Copyright: To Pinterest or not to Pinterest?

Originally posted March 13, 2012 as part of a blogging assignment for my post-graduate program. I’ve decided to redirect all posts to here to keep things consistent.

Back in the wild, wild west days of the Web 1.0, people were already wary about the use of their images online, whether photography, art or graphic design. There was no TinEye so people needed to protect their images and their work with hefty (and annoying) javascript codes. But stealing wasn’t the only problem, bandwidth was also an issue, it wasn’t cheap and when people direct-linked to your images, it caused quite a strain. But when they stole and used your image without attribution, it was a different kind of loss. A creative kind.

I spent a lot of time on my web design. I took pride in my content creation. I tried to use images I had scanned or photos I’d taken or stockphotos to create my layouts or designs. I tried to attribute them as best as I could, to the person who made it, while also trying to control my adaptation of the work. Unfortunately I became a victim of theft when I had an entire website layout (hand-coded) stolen from me and I was at a loss. Multiple attempts to contact this person failed and while my friends knew the work I had done, once in awhile somebody would come out of the woodwork and accuse ME of stealing from my own thief. Unfortunately, this has happened to everybody at one point or another. (Heck, look at Urban Outfitters! They do it all the time!)

Which brings me to Pinterest.

I’m a bit torn over how to exactly use this new social media platform due to my concerns about the pinning of images. I’m already hesitant of tumbling my own photos to my personal tumblr due to the way that people can de-link from your hard-written/tagged work. Pinterest adds a new element to this problem due to a murky roundabout way that “pins” all responsibility on the uploader to verify the copyright of an image. While Facebook pushes users to click that little button to verify the legality of the image (whether it’s fair use or not) and takes legal responsibility if there’s a concern, Pinterest takes it for granted.

While it’s unlikely people would get sued (except in the most egregious of situations), this is an age-old problem on the web that could be addressed in a few different ways.

  1. Tie in with a tool like TinEye, a great partnership idea that could ask users to verify their image or tie back to a reference link.
  2. Creative-commons tie in. Perhaps as a tool to train users who upload their own images about their rights as a copyright holder. Similar to the requirement for Flickr uploads.
  3. Even something as little as a second-verification process like Facebook.

Pinterest has the potential (and definitely the legs) to be the next BIGGEST thing, up there with Facebook and Twitter, it could be the veritable “third social media must-have” ** and really needs to address these issues if it wants to continue being a powerhouse. With major websites like Flickr moving forward with “Pinterest-killer” codes, it’s something serious they need to address in the near future.

Either way, Pinterest seems to be here to stay, just be careful what you pin.

**As much as I adore LinkedIn, it’s not as sexy or as fun as other networks and it should stay that way.

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