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Pinterest Images: Fair Use or Copyright Infringement?
Pros and Cons of Images on Pinterest and SEO Issues

 6:56 pm on Apr 4, 2013 (gmt 0)

System: The following 5 messages were cut out of thread at: http://www.webmasterworld.com/pinterest/4529012.htm [webmasterworld.com] by incredibill - 10:14 am on Apr 5, 2013 (PST -8)

It's a weird thing to me that people would be upset that their pictures were stolen when they are putting it on a website to be downloaded by their users in the first place.

Plus, as a webmaster, I'd think you would be happy about people sharing your pictures with a link back to your site.

Anyway, I get tons of traffic from Pinterest and I'm pretty happy about it. Yea, people steal my images, but I'm making more money with the Pinterest traffic than selling the image itself, so...



 5:29 pm on Apr 8, 2013 (gmt 0)


Maybe you'd like the laws to change.

I live within the confines of the law.

Right now the laws allow me to have a certain way of making money form my art on the internet, and as long as the law is on my side, I will fight for the rights that it gives me.

The day the laws change the way you want them to change to allow people to take my art and re-distribute them, and take away my ability to profit from its distribution, I will pull all my images off the internet, fold my tent, and shut up. And I won't complain.


 5:45 pm on Apr 8, 2013 (gmt 0)

@Leosghost, I "claim to have spoken to"? Yea, right, I'm just making things up here LOL. You are full of judgments and misconceptions that are clearly not based on the real world.

Listen, you are an artist, you feel that you should get compensated for your work, I get that. I am also an artist and have been producing art for decades (drawings, paintings, photography, and music is my biggest). You think that I don't understand because I never told you that before, well again you are wrong. I fully understand and have watched the RIAA debacle unfold just like everyone else, and I'm not entirely happy with how the music industry has changed... but I'm not going to try to force millions of people to conform to traditional ways of distributing my art. Instead, I am evolving along with them and figuring out that there are ways around the file sharing problem, namely performing more and raising the ticket rate, which is exactly what most musical artists have done.

Since you are sharing your work on your website for free, you've reduced your chances of making money from it in the first place since nobody wants to pay for something they can get for free. You still seem to be avoiding this point I've made over and over, probably because you simply don't want to be wrong. But the fact of the matter is that YOU are the one distributing your work for free in the first place. If you stopped doing that, your sharing (or sorry, "stealing") issues will cease, or at least be drastically reduced. Show your work in a gallery and charge for it, don't allow photographs to be taken. That is what most museums and galleries do, no? Alex Grey had a whole Sacred Chapel work that he charged like $25 to visit, and people visited because they wanted to see his work.

So, maybe you should do what most real artists do and make it unavailable through the web (save for small thumbnails or maybe with watermarks) and stop blaming other people for your lack of understanding of how the internet works today. Mathew Barney would be a great example of this: all of his movies are only available on laser disc and for thousands of dollars each. That has drastically reduced the chances of people distributing it for free and he's still managed to make real money from it. Tons of musicians get their work put in video ads, too, cuz they learned to get over the whole "sell out" thing and get paid more for their work and get more people to hear it. You need to change with the times, bub!

It just sounds like your whole business model is flawed to begin with.

[edited by: zork at 6:17 pm (utc) on Apr 8, 2013]


 5:49 pm on Apr 8, 2013 (gmt 0)

@helleborine, it truly is right around the corner.

People, try to remember that I'm not saying that it's right or wrong that people distribute your work for free, I'm just saying that it happens whether you like it or not and the simplest solution is to not make it available in the first place. You all seem to be missing that point..


 7:25 pm on Apr 8, 2013 (gmt 0)

Making my work available has been profitable for me for the past 10 years. This profitable activity evolved within the bounds of current laws.

If I don't make it available, I lose money. Why should I lose my living because of people that violate current laws, and websites that facilitate this unethical activity?

My rights come before the whims of infringers because the law is on my side.

Feel free to write to your law makers if you want these laws changed. If you are successful, I will have to find a completely different way to make a living off my art that may be less profitable. I will accept it because that will be what the lawmakers have decided is a new set of rules.

In the meantime, the law is the law and you cannot lay the blame on me for putting food on my table under the protection of this law.

Bear in mind that I am not a photographer selling physical prints. My website is basically visual, printable instructions. I must retain exclusive distribution on my website to keep my visitors. My website is currently sponsored by advertising, and some sales.


 7:58 pm on Apr 8, 2013 (gmt 0)

I think the real problem is that the Internet changed the reality of access, and that changed the ethical terms.

To a generation that grew up in the world of locked and alarmed museums, limited distribution and its entailment of weeding authorities (like editors and gallery owners) and retail buildings and mass market production, it seems perfectly right that attitudes reflect that secure reality and large-scale threat. To a generation that is growing up in a world of unlocked or easy-to-access and quick-to-create stuff and indie creators, it makes sense to reassess how we think of intellectual property.

Ethical attitudes are cultivated within an infrastructure, and if that infrastructure says "step right in, it's easy to go there, though of course it's not quite on," then only already-deeply-set ethical codes can combat real-life situations (like a fiercely competitive economic climate in a painfully shifting economy) and enforce self-discipline and keep one from going there.

Simply tightening the developing electronic infrastructure with more stringent controls and laws might be enough to change that, but I don't think so - I think it's like saying "Okay, we were on steady land, and now we're on the crazy sea, but don't worry, we're gonna build a platform across the entire ocean that still gives us access to swift and efficient travel but also keeps us on familiar steady ground." It's unrealistic. Far more likely we'll convert our attitudes about intellectual property, cooperative versus individual efforts, and self-identity based on the digital infrastructure.


 8:22 pm on Apr 8, 2013 (gmt 0)

@helleborine I can understand your frustration if people are blatantly ripping your images and not giving you credit, but if Pinterest and other sites are linking back to you I don't understand the problem. If you are talking about the ranking issue with Pinterest over Google and your images being linked to the wrong site and not your own, I can understand your frustration, but I still feel basing your income off of Google is a poor business model to begin with since you cannot fully control how your rankings appear, SEO skills or not.

If you not talking about Google rankings and are just upset that people are using your work without permission then I ask you this: what are your financial damages from this and can you prove that in a court of law? And I am interested in hearing what your damages are from both sites that ripped your content with no link back and sites that do link back and give you credit.


 12:01 am on Apr 9, 2013 (gmt 0)

The links back are worthless because people rip my entire website on pinterest, my instructions are enclosed in the image so there is no incentive to visit my websites.

For 5000 individual pins and repins I would receive fewer than 35 pinterest referrals... MONTHLY. These referral statistics are abysmal.

I'm not basing my income on Google, I have about 20 websites, I'm diversified, and traffic isn't a problem as long as my content remains on my websites. I have actually de-indexed my images from Google images after their January revamp, and have not noticed any change in traffic despite once dominating the image search in my niche (I no longer dominate it after the de-index, but it goes to show you, that's not what I depend on).

"Damages" are non-quantifiable. How can I prove that an amount of traffic loss is attributable to Pinterest? Anecdotally, I appear to have recovered about 15% of my traffic after spending my summer filing DMCA notices instead of creating content, but that is not a controlled experiment and would not hold up in a court.

That's why there is copyright registration and my work is registered. Never mind quantifiable damages, I have the ability to sue pinners for statutory damages, which can be quite punitive.

We webmasters are all competing for a LIMITED resource: the time people spend on the internet. When potential visitors and repeat visitors can access the entirety of my content on Pinterest, they will stay there and not come to my site.

I'm not one to boast normally, but in my niche, my websites are the very best and no one comes close to my ankle. At least, I have the advantage of superior content over Pinterest and other crowdscrapers. It is the maintenance of this superiority of content that is responsible for my continued success. If I allow Pinterest folders that contain all my images, the copyright infringing platform will literally force me to compete against my own content. If find this unacceptable.


 12:05 am on Apr 9, 2013 (gmt 0)

Far more likely we'll convert our attitudes about intellectual property, cooperative versus individual efforts, and self-identity based on the digital infrastructure.

Maybe. But until this attitude conversion is codified into law, the current law protects me and allows me to profit from the exclusive distribution of images of my creation.

You can't do illegal things in anticipation of future laws.


 1:10 am on Apr 9, 2013 (gmt 0)

You can't do illegal things in anticipation of future laws.

Of course. It's the responsibility of any content creator or distributor to understand and abide by the current laws.

However, law and ethics, while related, are not synonymous. Stealing intellectual property is illegal and should not be done. But I have trouble thinking of it as necessarily unethical in today's climate, when there are so many new realities (not least of which is the lack of a centralized, authoritative body of certification of IP that can keep up with the pace, range, and scale of creation and distribution) that make an ethical decision tricky to navigate. I sometimes find even the legal ground tricky to navigate, personally...I mean, isn't being able to quantify damages part of the old model? As suggested above, how can you do this when the data is ephemeral and chaotic?


 2:19 am on Apr 9, 2013 (gmt 0)

the lack of a centralized, authoritative body of certification of IP that can keep up with the pace, range, and scale of creation and distribution

There's the US copyright office if you want the ability to sue for statutory damages for amounts in the five figure range.

Certification of IP is not required. Copyright in instantaneous the moment a creation is affixed to a medium.

isn't being able to quantify damages part of the old model?

Nope. That's what statutory damages mean. You don't need to quantify damages. You can definitely sue for your going rate, and a punitive amount, without having to show damages.


 5:40 am on Apr 9, 2013 (gmt 0)

The US Copyright Office is far too limited in all the ways I mentioned (range, pace, scale). It was built for old distribution methods and a different scale of production entirely and serves very limited functions. It is not a single centralized worldwide authority that can certify intellectual property for everybody who interacts online. There are agreements between countries to recognize and honor each other's divergent policies about works originating and distributed in their jurisdiction, but it's really only a mock-up of a system. What doesn't exist is a simple way to establish the point, source and location of origin and a use trail of every piece of IP there is very quickly at a pace with production and make this information available everywhere. Not an easy task, to say the least, but anything less is going to engender lots of abuse and neglect and the problems will increase as the new economy booms and the old one dies. And if it turns out to be impossible, then we'll need to reassess what kind of intellectual property it IS possible to protect on the scale on which it needs to be protected - essentially redefining intellectual property. I can't see any other likely course of events. But maybe I'm missing something...


 7:41 am on Apr 9, 2013 (gmt 0)

Wow! 4 days of posts about one of my favorite topics and I missed it... until now. But I won't add much except to say that yes, you can protect any media displayed on the web from all copy except by taking a photograph of your computer screen with a camera or video recorder. The reproduction may not be the best but some will distribute videos of such degraded quality.

My colleagues field a lot of support enquiries from all types of people and entities wanting to copy protect media and they find that some can quite silly about it because they also want that same content to be indexed by search engines.

For those interested in the most effective solutions, check out the ArtistScope site. They provide a variety of solutions for different media including what has to be the most secure web browser on the planet and one that is becoming more and more popular with online schools.


 3:45 pm on Apr 9, 2013 (gmt 0)

Most people have a misconception about being able to sue over their copyrighted work. Technically, yes a work is copyrighted the moment it's created. But in order to sue, you need to register your work.

@helleborine, I don't know what you create for a living (infographics I presume), but I have a hard time believing that you actually register every single piece you create with the Copyright Office since there are fees that can quickly add up. Not trying to say you're lying, but I am wondering do you register every single piece or just some?

Most people think they can sue over stolen website material and they actually cannot unless it is filed with the Copyright Office, and *only* if it was stolen *after* the date of registration.

Just some things to think about...

Regarding Pinterest though, I would suspect the majority of images found there are not actually registered and thus a case for a lawsuit can't be made. It's a loophole, yes, but a very modern and accepted one due to the nature of the internet and the existence of the DMCA. Statutory or not, most people simply don't have a case for damages.


 3:59 pm on Apr 9, 2013 (gmt 0)

(1) I have sued for work that was not registered. The misconception here is yours. You can sue for your going rate for use of the image, and for some punitive damages for the hassle. I did it once, guy didn't contest, I got $850, and had to remove the products from the market.

(2) My entire website is registered bulk, you can register arrays of work such as "january-march new content." Cheap! It counts as ONE item.

(3) The motive to register work is to be able to sue for very large $$$ of statutory damages. The judgments can be ruinously punitive for the defendants. Further, the defendant MUST automatically cover your legal fees, so attorneys are always very happy to help if they think the defendant has seizable assets.


 4:12 pm on Apr 9, 2013 (gmt 0)

(1) By "guy didn't contest" I'm assuming that means you settled out of court which means you really don't know if your case would have held up in court. Of course, I have no idea what the case was about, the guy probably willfully stole your work if he settled.

(2) Nice, good to know!

(3)Yes, but you wouldn't be able to sue someone for new work added to your site after you registered the site as it wasn't originally part of the group at the date of registration. You would need to re-register your site after adding content to it, which leaves a gap for people to steal your work (unless you constantly re-register it and pay the fees)


 4:18 pm on Apr 9, 2013 (gmt 0)

(1) No I went to court and he didn't show up.

(3) It all depends on how fast your enemies are at pillaging your village, haha, and how fast you fill your granaries. Quarterly filings work out well for me.


 4:28 pm on Apr 9, 2013 (gmt 0)

Did you go to court with a lawyer or by yourself? What were your legal fees? Why did he only pay $850? Sorry if I'm being nosy, it's just that this type of detail would be very informative and helpful for the rest of us in similar situations.

I dig the viking analogy!


 5:05 pm on Apr 9, 2013 (gmt 0)

I had a local attorney since the company wasn't in my jurisdiction - the attorney was a friend who doesn't normally do IP stuff, as a favor, so no cost to me.

My fee would have been $250, which was granted, and $600 punitive, also granted, plus cease and desist of usage, also granted.

The defendant had a for-profit company in my line of art using my design as logo, giving the impression that my work was his flagship.

I'm not into asking for outlandish amounts of money that could make hard working people go bankrupt and go homeless, but fair is fair. I guess I'm not a douche, haha.

Getting back to Pinterest... Pinterest provided the tools, the social platform, the hosting and the encouragement for various people to violate my copyright >5000 times, and costing me huge amount of time in filing DMCA. Further, Pinterest encourages hotlinking of the images posted on their website with their EMBED code, multiplying injury.


 6:20 pm on Apr 9, 2013 (gmt 0)

You are def not a douche in my book. I don't know what is so difficult about making a basic logo in photoshop, I mean instead of stealing it from somewhere else. It's almost the same amount of work anyway. You could even buy a logo on Fiverr for $5! So yea, I think that guy is the douche in this scenario.

It sounds like Your case against Pinterest is pretty solid. If this was last year, that would have been long before their recent $200 million from investors. Why didn't you try suing them then?


 10:56 pm on Apr 9, 2013 (gmt 0)

unless it is filed with the Copyright Office, and *only* if it was stolen *after* the date of registration.

This is totally unnecessary. Copyright does NOT have to be registered. It is protected from the day it was created but you may need to prove that you did create it and when. Registering it with any authority or notary is one way but it's not the only method. For example if the Wayback Machine features your web site and it has a record of the web page in question you should be covered. Or if every now and then you published your web site to PDF and sent a copy to your solicitor or other notary you will be covered.

The same applies to all media... images, video, articles, poetry, etc.


 11:13 pm on Apr 9, 2013 (gmt 0)


Countries may choose to honor each other's copyright laws-- but the laws themselves are specific to the country you live and/or do business in.


 7:22 pm on Apr 10, 2013 (gmt 0)

Copyright does NOT have to be registered. It is protected from the day it was created but you may need to prove that you did create it and when. Registering it with any authority or notary is one way but it's not the only method. For example if the Wayback Machine features your web site and it has a record of the web page in question you should be covered. Or if every now and then you published your web site to PDF and sent a copy to your solicitor or other notary you will be covered.

@Kendo, you should take a look at the official statement from the Copyright Office:

"You will have to register, however, if you wish to bring a lawsuit for infringement of a U.S. work." -- [copyright.gov...]

And you're only kinda right about the date issue:

"However, the Copyright Office must have acted on your application
before you can file a suit for copyright infringement, and certain remedies,
such as statutory damages and attorney’s fees, are available only for acts of
infringement that occurred after the effective date of registration. If a
published work was infringed before the effective date of registration,
those remedies may be available if the effective date of registration is no
later than three months after the first publication of the work."

[copyright.gov...] page 1 When Is My Registration Effective?

What is more is that, if you *do* meet these requirements, you'll have to prove damages and the Plaintiff's willingness to infringe on your copyright, so if you're dealing with a webmaster who runs a crowdsourced site (such as Pinterest) which meets the necessary DMCA requirements, you're only recourse is to file a DMCA notice with the site through the proper channels. Then, only if they fail to remove your content within a reasonable amount of time do you actually have a case (and even then it's debatable).


 7:52 pm on Apr 10, 2013 (gmt 0)


Countries may choose to honor each other's copyright laws-- but the laws themselves are specific to the country you live and/or do business in.

The software engineers always joked about China's copyright laws as you only needed to sell one copy to China, they'd make their own. Unfortunately it wasn't a joke as people smuggled software into Chinese shops that duplicated them right down to the packaging.

With that mentality you know that at least the largest segment of the population doesn't give a squat about your copyright and there are tons of Chinese startups based on scraping, another reason I block China.

What this has to do with Pinterest is they're the least of anyone's problems IMO because I can easily point to thousands of sites that just take what they want that are more covert about doing so and billions of people that are perfectly fine with it.

The point is, Ladies and Germs, that we're becoming the minority and not the majority which is why I proposed a scheme to sell or block using images built into the browser to turn the tide of public opinion and abuse before we've completely lost the battle which, short of server side blocking, is nearly a lost cause unless you live in one of the increasingly diminishing locations that are copyright enforcers and that's also where your image lands because if it shows up on a Russian, Chinese, Ukrainian, etc. server you might as well be talking to the family pet about copyright.


 8:02 pm on Apr 10, 2013 (gmt 0)

Or, as I said previously..you could just get the FBI to do their jobs, ( and enforce existing laws ) and go after the US corps like Pinterest that crowd source IP abuse..like they went after megaupload "Kim dotcom" ( who also crowd sourced IP abuse ) and who used US servers ..as do ( did ) most of the other major "cyberlockers"..Hotfile=US servers..Fileserve and Filesonic used US servers..

But of course unless you are a US corp ( or "big medie" movies and record labels ..or Getty images* ) with VC backing..whose IP is being ripped off..they won't listen, or do anything, they'll pay as much attention as they do to the family pet..

Speaking of which ..how is the Unicorn ranch going..

Why do you think that Pinterest don't crowd source ripping off Getty images..could it be that then they know that the IP laws would be applied...even in the USA..


 10:46 pm on Apr 10, 2013 (gmt 0)

The FBI's job is only valid for US copyrights being broken. maybe if Interpol asks nicely , but they probably don't give a squat about your copyright issues and many images in Pinterest come from places where it's OK to use them so unless the complaints are specific it's not actionable really.

Even if Pinterest users ripped off Getty the terms of service probably put the entire issue of ownership and copyright squarely back on the member doing the uploading.

This is the same game Google plays with YouTube, FlickR is the same, and Twitter and Facebook probably have more abuse than any other sites put together.

Social media and copyright are a funny thing because copyright does allow for PERSONAL use, yet those laws were written before social media and personal use didn't envision that it would happen in a place where your PERSONAL USE became widely distributed.

The laws have yet to catch up with the technology and the lawyers driving Lamborghini's that service all these accounts that dance and frolic on the backs of others IP know full well that they'll make many millions before someone finally wins a solid case against one of these companies as it'll go all the way to the Supreme Court so don't hold your breath.

Technologists can change how the public perceives things much faster than the legistlation can move which is why Pinterest et al (Google) do what they do and get away with it which is why I'm suggesting we on the other side of the fence use our technological might to make a social adjustment and make some money along the way.

We have the ability to undo the way people think because the FBI stepping in, new laws, none if it will change anything until people have something in their face forcing a difference. iTune and $0.99 songs made a difference as it was cheap and trivial to access vs. risking big fines getting caught downloading. Image and movie making used to be a skill only few possessed and now everyone does it, technology brought it to the masses. Problem is nobody ever bothered, with all that imaging technology to educated the masses about who owns what, when and why, which is where I see more technology can make a quick fix and ultimately a quick buck.

You can naysay, but I'm working on a spec and will see if it survives the "elevator pitch" with some SV big dogs I know. I don't want to build it but I know people looking for something to build :)

FWIW, I'll bet Getty, Corbis and others have permanent staff assigned to sites like Pinterest just like the RIAA and MPAA do with YouTube, Torrent, etc. which is why the FBI doesn't care as YouTube and Torrent are more up their alley with the MPAA/RIAA footing the bill.


 11:13 pm on Apr 10, 2013 (gmt 0)

prove [...] the Plaintiff's willingness to infringe on your copyright

I'm quite certain there is no requirement to prove that the infringement was "willful."

[edited by: helleborine at 11:14 pm (utc) on Apr 10, 2013]


 11:14 pm on Apr 10, 2013 (gmt 0)

:: idle query ::

What do you suppose would happen if, the next time pinterest swiped one of your pictures, you turned around and scraped the entire page and put it on your own site?

I am prepared to do a lot of silly experiments, but don't look at me for this one ;)


 11:16 pm on Apr 10, 2013 (gmt 0)

We have the ability to undo the way people think

Gotta disagree. iTunes may have lasted this long, but it didn't stop illegal distribution and crowd-sourced mega sites, did it.

After MegaUpload went down, a good 500 or so new smaller lockers sprouted up in its place. I'm already seeing a large number of Pinterest clones in my surfing, so I'd suspect the same will happen if they get the gavel as well.


 11:41 pm on Apr 10, 2013 (gmt 0)

but it didn't stop illegal distribution and crowd-sourced mega sites, did it.

So? Locks on doors don't stop people from stealing TVs either.

That doesn't mean locks won't stop honest people from buying their own TVs, of MP3s, or images.

Just because naysayers naysay doesn't mean others shouldn't do it especially when it looks as lucrative as all hell and is low hanging fruit a mere mouse click away in their face. I'm stunned nobody has even tried, flabbergasted really.

Even the nearly blind guy hobbled with cataracts still has more vision than most.



 4:27 am on Apr 11, 2013 (gmt 0)

I'm quite certain there is no requirement to prove that the infringement was "willful.

I'm quite certain you are wrong.

It has to do with determining damages which is the whole point of starting a lawsuit over copyright infringement in the first place.

People keep challenging the things I say yet if you do a simple google search before you post it'd save me the trouble of doing it for you :rolleyes:

So? Locks on doors don't stop people from stealing TVs either

I have a hard time with all these comparisons of tangible items to reproduced digital items. I'm not saying you can't steal a digital item, but I am saying that digital items fall into people's hands very easily. You can't say a TV just shows up in your living room, someone did some actual physical labor for that TV to get there. But a digital movie could be downloaded legally and rest on a hard drive that the whole household has access to. TVs are not movies and the distinction is pretty clear if you aren't trying to sue someone for copyright infringement.

Taking a step back from this thread, there's a bit of nonsense going on here..


 4:44 am on Apr 11, 2013 (gmt 0)

Tangible vs. intangible wasn't the point, it was a metaphor to illustrate how people behave with locks vs. no locks and if you want even more fun I can send you to YouTube where the surveillance video of my daughters back porch shows someone from the neighborhood stealing her bike from her fenced in yard that just fell off her porch but again, it's obviously not digital and images probably wouldn't feed a crack habit.

The fact that it 'falls' into people's hands is the point that it can be made harder by changing what the browser does when you drag, drop, right mouse save-as or upload an image with some DRM stuff.

Start there and people will figure out it's not free real quick.

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