Why I am going to keep pinning on Pinterest

There has been a recent flurry of copyright controversy over my new favorite website, Pinterest. The issue is (that is, I think this is the issue), that Pinterest makes it so easy for people to “pin”, without a photographer’s permission, and therefore (I presume), steal. The terms of use are a little messy, and if you read every word, scary. One could infer that one would be sued for well-intentioned, inspiration-based acts of pinning, spurred on by frightening memories of 12-year old girls being sued for downloading their favorite music on Napster a few years ago.

Seriously. No joke.

This is what I know:

Our work has been stolen by strangers, ex-employees, colleagues and other agencies. This includes B.I. (before internet). This year I found one of our logos on another firm’s website. Sometimes I contact folks, sometimes I let it go. Depends on the day of the week, my mood and what I am guessing is their intent. In the case of the wandering logo, our client was a nonprofit and the agency was doing good work for them. It wasn’t high profile, and I didn’t do anything. However, if I ever meet them at a cocktail party, I might mention it…

The more open we are to sharing, the more open we are to stealing.  That is, if we choose to look at it that way. I care tremendously about copyright for designers, illustrators, typographers, photographers and writers. I judge people (harshly) who print out photos from the internet and use them for presentation. I make my clients buy their own fonts (and provide a lecture about how typographers design fonts and if we want good typography, we must pay for it). I have three blogs and provide a credit, and a link if possible, for every image I post. Sometimes I miss something. But I am aware and try to be a good steward of creative license.

Back to Pinterest. Pinterest is doing something new and exciting. They are making it easy for people to find and share inspiration. From what I hear, they aren’t making money at it yet. There are some awkward things about the site (count me as one who would like to have private boards), but the team there makes improvements on a daily basis. And I have to say, it’s my happy place. I visit several times a day and have connected with friends and relatives over shared DIY projects, coffee photos, inspirational quotes and recipes. I have a board just for the color blue. And I have one of places that make me swoon. Some of the pins are repinned from others. Some are my own internet finds.

In almost every case, I have a credit or link to the original creator, or at least a link that will eventually lead back to the creator. But not always. I’ve never taken a photo from a photographer’s site, but I have repinned images without credits.

The internet is a messy place. Pinterest is working on the issue. There are ways to mark your work so it can’t be pinned. One can also place a watermark on every photo. There are issues with collaborative boards, like Behance, where they make it easy to pin a contributor’s image, without the contributor’s permission. Agreed, messy. New ideas are messy. Artists, more than anyone, should understand that. It will take time to figure it out.

In the meantime, I believe the power of the internet is in the opportunities it provides for us to create, share, connect and inspire each other. Pinterest does that. With joy. And I believe, with good intent. I don’t choose to live in fear, protecting my ideas so no one can steal them. Or to be fearful of seeking and sharing new ideas, concerned that I will get in trouble.  (I am dangerous that way…I also let my kids eat dirt when they were small, believing that the roughage and a few germs would be good for them.) I am going to believe that most people want to do the right thing. And I will try harder to do the right thing. I will take the extra time to research the photos I pin, and to include the credit and link. And if I can’t find it, I won’t use it. Of course, if I were ever approached and asked to remove something, I would do so immediately.

Let’s keep sharing, and pinning responsibly. And let’s keep encouraging folks like Ben Silbermann and his team to imagine and invest in new ideas and technologies. This is today’s issue, but there will be more. So let’s keep talking, ok?

By the way, come visit me at Pinterest…I’m Kim Tackett.

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5 Responses to “Why I am going to keep pinning on Pinterest”


  1. 1 Lisa March 1, 2012 at 5:56 pm

    I can see where the language in Pinterest’s disclaimer would scare people and I’m sure it’s there to cover their a$$ if anyone got their feathers ruffled about a member “stealing” their content. And while I don’t think anyone is taking credit for creating what they pin, I can see where someone could make an issue out of it because the Internet is such a messy place….policy- and copyright-wise. I would sincerely hope nobody would sue a Pinterest member for copyright infringement, but I’m sure that day is coming. I’ve been to a few photography sites where a notice was posted that they did not give permission to pin anything from their site without permission.

    Definitely opens a whole new area in Internet law! Should be interesting.

  2. 2 kimtb March 1, 2012 at 6:11 pm

    Thanks for your note Lisa. I have heard from several friends that Ben Silbermann was the most inspirational speaker at Alt Summit this year. I hope they can evolve so new ideas will keep incubating.

  3. 3 anniespickns March 1, 2012 at 6:21 pm

    I found it interesting to find a handful of my photos on Pinterest but usually they are linked to where they originated. It is interesting to see where things pop up and I like you hope that people will do the right thing and respect the originators of the images pin. So far I haven’t been offended by whats been taken.

  4. 4 Jamie Madison March 2, 2012 at 4:24 am

    That is a fabulous post Kim. Level, thoughtful. As I think back I have been a bit of a cowgirl, swiping images as I see fit. I have also used the logo I love from Tackett-Barbaria in many contexts without a thought of stealing. The uses were for few people and private, not public. Will look at it differently now.

    I really want to put Melody Bardot’s song “if the world were mine” on my web site. My web developer tossed the idea out without consideration and the comment “you can’t do that, you have to pay the rights”. As if I wouldn’t ….

    Thanks, Kim

  5. 5 kimtb March 2, 2012 at 6:28 am

    Jamie, if I remember correctly, you paid for that logo, and it was intended to be an all-purpose, flexible and evergreen brand for all of your creative endeavors. So carry on with that.

    Last night I tried to post a few images that I pinned from some Tumblrs, and do due dligence in tracing them back to the photographers. It was hard! And it did take some of the buffet-of-beauty-let-me-fill-my-plate-until-its-overflowing joy out of the experience. And I wasn’t always successful. Ah, doing the right thing is hard!

    One more thought. Last night I was talking to Kate about his. At 24, she said that the concern about protecting images vs. sharing them is kind of an old person’s thing (I don’t know if she actually called us old). She said her generation understands that the internet is about sharing and being open. If you look at the world of Tumblr blogs, that’s pretty evident (and pretty inspiring on their own.) Interesting ideas, eh?


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