Wednesday, May 23, 2012

PINTEREST...A Copyright Holder's Interest

Pinterest…A Copyright Holder’s Interest

            Gone are the days of little girls cutting pictures from magazine and pinning them to a bulletin board in their room.  Those little girls have grown up and have now made Pinterest the third most used social media site on the Internet.[1]  
            Pinterest permits a registered user to capture an image and place the image on the registered users “board” or page.  Registered users create bulletin boards based on a theme, topic or interest.  The categories are as broad as a color and as narrow as a specific feature of an item.  Registered users follow other registered users and/or bulletin boards and can re-pin images that other registered users found.  There is no limit to the amount of times an image can be re-pinned.
            While Pinterest can serve as a great marketing tool to get the word out about a product or design, it can be a copyright holder’s worst nightmare.  Copyright ownership includes a bundle of rights.  Part of the bundle of rights include the right to display, the right to copy, and the right to make derivative works.  If anyone can go onto a website, pin your image, and then the image can be re-pinned - the three exclusive rights held by a copyright owner have just be trampled upon.
            "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." (Pinterest Terms of Service, April 15, 2012).  While Pinterest's Acceptable Use Policy clearly states that a registered user cannot post an image that violates any laws or the intellectual property of others, very few users truly understand what intellectual property infringement really is.  Furthermore, once an image is pinned to a bulletin board - it is subject to Pinterest's Terms of Use.  It is possible that your image could be used thousands of times before you uncover that your image has been illegally used.
            Any copyright owner needs to become vigilant regarding Pinterest.  If a copyright owner wants to utilize Pinterest, then "Pin It" buttons are available for download to place next to an image.  Pinterest has also developed code for a copyright holder to place in the code of a web page to prevent pinning.  While it is easy for a person to place code for a "Pin It" button, that is not the case for prohibiting pinning.  Many copyright holders utilize website templates and automatic coding for additions to its website, thus the ability to place custom code may not be readily available to a copyright owner.  Pinterest continues to evolve its Terms of Use and options available to users.  This evolution places an even bigger burden on a copyright owner.
            Pinterest is here to stay and as a copyright owner, it is time to get on board.  First and foremost, it is in a copyright owner's best interest to register with Pinterest and create user name(s) that are the same as any trademark(s) or titles of a major work that she may own.  Next, it is important to request to follow those of interest to you - customers, end users, and perhaps suppliers.  This may be considered risky but it is important to know what is going on with your competitors and the best way to stay current is to become part of the scene.  It is important to note that I am not suggesting you follow a competitor.  Unless a copyright owner is friendly with a competitor, it is not a good idea to follow a competitor directly just in case a competitor should ever claim you copied.  Access is an important component in proving copying and you do not want to appear to have unclean hands.  Pinterest needs to become part of your copyright monitoring routine. 
            While monitoring Pinterest, should a copyright owner find her image - it is important to act quickly and according to the procedures outlined by Pinterest for notice of copyright infringement.  (  First, take a screen shot of the board that includes your image.  Next, gather any copyright registration numbers and information required by Pinterest for any copyright infringement takedown actions.  File the appropriate notice immediately with Pinterest and keep track of all send/receive receipts, notices, and confirmations.  Even if Pinterest takes down the infringing image, the user that pinned your image may still be liable for infringement.  The key for determining any further action against the user who used your image is weighing the time and cost that may be involved versus the harm that you, the copyright owner suffered.  It is important to note that a copyright registration is not necessarily required for Pinterest to take down an infringing image.  However, it is incredibly helpful.
            Pinterest remains an ever evolving social media tool that can either be a benefit or burden to a copyright owner.  The key for a copyright owner is to become familiar with Pinterest and if she plans on making Pinterest work for her business, utilize educational resources available to learn the right way to market on Pinterest while protecting your images (a great resource is  The key to Pinterest is knowledge - how to use Pinterest, how to prepare your image(s) for use or non-use on Pinterest, how to report misuse, and how to effectively handle any infringement.

[1] 2012 Experian Digital Marketing Report

The Fine Print!

Since there may be legal discussions going on...there must be a disclaimer!

This blog is for educational and information purposes only. It does not constitute the practice of law. The attorney who writes this blog is only licensed in the State of Ohio and Michigan. There is NO attorney-client relationship of any type. You must sign appropriate documenation and have appropriate new client counseling to be a client of Browning-Smith, P.C. Each and every situation is different and all readers must seek his or her own legal counsel. The information on this blog is not guaranteed for any purposes nor is it to be relied on.