by Heather Bussing
I have been told several times lately, by really smart people, that it’s okay to pin photographs on Pinterest as long as you link to the source or the artist.
This is true only if they also gave you permission to use their photograph. Otherwise you are stealing their stuff and admitting that it’s theirs.
Photographs have copyright protection. The photographer owns the copyright and has the exclusive right to reproduce, display, and distribute those images. For commercial photographs, the company that pays for the photo shoot usually also has rights to protect the image.
So unless you have paid for the rights, purchased a license, or received permission to use the image, you are violating copyright law when you pin a photo on your page.
Yeah, right. Who’s going to catch me?
It’s not hard. I can take one of my photographs and upload it to a google image search. Google will quickly and conveniently show me everywhere on the web that my photo has been picked up and used.
Right, but who’s really going to sue me?
If I wanted to sue, I would hire Carolyn E. Wright who specializes in copyright violations for photographers. She agrees that Pinterest has copyright issues, and so do you. (If you watch the video, the issue of user liability starts at minute 32.)
Wright also says that some photographers like the exposure, others don’t. But because it’s hard to prove a lot of damage from a single pin of an image, you probably won’t see a lot of photographers bringing lawsuits.
However, there are people who do have a lot of money at stake in how photographs are used. Many of the images online are from stock photography shops who either own the copyright to the images, or the rights to sell copies for a certain period of time. These businesses depend on being able to control when and how the images are reproduced. One of the biggest stock photography companies, Corbis, is owned by Bill Gates. Corbis controls over 100 million images and as well as the rights to digital reproduction of major museums like the National Gallery in London.
I promise, when these images start showing up all over Pinterest, lawsuits will get filed.
And have you looked at the Pinterest User Agreement? They put the liability for copyright violations on You.
So while I know many Pinterest fans, and that it’s the latest, coolest, new internet toy, I’m not on it. The copyright issues are why.
Kathleen Davis’ Pinterest’s Photo Copyright Infringement Issues Get More Complex, March 20,2012 at www.popphoto.com
Gonzalo E. Mon’s The Copyright Question: How to Protect Yourself on Pinterest, March 21 2012 at www.mashable.com
To learn more about photography and copyright, read Carolyn Wright’s excellent blog posts at www.photoattorney.com
And my post: Ideas Are Free But Content Isn’t- Copyright and the Internet, March 15, 2011.