Will extensive terms and conditions make you un Pinterested?

There has been rather a lot of commotion over the past few weeks about the newest social network phenomenon Pinterest. Starting with positive stories about the possibilities that this brand new site brings to social media (including one of our own!), the stories showed Pinterest to be a fantastic new blogging site, to showcase your own work, or create inspiring mood boards to assist with design projects. This said, the news has more recently taken a more sinister turn, when people’s attention was drawn to the rather ugly terms of use, that many of us had failed to read.

This outrage, stemmed from one particularly discerning lawyer/photographer/blogger, when she researched into what actually came of “pinning” interesting images and work to your Pinterest boards. The results she found, initially had her deleting her boards, and made a lot more people think twice about the fantastic new network. (It certainly made me re-think my approach to Pinterest.)

What this one blogger found, way down the boring terms and conditions that most of us accept blindly, not really anticipating we would be signing away our souls (without really reading any of it) was some rather interesting agreements a lot of us made, without even knowing!

“You acknowledge and agree that you are solely responsible for all Member Content that you make available through the Site, Application and Services. Accordingly, you represent and warrant that: (i) you either are the sole and exclusive owner of all Member Content that you make available through the Site, Application and Services or you have all rights, licenses, consents and releases that are necessary to grant to Cold Brew Labs the rights in such Member Content, as contemplated under these Terms; and (ii) neither the Member Content nor your posting, uploading, publication, submission or transmittal of the Member Content or Cold Brew Labs’ use of the Member Content (or any portion thereof) on, through or by means of the Site, Application and the Services will infringe, misappropriate or violate a third party’s patent, copyright, trademark, trade secret, moral rights or other proprietary or intellectual property rights, or rights of publicity or privacy, or result in the violation of any applicable law or regulation.” (From Pinterest’s Terms of Use).

Just incase you aren’t sure what this means to your Pinterest, “member content” is anything at all that you post, upload, publish or pin. This includes pinning from the internet and re-pinning content already uploaded to Pinterest. Although this may not seem like such a terrible thing, the implications that this copyright agreement brings are far reaching and potentially quite damaging. Think for a moment, think back now to your account, how many of the images do you actually own, or did you make? More often than not the answer will be not many, but it is important to understand that in the eyes of Pinterest, as soon you have put anything on your boards, you are legally accountable for it.

Copyright means that as soon as you create an image or a piece of work from scratch, that you are the only one who is legally allowed to reproduce, publish or share it. Meaning that the whole concept of Pinterest, involves all of its members breaking the law at all times, if they pin as freely as Pinterest suggests! As Pinterest users are encouraged to pin the largest size photos or images as possible, to ensure attractive and good-looking boards, copyright is definitely infringed and the users signs away their right to blame anyone else when they agree to the phrase used a number of times, in capitals:

“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.”(Pinterest Terms of use)

Unlike other social media sites, on Pinterest, the users pin actual images, which makes it even more irritating for photographers and artists. Most social networks have a thumbnail of the image in question, which links back to the original site, pinning creates a brand new duplicate of the image, which then runs in competition to the original. This could mean that the original receives less traffic (due to Google’s ever-mysterious algorithm) and this will definitely leave them feeling a little miffed, and willing to get their lawyer involved to protect their copyrighted work and reputation.

Pinterest has since seen a decrease in the interest of the site (don’t get me wrong it’s still massively popular, just a few less copyright breaching boards!) which has lead to a statement being released and a look into the way in which their terms and conditions limit the sites use for its intended purpose. Although promising changes to the terms and conditions that should resume business as usual, nothing as yet has been done to target the concern, although taking an extended period of time to define these terms of use could be a promising sign that Pinterest are ensuring that the new T&Cs although a little less intimidating, are still thorough.

So what does this mean for Pinterest users? There is currently the risk that you if you pin the wrong photo at the wrong time, that you could be sued for all your worth. Pinning a picture of a cupcake you found, could lose you thousands of pounds in irritating law suits, even if the chances are really small. It’s important to weigh the risk against the benefits. For people who work in really visual industries, such as photography, web design, product design or art, Pinterest is a great way to showcase your work and also your inspirations but although the threat is small, it is still definitely there, so make sure that you consider whether it’s worth it or not, before you start pinning here there and everywhere. If you haven’t already signed up, my advice to would be to wait until the new terms of use are announced, to find out if it is really the site for you.

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