecting my ability to profit from my own creative work! If copyright laws don’t protect my income, I’ll go work at McDonald’s, we can see how creative I’ll get with your burger trimmings.

          I have to stop laughing, jeez, how are copyright laws promoting my creativity without protecting my income? Chuckle, chuckle. Just, how? Have you actually given this any thought at all? Copyright laws are written to keep me creative through what means, if not by protecting my income? I’d like to know, I like a good joke. Explain it to me please.

          • Jenn
            May 2, 2012 at 6:20 pm

            Well, I’m glad we each other in the same light, Bob. Granny, I’m not saying pinning others’ work is honorable, I’m saying it is not dishonorable and neither is asking money for it. I’m saying that pinners aren’t saying it is their work, they are not making money on it themselves, and so they are not stealing. If you are making less money, I’m sorry. I agree people should be able to protect their work from getting on pinterest, or possibly, as Fool suggested, getting money through pins. Also, it is now about bending the laws to allow things “I” think are right, it is about creating modern copyright laws to fit the way media has changed.

            • Profile photo of Bob Vishneski Bob Vishneski
              May 2, 2012 at 7:06 pm


              Your notion of changing the copyright laws to enable you and Pinterest to violate copyright laws is nonsensical.

              Identity theft is on the rise, with criminals making more use of sophisticated computer technology. If someone cleans out your bank account and 401K, and robs your house as a result of their use of this new technology, should we suggest that we change the laws related to fraud and theft as well? Maybe our laws relating to theft are outdated and need to be relaxed? How about fair use of your financial and material goods?

              If large numbers of people start using FourSquare, Facebook, or other GPS-enabled programs to target people for robbery or rape, are you going to argue to relax these laws too? New technology… new laws to allow the crime?

              Hint: The number of people that commit a given crime and the means by which they commit these acts (types of technology) do not determine whether we allow the crime.

              These are inane argument at best.


            • Watch Out Granny
              May 2, 2012 at 10:41 pm

              “I’m not saying pinning others’ work is honorable, I’m saying it is not dishonorable…”

              It’s either honorable, or dishonorable. It can’t be “not honorable” but “not dishonorable” in the same breath, what does that even mean?

              “…and neither is asking money for it. ”

              Neither? Who is neither here? Asking what money and for what? Are you saying that asking money for (fill in the blank) is also simultaneously not honorable” but “not dishonorable” ?

              “pinners aren’t saying it is their work, they are not making money on it themselves,”

              Do you think it lessens my financial loss that “pinners” aren’t the ones profiting? BEN SILBERMANN IS making money. You are taking my LIVING and handing it over to BEN SILBERMANN.

              BEN SILBERMANN is profiting.

    • 8.2) Watch Out Granny
      April 29, 2012 at 8:14 am

      My images are not yours to share, they are mine to share.

      My content is free, I share it with the world; however my income is directly proportional to the amount of traffic on my website. Pinterest is taking away this traffic. By creating a copy of my website (all my images are pinned already, thousands of them), they are forcing me to compete not only against my own work, but my own work thrown in with everybody else’s. I’m losing this battle, and can no longer make money from my own work. Ben Silbermann is making money from my work, now. His Granny Army stole it, and now he’s got millions.

      What happens when my traffic is lost and I cannot make money sharing my content with my visitors for free? I have to put it under lock and key, and sell it. No more freebies. That golden era is over.

      This is the consequence of sharing other people’s work. Eventually, you’ll be cut off at the source, and the sharing from the creators will vanish. Is that the internet you want? Just to have an electronic cork board to have stranger admire your refined taste in cupcakes?

      • April 29, 2012 at 4:50 pm

        Watch Out Granny,
        Ben is counting on massive theft to make his fortune. I hope you and others that are being negatively impacted will take action. You may want to consult with ASMP. They closely monitor such issues and attempt to influence legislation in this area. I would put together a good, solid case, and approach an intellectual property/copyright attorney and run it by him/her. Can’t hurt. The 18 page DMCA summary would be a good foundation upon which to base your concerns.

  9. April 29, 2012 at 2:03 am


    The problem with sites like Pinterest (or any other content sharing site) is that the avarage internet user hardly has a clue about what copyright infringement really is. Most got the message about movies and music records. Though look at youtube and you’ll quickly see the amount of copyrighted material that’s still available down there.

    Some will see it as free advertising (and to some level it might be that too) but for others it really is taking away revenue.

    Another thing is that the law has plenty of holes regarding the internet. Especially since the internet is a very international matter. A site can be owned by an American, has it’s domain in Europe and be hosted in Asia. And and African user posts content from an Australian artist. makes it very complex to deal with it in court.. (remember the pirate bay)

    My personal belief is that you, as a content owner should be aware of this, and if you find this really important for yourself build in as much means to make your material hard or unattractive (inconvenient) to just copy. it’s a bit like with a car. if you leave it unlocked with the key’s in the ingnition, it’s still not legal for someone to steal your car. But the officer and your insurance will put the blame on you too.

    • April 29, 2012 at 4:46 pm

      You are indeed correct – most users don’t understand copyright laws. It is equally true that as many likely don’t care, and have no problem stealing a photo anymore than they do with stealing a song or movie.
      The technology has clearly moved ahead of the law and security systems. I envision that someday, we might be able to encrypt our photos and then provide authorization keys (automatically) based on a payment or permission basis. This works for software, although it is not foolproof. Same goes for digital music. I suspect such encryption capabilities will someday be available. Flickr or 500px has the infrastructure to handle something like this. I started thinking a good bit about this while researching the Pinterest article but need to put some more time into the idea.

      I agree with the car analogy, but would also say that Pinterest is facilitating theft. They encourage and they provide the tools to make it happen. Sounds like “an accomplice to crime”… ;)

  10. 10) Melissa
    April 29, 2012 at 6:26 am

    I am so glad you have addressed this issue. For a while I had Pinterest board myself but after a couple of weeks I took it down for the reasons you have so carefully articulated. I’m a “recovered lawyer,” now working as a landscape designer and freelance garden photographer. I have a WordPress blog called Garden Shoots, and because it is not a site the “no pinning” code provided by Pinterest doesn’t seem to work (either that or I haven’t figured out how to make it work). My website is flash-based so aside from screen shots, images from that can’t be copied easily.

    Jenn’s comments above unfortunately seem to be commonly held. “You should be flattered . . .” or “You’ll get more exposure this way” are the comments I’ve heard when – on a few other occasions – I’ve found my photos re-blogged or embedded in other websites without my permission. It’s been amazing to discover how often I have to repeat the word “copyright violation” in some of these instances to get the photo in question removed. And that’s despite the fact that the home page of my blog has warnings all over it about not reproducing material from it without express authorization from me (not to mention the watermarks on the photos).

    Thanks again for this post. I fear it will take more than some “un-cool” lawyers to turn the tide on Pinterest.

  11. April 29, 2012 at 4:36 pm


    Thanks for taking time to share your thoughts as well. According to Jenn’s mindset, software developers, singers, actors, photographers, painters, etc. shouldn’t be allowed to control the fruits of their efforts. If photos can be copied and distributed, why not movies? Music? Software programs?
    And even if someone isn’t making money on their photography, it is still their work – not Jenn’s to share as she sees fit. Pinterest is hoping that this mindset will prevail and it will become “acceptable” to steal the work of others, so they can continue to build a nice business around stolen work. I suppose the same thing could be said of a fence ( Pinterest is not directly selling people’s photos, although it doesn’t rule out what it might do with them. Even when you leave, Pinterest and its users can do what they want with your photos:

    Following termination or deactivation of your account, or if you remove any User Content from your account or your boards, Pinterest may retain your User Content for a commercially reasonable period of time for backup, archival, or audit purposes. Furthermore, Pinterest and other Users may retain and continue to display, reproduce, re-pin, modify, re-arrange, and distribute any of your User Content that other Users have re-pinned to their own boards or which you have posted to public or semi-public areas of the Service.

    Pinterest is counting on someone not challenging it. I suspect they will be proven wrong, particularly on the issue of their 512(C) protection. If they people are wantonly violating copyright at Pinterest’s urging, and through their service, I believe a good attorney can make the case that copyright violation is so widespread, it is laughable to consider that Pinterest giving people the right to request that their content be taken down constitutes anything more than a feeble attempt to skirt the law. Did you go through the 18 page summary of the DMCA? I would be interested in your interpretation.

    Maybe you can come out of “retirement” and take them on? :)


  12. 12) Michael
    April 29, 2012 at 10:06 pm

    Hi Bob,

    Like the article it is fascinating how everyone believes that if it is on the internet it should be free for anyone to do what they want with. Do you think that some of the attitude difference is in the artist versus professional artist issues?

    For a photographer who just takes photos because they love to take photos pinterest could be a great shot in the arm and vindication of their ability and time spent taking photos whereas for a professional who earns their living the pinterest attention offers nothing of any benefit to them and could in fact reduce the interest in their product due to oversaturation and a whole host of other reasons.

    I also think that a lot of people forget that a photograph can also be a work of art of its own! If a painter has a photo of their painting put up on pinterest they dont care as they know that it isn’t the painting on pinterest just the photo of it. However for a photographic work this is not true. Is the photo of an object or is it the object? Does that even make sense?? :)

    I’m sure there are hundreds of things they could do and that their legal team have filed away for rainy days when they are ordered to change but until then they will push the boundary as far as they can.

  13. April 29, 2012 at 10:46 pm

    Thanks, Michael. I suspect that most people simply don’t understand copyright law and even more simply don’t care. I don’t know that people make any distinctions between pro and amateur. I doubt it.
    How someone sees a given person, scene, or thing can be unique. His/her use of a given lens, camera setting, and then post-processing in Lightroom or Photoshop adds to the uniqueness of the photo.

    In the internet age, where “free” seems to be the norm, it is not surprising to find that people such as Jenn (above), believe that they should be able to use the photos of others, despite the copyright laws designed to protect intellectual property.

    The proliferation of digital cameras and explosion of photos has significantly impacted the stock photo agency business. Years ago, a photographer could sell their stock photos for a decent fee. Those prices have plummeted, and it makes little sense for a client to hire someone specifically to take photos of generic scenes that they can easily find on many of the online stock agencies.

    Pinterest is testing the waters to see what the public will tolerate – specifically, what those whose copyrights are being violated will do. I am sure they have contingency plans lined up, along with an assessment of the risk involved.


  14. 14) Mark
    April 30, 2012 at 1:53 am

    Hi Bob,

    This is a different Mark to the one who commented above (a Mark II so to speak, but without the Autofocus issues of a certain camera with the same name).

    This article is the first time I’ve ever come across Pinterest so I don’t know how exactly the site works so I hope that you can clarify a point for me.
    I have a friend who got a Nikon D5100 for his birthday. I sent him an email with a URL to an excellent review of the camera that someone we all should know did. How is this different to if I pinned a link to one of the photos from the review with a note “Hey, check out this great review of the D5100!” (I don’t know if you can add notes?).
    Now I completely admit I may totally be not getting how Pinterest works but if I can navagete there through a URL and I could send this URL to someone how is that different to pinning a photo to the board that links back to the original webpage? Or can you pin a photo without linking it to the source? Or worse, by sharing a link to Nasam’s D5100 review am I violating the law? (If so I’m sorry Nasam!).

    I certainly agree with your points around copyright etc, my questions are mainly around being unsure of the exact mechanics of the site itself.

    Many thanks for such a thought provoking discussion.

    kind rgeards,
    Mark (II)

    • 14.1) Watch Out Granny
      April 30, 2012 at 7:47 am

      “I sent him an email with a URL to an excellent review of the camera”

      That’s not broadcasting. Consider that there is a difference between a photo of mass-produced camera for the purpose of selling it to the public, and an art photograph, or a photo of an oil canvas, belonging to an artist trying to make a living on the internet.

      The end purpose of posting images on Pinterest isn’t about following the links for a purchase. It’s about looking at the pictures on Pinterest, period, lined up like ducks in a row. Add the bonus of getting social approval for your amazing style and great choices.

      Pinterest links are largely irrelevant to its users. You can’t compare with links, or image links on other websites. Pinterest is about mass image consumption on Pinterest’s premises. The user lays eyes on an image, judges/enjoys, consumes it, then is on to the next one. The image itself is the commodity.

  15. 15) Paul
    April 30, 2012 at 10:04 am

    They need to implement an image “fingerprinting” scheme like Youtube does with video and sound. Once an image is taken down, nobody could pin the same image again even if it was resized or cropped.

    • 15.1) Paul
      April 30, 2012 at 10:25 am

      They should allow photographers to enter their photos’ fingerprints in the database before infringement occurs. Make a desktop or web application. Have it resize large photos before uploading to server. Server processes the photos and keeps their fingerprint in its database. Server throws away the photos and never uses them afterwards.

      Set the system up not to be extremely strict on matches and they’d still stop most of them. They could have a human review false positives before they showed on the site. It’s cheap to hire labor overseas to do tasks like that.

      • Profile photo of Bob Vishneski 15.1.1) Bob Vishneski
        April 30, 2012 at 6:09 pm

        I am fine if writers, photographers, and others wish to use Pinterest to promote their work. But it should be their decision – not the decision of Pinterest and its nearly 9 million users.
        I posted this article on Pinterest.

        • Paul
          May 3, 2012 at 12:28 pm

          I agree with you fully. This is just a technical suggestion for them that would cure most problems.

  16. 16) CS
    April 30, 2012 at 11:29 am

    As a visual artist, I have to spend a fair amount of time away from my painting and away from self marketing tasks to hunt down the types of infringement that are most important to me, and get them removed via the DMCA takedown notice. That now includes Pinterest, and I’m not the only artist who’s noticed there seems to be some attempt to block searches for your name once you’ve submitted a takedown. We, of course, have other ways of finding the images and we also look out for each other somewhat, so we still find the images, take screenshots, and send takedowns. Then we must follow up on the takedowns, because Pinterest may or may not expeditiously remove infringements. MORE of our time wasted on this. But we have no choice because many times Pinterest loses the link and credit which is hardly publicity for us. We don’t want some other site or person using our images to make money, illustrate their sites, or as avatars, etc, without our permission, and for the most part, without paying us. Yes, art is a profession, and you should assume that it has a price. It’s not a gift to all because an artist shows or sells it themselves online.

    Time is money, as they say, and loss of it is a kind of money damage. Also, more artists and photographers, (and probably writers as well), are considering the formal registration of more of their works, so that legal recourse becomes more viable. Though registration isn’t legally required in order to have copyright protection, it does allow for recovery of more kinds of damages that makes cases profitable to lawyers, hence a lawsuit can become a much more likely possibility even if the infringer didn’t sell the image. That’s not even counting a potential class action. So I think the day’s coming when Pinterest’s model will be challenged in court, and I hope it happens sooner rather than later. They are encouraging infringement, and their own TOS wording indicates they intend to use content pinned there to monetize the site in some way. That would negate their safe harbor. And it’s not a question of whether the liable party would be Pinterest OR their members, it will probably be both.

    I’m not a member of Pinterest but if I was I’d remove the content and get out while the gettin’s good.

    • April 30, 2012 at 6:07 pm

      I couldn’t agree more. Pinterest is profiting off the rampant copyright violations it is encouraging. They will be challenged in the court system.

  17. 17) Mark
    April 30, 2012 at 1:21 pm

    Hi Bob, it’s Mark 1 back. Looking back at the comments it seems it isn’t apathy pinterest is counting on but exaustion. These poor photographers and other artists are wasting valuable time unpinning and reporting copyright infringement that could be used creating or god forbid having a life. I am just returning to making money through my photography and I’m just about to create a website to show my work. This post has given me food for thought on one hand it could give me more exposure and on the other it could be stealing revenue and traffic from the would be site. Maybee I’ll just get my work printed an get a good old fashioned portfolio and rely on word of mouth.

    Thanks Mark 1

    • April 30, 2012 at 6:02 pm

      Apathy often, but not always, follows exhaustion. Having to deal with copyright violations on the scale Pinterest is creating them could exhaust anyone!

  18. 18) AK
    April 30, 2012 at 8:39 pm

    “Pinterest only allows you to upload images from other websites. You can’t point Pinterest to your hard drive, thus reinforcing the idea that Pinterest is encouraging people to violate the copyrights of others. ”

    That statement is false. You absolutely can upload an image from your own hard drive.

    • April 30, 2012 at 9:02 pm

      You are indeed correct and I am wrong. Thank you for pointing that out. Of course, that doesn’t change the fundamental issues associated with copyright violations.

      • 18.1.1) db
        May 1, 2012 at 3:03 pm

        And that means that even if you block Pinterest (with appropriate meta tags), users can still copy the image to their hard drive and then upload it to Pinterest — bypassing the block.

        A search of the Pinterest site did not turn up any of my images. But if users download the images to their hard drive first the search would likely fail — so this is not conclusive.


  19. 19) AK
    April 30, 2012 at 8:46 pm

    “Skimlinks, the service that enables Pinterest to get paid if someone clicks through a pinned photo and buys something from a linked site, may some income to Pinterest.”

    Pinterest dropped Skimlinks on February 16th.

    • April 30, 2012 at 9:04 pm

      Thanks for pointing this out as well. I was not aware of this. This is a good step for those linking to sites such as Mansurov and others. I am not, however, letting Pinterest off the hook for copyright violations! ;)

    • 19.2) Watch Out Granny
      April 30, 2012 at 9:09 pm

      Pinterest did hire the fellow that managed ad campaigns for Facebook a few days ago.


  20. 20) AK
    April 30, 2012 at 9:06 pm


    Fair enough:-)


  21. May 2, 2012 at 12:48 am

    Dear Bob, I shared some similar, yet less elaborate concerns in a quick blogpost on my site: I’m interested to see where this will go!

    • May 2, 2012 at 6:44 am

      Thanks for sharing the link. I am hoping it ends up in court. While I do appreciate Pinterest’s potential to drive traffic, the copyright violation aspect of the site needs to be addressed. They are simply profiting off the ability of people to violate copyright laws. The “beautiful thing” from Pinterest’s perspective is the ability to develop a company without generating or paying for a single piece of content, and relying on others to post the works of others. Under some circumstances, photographers and artists may want to allow their work to be uploaded to Pinterest – but it should be their call – not the decision of Pinterest or the legions of people who either don’t understand or don’t respect the copyright laws.

  22. 22) db
    May 3, 2012 at 9:59 am

    I think it is revealing that lawyers are taking a close look at Pinterest — and pulling down their pins and leaving. See, for example,

    Also, this page and the links it references are worthwhile reading:

  23. 23) carl
    May 4, 2012 at 11:13 am

    Typos: in para. 7 you wrote “legalize” when you mean “legalese”.

    Also: in the American convention, the comma goes within the parenthetical. Instead of “inviting their users to pin “beautiful things”, they are … it should be “inviting their users to pin “beautiful things,” they are.

    Finally: $100 billion added to the national debt for health care versus the $3 trillion spent on an unnecessary, illegal war, i.e. Iraq, well, I’ll the medicine.

  24. May 4, 2012 at 7:47 pm

    Thanks for the corrections, Carl. I just reread Strunk & White’s, “Elements of Style,” but have to admit that I am rusty on some of the rules of grammar, and sometimes my editor isn’t always available!
    Did you mean to type, “I’ll take the medicine”? ;)

  25. May 6, 2012 at 1:03 pm

    Wow, first of all, thank you Bob for writing this in a matter that even my mother will understand. The people who still believe (after reading this) that what Pinterest is doing is fine are either naive or they simply do not care about other people’s intellectual properties.

    I can see how many people will confuse it as “free adds”, but the fact of the matter is that it is not. Yes, people see it on other Pin Boards, but they do NOT redirect the traffic back to your original site…which sucks.

    Also, if I post something on my blog, cool, I want people to see it of course, I dont mind a “Pin” in those cases. It is an entire different thing when people get my photos from Flickr (or any other site for that matter) and decide to post them there without me knowing. I posted them on Flickr for a reason, so people go there, not to another site.

    Pinterest dont make any money? Of course they do! Just look at the amount of traffic that website generates and you will have a pretty good idea.

    I could go on and on, but after reading every single post above (yes, I went through all of it, hahaha) I guess some people will never understand (or they simply do not want to).

    BTW, I am not talking about anyone in particular, just in general so I ask for any reader not to feel pointed out or “attacked”.

    Best regards!


    • 25.1) Bob
      May 6, 2012 at 5:25 pm

      Thank you. As you can see, there are a variety of opinions on this matter. Pinterest is indeed making quite a bit of money off their users violating the copyright privileges of others, and providing nothing in response. I am hoping that someone or some group takes them to court and puts them to the test. Even if their site doesn’t exist solely for violating the copyrights of others, that is indeed its prominent use and appeal.

  26. 26) Dina J
    May 7, 2012 at 6:33 pm

    I work in a large office where tons of people are mindlessly pinning photos all day long. They “love” to “pin”. They have no clue and don’t care. To them it’s like reading a magazine. I’m ready to shut my facebook down because I’m sick of seeing everyone I know “pin” everything. It’s rappant. Unless someone shuts them down soon it’s only going to get worse. And then another person will start another site anyway so when does it end? I pulled up pinterest and all I saw was recipes and wedding photos. Boring. At least can’t someone come up with something that makes you think?

    • 26.1) Bob
      May 7, 2012 at 6:48 pm

      They must be stopped! And I think… you are just the person to stop them! :)
      Your post reinforces the nonsensical Pin Etiquette admonition: “Be Authentic”… as if swiping the photos of others is either authentic or interesting…

    • 26.2) rafavarium
      May 8, 2012 at 8:16 am


      You are right, people have no freaking clue of what they do when they pin mindlessly (sadly the majority does not care).

      The idea of it I must admit that was kind of interesting at the beginning. Then I started to notice this pattern that even though I put my own blog links in there (which I dont mind, that is why I post it on a public blog anyway), a lot of people saw the photos of the articles on it but that traffic never got redirected…which sucks, they only commented on Pinterest and that was it. I fixed it now so I am ok (both at my blog and deleted my Pinterest account).

      Some people might say “big deal, they saw the photo anyway”. Well, it is a big deal for me, which I go through the trouble (or joy) of paying for my domain and get inspired enough to write things about my photos. Yes I am not a “pro” by any means, but still it is my work and I decide who people should experience it.

      Haha, enough rants from me I guess. Lets see what happens.


  27. 27) Granny Watch Out
    May 9, 2012 at 6:52 am

    You might be interested:

  28. 28) Mikhail
    May 14, 2012 at 10:12 pm

    Bob, as serious as this matter and article is, you make it too funny! I had to stop a few times.

    I’m wondering whether (or maybe hoping that…) all this pinning will come to an end after a few nice lawsuits. In fact, I would not be surprised if a class action is brewing. Copyright in U.S. of A. is not a joking matter. Someone somewhere will eventually have to pay.

    Here’s what a quick search yielded (I’m sure many of you have probably read this already):

  29. 29) Mikhail
    May 14, 2012 at 11:29 pm

    Ok… I obviously replied without reading ALL the comments… my apologies :) some rough play there.

    From what I understand, it boils down to the following. For the artists to succeed they need to either:

    a. Prove that Pinterest is fostering copyright infringement or irresponsibly dumping the duty of following the law onto the users via its slick Terms of Use. Or

    b. File a successful class-action against a few select users who re-publish work – with proof of financial damage or decrease in traffic to artist’s website.

    I dislike the first option – people should read the Terms of Use and take the full responsibility when signing up for websites like Pinterest. On the other hand (and I hate using analogies), isn’t allowing users to freely redistribute copyrighted material equivalent to selling guns without proper safety checks and licenses? Reckless?


  30. May 15, 2012 at 5:37 am

    Thanks for commenting. There is not much appeal to or interest in Pinterest without massive copyright violation. The company and its investors are well aware of that. Pinterest and its backers are testing the waters to determine if they get any pushback from the market. It’s not unlike the company that develops some lame policy and then tells the staff to enforce it. After enough rebellion in the market to the policy, management decides to change it.
    The fact that many people enamored with Pinterest doesn’t make the copyright laws “antiquated”, anymore than because burglary is more rampant in some cities, the towns change the laws to allow it. The “fair use” argument with respect to Pinterest equates to little more than modern day equivalent of “mob rule”. Most of the people making these arguments seem to understand that their property rights with respect to their cars, houses, etc. should be respected, but your rights to distribute your photographs as you see fit – that’s just “old school”.
    Someone will “pin” Pinterest yet in the court system unless they change their policies… ;)

  31. 31) Lori
    June 25, 2012 at 5:15 pm

    I really wasn’t understanding what the big deal was and how you could be breaking copyright law if you were pinning something, but not trying to sell it. This made it a little clearer. I love pinning things I find to be beautiful simply because it is an easy way to store things I like without having a favorites menu that is gigantic but I don’t want to keep artists, photographers etc. from making money.

    • June 25, 2012 at 8:06 pm

      Pinterest stores the image you pin on their servers. Others can link to it and then pin it to their pages. No one is giving Pinterest or Pinterest’s users the right to do this. Imagine for a moment that you start, “Songterest”, and pin all the songs of the major artists to your site and allow others to pin and share these songs on your site. Do you think any of the recording artists might have an issue with this?

      • 31.1.1) Lori
        June 25, 2012 at 8:23 pm

        Oh yeah, thanks to your article I understand where people are coming from now. To be honest I thought that everything linked back to the original source but I’ve been experimenting with that and I’ve only been able to get back to the original source on about 50% of the pictures.

        • Profile photo of Bob Vishneski Bob Vishneski
          June 25, 2012 at 9:44 pm

          That is indeed a good part of the issue, along with the simple fact that Pinterest and its users are violating the rights of others. Thanks for dropping us a line. Happy Non-Pinning! :)

  32. June 26, 2013 at 3:07 am

    I discovered tonight, much to my sheer fury, that the several hundred images of mine that I actually took the time to report to Pinterest earlier this year, using their insanity-inducing online form, that were successfully removed from their servers (I thought and was told and visually confirmed multiple times), are now suddenly back online- ALL of them. I’ve taken screen grabs of all of the images, and plan to a) record the direct URL of each file, b) screen grab each file page, c) see if I can dig up the links to the ‘pins’ I demanded they remove before, and d) contact my attorney. Either this was one colossal technological mistake on their part, or they are willingly and actively continuing to violate photographer’s copyrights by only ‘removing’ images for several months before placing them back online again. Regardless of the reasons for this, I view this situation as absolutely illegal on so many levels. Don’t even get me started on them *knowingly* storing stolen content on their servers, *after* recieving a DMCA notice from the copyright owner. If I can find proof that the DMCA I sent was for the same images that are online now, I’d think I’d have a good basis for the start of a lawsuit. The next hurdle would be getting other photographers on board, but I’m pretty savvy with google, and when I had an issue with PayPal years ago and wrote a blog post on a PayPal class action lawsuit, it ended up on page 1 within days, which is where it remains, so I think I’d get good enough traffic from social media to start compiling a roster of photographers who want to fight back. If I could find other photographers who have also filed DMCA notices that Pinterest has only complied with for a short period of time, as they did with me, that would really be the nail in the coffin. Wish me luck!

    • June 26, 2013 at 7:56 pm

      Some of my friends and colleagues rave about Pinterest, but as your and others’ experience shows, they have formed a business model based on their users swiping the photos of others. I would start a blog (if there isn’t one already) asking people to catalog their experiences. If you can garner enough attention and participants, you might indeed be able to co-opt an attorney to take up your cause. They are clearly encouraging people to upload the photos of others. I do believe someone, someday will successfully take them to task and win in court. Good luck!

  33. 33) Ugh
    July 10, 2013 at 6:27 pm

    And yet Pinterest still exists, allowing people to easily break copyright laws. Another problem I see is websites basically looking at sites like Pinterest and believing that if Pinterest can freely use other people’s content, so can they. The content owners seem to be on the short end. If one is caught using copyrighted material, they basically just get a warning and are told to take it down if caught in most cases. Because of this, using copyrighted content on websites seem to be well worth the risk. You make money off of other people’s property and if caught, you get a slap on the wrist. On top of that, with everyone “sharing”, it’s tough to track everyone down.

    • July 11, 2013 at 5:55 am

      For now… There is no doubt that the internet has markedly changed many people’s concept of ownership. It is as if the fact that you put something on any website automatically causes you to forfeit your rights to control that content – at least for individuals.
      Try that with music or video and you will have a team of corporate attorneys chasing you down.
      Pinterest is indeed counting on changing cultural norms to “make it ok” to scarf others content, based on the old cliche, “Well, everyone is doing it.” Speaking of which, after years of being asked to turn our cellphones and computers off before takeoff and landing by the flight crew, the FAA is now reconsidering this rule, essentially because, “everyone is using their devices anyway.” So much for this having anything to do with safety… :)

  34. 34) Mo Manning
    July 16, 2013 at 8:55 pm

    I’m another artist actively seeking a law firm that will take on a class action suit. This is a Napster level crime here, and I firmly believe that if it there’s some discussion whether pinning most photos can be considered fair use, there is no possible legal argument that would stand in my case. Illustrators like me have CRYSTAL CLEAR legal case that could help all of us creators.

    If photographers have it bad, (and they do!) illustrators like me have it even worse. I’m an illustrator and one of my main sources of income is black and white “rubber stamp” and “digital stamp” art (the kind scrapbookers and handmade card makers use for their crafts.) Crafters are putting up Pinterest boards (sometimes thousands of images per board) of rubber stamp and digital images they have scanned and/or uploaded. Most are high-rez, unwatermarked images that were licensed for personal use only. They call these boards things like “Free Printables” and “Free Digis” (I’m sure clip artists are seeing similar harm to their businesses) and the crafters print them out and use them INSTEAD of purchasing them at a shop. My income has dropped 30% in the past year because of this organized sharing.

    Not only is Pinterest allowing my images to be uploaded by their users and freely traded so that I keep having to report the same images time and again — but each time a pinner repins, a brand new copy of my illustration is saved on the Pinterest server. Pinterest making new copies of my copyrighted work MUST be seen as a violation. We are not talking links or thumbnails here — we’re talking full-sized, unwatermarked art. I have spoken to Tony Falzone (Pinterest’s lawyer) twice via phone. Our last conversation ended with him agreeing only to send a “firmer” letter to a pinner after I have reported that particular pinner TEN TIMES. (BTW, currently pinners who get an image taken down after we file a DCMA report receive a letter from Pinterest telling them flat out “you haven’t done anything wrong.”)


    • July 20, 2013 at 10:02 am

      Thanks for sharing your experience. As I mentioned below to Leslie, Pinterest’s model seems to be similar to a “fence,” who resells stolen goods. Pinterest must be exploiting some fine print that enables them to get around the current laws in this regard. Pinterest is counting on no one suing the individual pinners since most have nothing much to go after. Sadly, Pinterest is reinforcing the “it must be free and ok if enough people are doing it” mentality. Keep fighting the good fight!

  35. July 17, 2013 at 9:39 am

    As a very young child, I was told Aesop’s Fable of Killing The Goose That Laid the Golden Eggs ( )

    Those who want everything on the internet to be free would do well to understand the lessons that it teaches
    I am now trying to collect fees for the use of one of my images in print by a newspaper. Their excuse, we found it in Google images and thought it was free. it had copyright management information on it, which was cropped off

    I am already seeing a “chilling effect” that rampant infringement is having on the adding of new content to the web. Artists that i know are reducing the number of images that they placing on the web

    • July 29, 2013 at 6:03 am

      Indeed, some people really are clueless regarding the notion of intellectual property and why the concept is the foundation for a free market system. Pinterest, and the net in general, however, spawns a “everyone is doing it so it must be ok,” type of attitude and is also helping to destroy the notion of intellectual property altogether. Some think they have the “right” to the works of others simply because they have access to the internet, but the original creators don’t have the “right” to determine who can benefit from their work. It is humorous (but pretty sad) to listen to these strained and contrived explanations.
      Newspapers should know better. Perhaps you can pick up a few hundred of their papers on some corner (meant for the delivery boy) and say that you “found them.” Let me know how accepting they are of that explanation! :)

  36. July 17, 2013 at 11:56 am

    Wonderful article, Bob! #4 clearly states the ‘value’ of all this ‘content curation’ that pinterest will garner after all the ‘granny’ pinners have done the dirty work.
    I have one image (one of many) that has been pinned and re-pinned well over 400 times.
    I am on board when a class action suit happens. I have not kept screen shots of all the violations, but have a big fat file of all the names and locations of the pins.
    I ‘opened’ a pinterest account to assist myself in locating pins of my infringed work, and I was literally ‘forced’ to pin copyrighted material immediately to get my pinterest boards to operate. Marilyn Monroe, movie actors images, photos with no visible attribution, were some of the ‘pins’ I was required to pin right off the bat. I could delete them from my board afterwards, but that’s not the point. I was forced to pin them to make the site work.
    I dislike the business model of facilitating copyright infringement, and dislike the copycat sites that mimic pinterest business model.

    • July 20, 2013 at 9:58 am

      I find it odd that a “fence” can deal with stolen property and still go to jail, but Pinterest can knowingly collect copyrighted material, and then merely point you back to the original thief. Something is awry with this model. I need to review some of the legal challenges to Pinterest as of late and see what the rulings have been.

      • 36.1.1) Leslie Hawes
        July 20, 2013 at 10:43 am

        Hi Bob,
        pinterest, aka, ‘the fence’, makes and keeps a copy of my image in their server’s database to provide or facilitate use to their pinners. I think that is within the definition of copyright infringement.
        In my opinion, the DMCA law gives a false sense of control to copyright holders, while providing a ‘shield’, in the guise of ‘fair use’ to sites like pinterest.
        Under the DMCA law, storage of an image in ‘thumbnail size’ is ‘fair use’, but it seems pinterest, google images, bing images, et al, differ with me in what constitutes ‘thumbnail size’.
        How big is ~your~ thumbnail?

        • Profile photo of Bob Vishneski Bob Vishneski
          July 20, 2013 at 10:47 am

          Someone will get them yet. They allow unlimited sizes and facilitate delinking the pins back to their original site. Have you read any of the legal challenges to Pinterest as of late? I need to go back and do a bit of digging. If Pinterest can get away with this, it seems that “fencing” – selling stolen goods – should be legal as well! :)

          • Copypedia Guy
            September 22, 2014 at 9:58 pm

            Pinterest, et al are the Kings of Copyright Infringement. The DMCA provides no exception/exemption against copyright infringement — this also comes out of the related legislative history. On the other hand, qualifying service providers are provided with “safe harbor” against any acts of copyright infringement that occur at the direction of end users. The safe harbor essentially mitigates any and all monetary liability related to the end user infringement.

            Bob, in regard to your ‘recent’ legal challenges, there are recent cases that illustrate sites like Zazzle, and more so Cafe Press, i.e., the sites that produce products and goods and so forth, are acting outside the boundaries of being a qualified safe harbor. A step in the right direction!

            I am happy to speak with anyone that has ongoing issues with such sites — Copypedia is intended to help balance the equation of online infringement.

            My related article:

            J. Michael

            • Profile photo of Bob Vishneski Bob Vishneski
              September 23, 2014 at 5:58 pm

              Thanks for writing. Keep up the work with CopyMedia. For years, no one thought the tobacco companies would ever lose one of their suits either. And then… ;)

  37. December 18, 2013 at 9:21 pm

    As a photographer, I needed exclusive ownership of my work. After some extensive research I found out about this firm called Levy, Levy & Sosa in Miami. I decided to set up a consultation to meet with their attorney and I’m sure glad I did. They assisted me with applying for copyright registration, the process was so simple and they guided me along the way, explaining in ways that were easy to understand. I encourage you to contact them on 1-800-464-5554 or visit their website to secure your work!

  38. 38) Copypedia Guy
    September 22, 2014 at 9:49 pm

    Anyone having issues with Pinterest, I would like to speak with you.

    We can create “reports” that provide recognition for any use. We can help w DMCA takedowns. And more!

    Of course, our service goes beyond Pinterest (but that site, or its users, are top of the list!).

    J. Michael

  39. 39) Suzy
    February 19, 2015 at 9:22 am

    I found this story on PINTEREST.

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