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March 7, 2012

Copyright issues are starting to attract Pinterest

By Cleland Thom


The social networking site Pinterest is likely to have media lawyers watching closely for breaches of copyright.

The site is a “virtual pinboard” that allows users to post pictures and other content onto their personal pages and display them to other people.

Users post everything from their favourite recipes to photographs and just about anything else that has caught their interest.

That includes magazine and newspaper articles.

I used the site’s search tool  and entered ‘New Scientist’ – and was instantly rewarded by pages of search results featuring photos, covers and articles from the magazine.

Pinterest has different rules to Facebook and similar sites.

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It makes the site’s account holders responsible for checking the copyright of everything they post – and for the full cost of all legal action that follows. That includes actions against Pinterest’s owners Cold Brew Labs.

The site is not like Google image results, because Google does not actually store copies of the images it displays. And it’s different to social media sites, which just display a thumbnail of the image, with a link back to the source site.

Pinterest stores a full-size copy of each image – and allows visitors to re-pin images on their own pages, thus facilitating further copyright breaches.

But it puts the legal ball firmly in the user’s court. The site’s terms and conditions tell users that:

YOU ACKNOWLEDGE AND AGREE THAT, TO THE MAXIMUM EXTENT PERMITTED BY LAW, THE ENTIRE RISK ARISING OUT OF YOUR ACCESS TO AND USE OF THE SITE, APPLICATION, SERVICES AND SITE CONTENT REMAINS WITH YOU.

Some critics have said the site actually facilitates illegal activity. One American photographer has closed her account because she is afraid of being sued.

Some media groups are happy to allow extracts from their publications to be ‘pinned’. Others are opting to use a special code on their images that prevents them being copied to Pinterest.

But I’m sure there are many who do not realise that their copyright images are being ripped off, and re-ripped off, every day. Photographers are particularly vulnerable.

Cleland Thom is a trainer and consultant in media law

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