Why I’m blocking Pinterest from my websites

There’s been a lot of comment on the internet about pinterest and its rapid growth recently, both positive and negative. I have to admit that I hadn’t paid much attention to it in the past but given the interest I decided to take a look at it.

Pinterest’s approach is simple – it’s a visual analogue of the mainly text-based social media sites dominant today. Users are invited to select content from other websites and pin this to themed collections and share with friends and others through the Pinterest website. Sounds simple and innocuous but has sparked controversy over the copyright implications of what they are doing.

Rights asserted

When content is pinned, Pinterest assumes extensive rights are irrevocably granted over the content, including rights to

sublicense, … distribute, license, sell, transfer, … and otherwise exploit

You can find the full list in the terms and conditions, which would appear to cover just about anything. (Some of these rights are necessary for the operation of the website, and are common to many social media websites, but not all.)

User liabilities

The trouble is that in many cases the person pinning the item cannot legally grant these rights. Users are encouraged to pin content from all over the web, and a tool is provided to make this easy – and the tool doesn’t ask users to confirm that they can grant these rights. So what happens if content is pinned from a site by someone who hasn’t got the right to grant those permissions? The owners of pinterest have thought about that, and got it covered.

Terms and conditions

The Pinterest terms and conditions attempt to ensure that if any case over copyright abuse comes to court the person who pinned the content is the person who is liable, not Pinterest.

Blocking pinterest

Presumably because of the outcry over these terms, Pinterest have recently made available a mechanism to allow site owners to block pinning from their websites. This a tiny step towards proper recognition of the rights of copyright owners, but its the wrong way round. Pinterest should have provided a mechanism for website owners to permit pinning of their content, as legally the default is that they do not have these permissions not that they do.

If you want to block pinterest you need to add the following code to your page headers (not something everyone is able to do):

<meta name="pinterest" content="nopin" />

Image metadata

Another less commonly mentioned problem is that when you pin an image, Pinterest takes a copy of the image, edits it, and delivers that rather than the original image. They don’t create a thumbnail, but maintain the original image, simply removing the metadata in the image … including any data identifying the author, and any copyright information. (This may contravene US copyright law.) I’ve asked Pinterest a question about this, but so far have not received any answer.

Other Related posts about pinternet

Pinterest Might Be Enabling Massive Copyright Theft
How your business could get sued for using Pinterest
Blipfoto blocks Pinterest over copyright concerns
Why I tearfully deleted my Pinterest inspiration boards

Not everyone agrees, of course, so here’s an example of an opposing point of view:
Why photographers should stop complaining  about copyright and embrace Pinterest

3 thoughts on “Why I’m blocking Pinterest from my websites

  1. I did eventually get a response from Pinterest re image metadata removal, unhelpfully suggesting that if I wanted to be identified as the author I could add the informatioon to a comment when I pinned it.
    This ignores
    1) pins by third parties wouldn’t have this information
    2) repins wouldn’t either
    3) it is an offence under the DMCA to remove such metadata – see http://www.thecopyrightcorner.org/?q=dmca
    ” Under the DMCA, among other things, it is illegal for someone to intentionally remove or change copyright management information (CMI) – names, titles, copyright notices – contained in a digital file’s metadata and/or to distribute work knowing that the metadata has been removed. ”

    They have closed the query as “resolved”.

  2. and again they’ve closed the query as ‘resolved’ without taking any action other than to say they take the issue seriously … not seriously enough to do anything about it though.