Dear Pinterest

Pin It
Pin It

I’ve known since Pinterest’s early days that people have been “pinning” my work to their visual bulletin boards on the Pinterest site. I thought that was nice, and was happy that they were inspired by my work. It was only recently, when I started hearing all of the hubbub, that I started looking into exactly what Pinterest was, and if perhaps it’s something I should use.

There have been many, many articles online recently about Pinterest–many for, and many against the social sharing site. When I first started reading them, I kept going back and forth. I even had a “Pin It” button on my blog (for about a day or two). Then as I started understanding their terms of service more, I started getting that queasy feeling.

I like the concept of Pinterest, and see many great uses for it. But I think Pinterest needs to do some thinking and change their terms. If you read them, they are scary, and also confusing. I won’t go into all of the details, because there are already so many articles that do it very well. But the long and short of it is, according to their terms, when you pin something, you are stating that either you are the owner of the work, or you have rights to the work, which you then grant to Cold Brew Labs (Pinerest). And, their terms state:

By making available any Member Content through the Site, Application or Services, you hereby grant to Cold Brew Labs a worldwide, irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, royalty-free license, with the right to sublicense, to use, copy, adapt, modify, distribute, license, sell, transfer, publicly display, publicly perform, transmit, stream, broadcast, access, view, and otherwise exploit such Member Content only on, through or by means of the Site, Application or Services.

So basically, if something is pinned, they have the right to do whatever they want with it, which includes sell it or exploit it. That also means, if someone pins your work or my work, they have made that decision for us, to let Pinterest have their way with it. Their info also says that if someone sues because their work is on Pinterest without their permission, the person who pins it is responsible not only for their legal fees, but also Pinterest’s.

I know many people feel that even with all of this, they still want to use Pinterest and have their work pinned on it because of the exposure they’ll get. But, one thing that makes Pinterest different from other sites is that they keep full-size images instead of just thumbnails. That means when someone pins an image, the full-size image is right there on Pinterest for the viewer to see, giving them no need to click on the link to go to the original site. Then it gets pinned and repinned by other people, who may or may not go to the original site. So, how does that get you much traffic? I use google analytics to see how many visits I get to my site, and where they are coming from. Even though I have quite a bit of my work that has been pinned on Pinterest, I hardly get any traffic from it. And, I have found some of my work with no link to my site, or where I wasn’t given credit.

I’m hoping that enough people will be concerned about this–not only about their own work, but the choices they make for other artists when that person’s work is pinned.

Pinterest has taken some steps recently, but they need to take more and change their terms of service. So I’m asking you to please share this blog post, and also the image I created. Pin it!

I’ve read many articles, and here are links to three that I got the most out of. Also read through the comments because sometimes those are just as helpful as the post.

Link With Love is what inspired me to also create my “letter” to Pinterest. Add a “Link With Love” button on your blog!

On “sharing” and Pinterest musings… by Anile on her Girlfriday blog.

Why I Tearfully Deleted My Pinterest Inspiration Boards by Kristen of DDK Portraits

Posted in intellectual property, social media and tagged , , , , .


    • Michelle, I wouldn’t put the blame with this specific topic on “big sharks”, it’s Pinterest’s terms that are the problem–which they created themselves. Of course there are other issues, that have nothing to do with Pinterest–people using other people’s work without asking for permission–sometimes out of not knowing any better, but sometimes they do.

  1. I am so with you on this Traci !! Expecially when you see someone elses work be printed and used in their collage work !! Just saying.. not right at all !! Traci do you have a button and code others can put on their blogs to help direct to you ? Would gladly add to my blog !!

    • Kristy, I never thought of making a button & code for my blog for people to put on their blog. I’ve done it for my different “30 Days of . . .” and it never crossed my mind to do it for my blog in general. Good idea! I’ll do that today or tomorrow!

  2. I’m just wondering/pondering: so if I find an image on Pinterest that is not my own that I love/like and want to remember/save for later, I should only ‘like’ it and not ‘pin’ it (and thereby organise it by category, which is kind of useful after all) as I do not own it nor have permission to re-share it…?

    This is not a question to which I want guidance, just commentary as to an ethical direction that enables me to share images without giving away my life to another party, who doesn’t give a monkeys…

    • Are there “like” buttons on Pinterest? (I don’t know if there are.) But yes, if it’s an image you see on the Pinterest site, you could go from there to the original site & “like” it so the link & thumbnail will show on your facebook wall. OR, if you are just wanting to remember it for yourself, you could bookmark it. Also, I use Evernote, which is a way to bookmark & organize all kinds of things–it’s not as visual as Pinterest, but you can have “notebooks” (which are like folders) to organize things. I just started using Evernote some months ago when I took Alyson Stanfield’s class “Get Organized” for your Art Business. For me, evernote is easier to use than the normal bookmarking you can do from your browser.

  3. I deleted my Pinterest account because of the very points you’ve made. I believe every artist should have control over their work. There’s nothing ultruist about it (we’re making it easy for you to collect all those images you love), it’s a way of making money, pure and simple – a way of making money using other people’s creativity, intellect and sweat.

  4. LOVE. I love your words. I echo them. I understand them. I feel the weight, as an artist and as a lover of the special things that make art amazing. Protect our art.

  5. Traci, I don’t know if this link is allowed, but its a tutorial on how to stop people pinning your work. Pinterest have published this in their blog, but this shows how you can use it if you can get to the HTML headers on your blog page – its easy as!
    The blog belongs to Katherine Tyrrell, a well respected British artist and is called Making a Mark:
    and she details the fight she has had with Pinterest because of the copyright issue. There is also a blog entry on how to protect yourself on Flickr.
    Word press apparently has a work around already, according to what she mentions on her blog.
    Hope this helps. I have seen scanned pages from books and more on that site!

    • Hi Caroline, Thanks for putting the link. I had seen that, but hadn’t thought of putting it here. I have seen Katherine Tyrrell’s blog posts, and also her comments on blogs I follow, and they are very informative, and well thought out.

    • Sorry Conni! Hopefully Pinterest will change their terms. It’s interesting, The number of times this has been pinned dropped by more than half–I think a lot of people who pinned it must have deleted their accounts!

  6. Tracy. I just saw this letter on Pinterest. First, I have to say..that I would have probably never found your blog if I had not been on Pinterest this morning…Second, I think the only way that you can stop someone from copying your work off the internet is to NOT put it on the internet in the first place. Any Paint Shop Pro or Adobe Photoshop user can copy it quite easily, and effortlessly–off of Etsy, Flickr, Facebook, doesn’t matter. Not saying that I agree with doing it–because I don’t–but it can be done. Third..With 99 gazillion, billion artist out there…it’s usually the ones whose art isn’t “all that” to begin with that are whining about someone copying them. I feel this is slightly egotistical on the artists’ part. The artist wants the glorification of having their pictures in print, and the admiration of people noticing them..and THEN they want complete total control over the images that they put out there. If you put something on the internet, you might as well look at it as you are giving it away..and REALLY in the big scheme of things…what does it matter..the artist is going to make MORE work..people that steal our images are going to continue to steal our images..The best thing to do is put only very low resolution images online, as small as you can, and hope that the people out there have the moral value to realize that it is stealing. Just my two cents worth..Suzan Buckner.

    • Hi Suzan, I’m glad you found my blog! But I have to ask, did you read my post? I am asking because the point that I’m trying to make, and my concerns with Pinterest, are different than what you are talking about–I didn’t mention copying, etc. I like sharing. That’s why I put my work on the internet. But since you mentioned it, I honestly don’t think whether or not someone wants people infringing on their copyright/intellectual property or copying their work has anything to do with how good they are or aren’t as an artist.

      Now putting all of that aside, my point in my post is that I disagree with Pinterest’s terms. And unfortunately whether or not I have an account with them, I am affected by them. According to their terms that people agree to when they sign up to use the site, they are agreeing that they are the owner of what they pin, or they have the rights to the piece. (Oddly, Pinterest also discourages against pinning your own work–so go figure.) And by pinning something, Pinterest then has the right to do whatever they want with it, include sell or exploit it (sell & exploit are really the actual words in their terms). Also, if someone decides to sue someone on Pinterest because that person pinned something of theirs, the person who pinned it is responsible not only for their legal fees, but also Pinterest’s legal fees. So, simply by someone pinning someone else’s work, they are giving Pinterest the right to do whatever they want with it.

      Also, since Pinterest uses the full image, there isn’t much incentive for someone to go to the artist’s site to see the larger image, which means you don’t get the traffic. People have pinned tons of my work, and according to google analytics, I hardly have any traffic form Pinterest.

      So, I would like Pinterest to change their terms because I think in theory, it’s a great idea. I like that people like my work and I want to share it to inspire them. But I don’t like what some of the outcome could be because of Pinterest’s terms–terms that effect me regardless of my participation. I’m not expecting everyone to agree with me by any means, but that’s how I feel. I am hoping Pinterest will understand, especially since there are so many people upset by it, and deleting their accounts. So hopefully Pinterest will change their terms to be better for everyone, involved or not.

    • Hey Suzan,
      I thought more about your comment about it mainly being “bad artists” that whine about their work being copied, and thought it would make an interesting discussion–I’m starting it on my facebook page because I thought more people could join in there if they wanted. I think I can see part of your logic there and mentioned it (although maybe that’s not what you meant).

      Here’s the link if you want to join in on the discussion.

  7. Extremely well written Traci and cannot be misconstrued by the Owners of Pinterest. I have respectfully removed all of my boards after finding many of the Fabulous Graphics Designers graphics sheets being copied and pinned free for the taking of anyone who wanted to print. Being a customer of many of these Graphics Designers and their Companies, I resented on their behalf this happening as I found I have paid good money for many of the sheets I was seeing posted, which also results in losses to the Artists. I know many of the Designers, and some of which on Etsy, who if they didn’t have any watermarks in place, were also having their sheets taken from Etsy and posted on Pinterest to be printed, instead of purchasing direct from the shop. I have Pinned this Well Written Post of yours to my now only Board on Pinterest, and on my Timeline on Facebook to get the word out. With respect, Denise Phillips.

  8. Traci, I want you to know I repinned your image with the message. I think it’s really important this message is out there. Until today, I did not realize the enormity of what Pinterests TOS really involved. I hope that Pinterest will change their terms to make the site artist and viewer friendly.

  9. This is what I wrote and posted on my FB in regards to some comments I received when I spoke of the Cold Brew Labs TOS (maybe I am just one of the whiny artists whose work is ‘not all that”, however, I feel that is not really the point anyway, Any person who calls them self an artist should be concerned…I wrote:

    “Thank you for the comments on the important pinterest issue… Please note* I am not worried about my own work, I post my work all over and understand that it will, most likely, be copied and/or shared. Believe me, I have had my work stolen in a very BIG way so this is not news to me, nor do I let it get to me….HOWEVER, I do not wish to be harassed or possibly sued, for pinning or posting someone elses work. If you read the article I shared, then you will know it is not out of the question. Not only that, I do not have time or interest in asking permission for every pin …the thing is there ARE copyright laws. People can say all day long “If SO and SO does not want their work shared, they should not put it out there.” Does that mean Lady Gaga (or whatever musician) should not put her music ‘out there’ if they do not want it shared? No. We put it out to show it and hope it markets us and/or people buy it. Not to be taken and used however people wish. Pinterest seems fun and harmless but, underneath I do not believe this to be 100% the case…like I said, I am deleting or just pinning my own work…..pinterest “etiquette” be darned.”

    thank you, Traci, for the image and letter. I pinned it.

  10. I am appreciative to have read this information as an artist who has been producing work since the early 1990’s. I am still naive as far as some Internet web sites and how they function. Thank you for describing these terms and conditions and their consequences of posting on Pinterest. I am now aware.

    • Julia, I’m glad you found it helpful. I became more aware of all of this from some of the other articles on the internet. Yes, there is always so much to learn, and I think the internet is still growing so fast. Sometimes too fast, to keep up with.

  11. Wow. I am so bummed to hear about this. I have to admit that I don’t actually read TOS agreements. I’m sure that’s why they make them so ridicuously wordy.

    At any rate, I am disturbed by the implications in their wording. I have Pinterest to thank for supplying the gateway to so many amazing artists (like you!) who have inspired my recent explosion of creativity after probably 8 years of doing no artwork, and relatively little crafting.

    I am heartbroken to think that I have inadvertently injured anyone who has taken the time to share their work with us all, especially those of you who take even MORE time to create tutorials.

    I hope they change their policy. I love my boards, but I will figure out some other way to organize everything to access peoples pages if they don’t. Thank you for shining a light on their deplorable policies.

  12. I’m not sure that I understand completely, but if a person can pin your work on Pinterest without your knowledge and consent and then Pinterest ‘owns’ it, that surely is illegal.

    • Dusty, basically Pinterest is putting it all into the hands of the “pinners” because by agreeing to Pinterest’s terms, you agree that you own/have the rights to what you pin. So, if someone pins an artist’s work, and the artist sues, Pinterest washes their hands of it and takes no responsibility since the “pinner” agreed that they owned/had the rights to the work. Additionally, the “pinner” is responsible for paying not only their legal fees, but also Pinterest’s. It’s very convoluted and really, setting their users up to fail/infringe upon other’s copyright–especially since Pinterest frowns upon pinning your own work. So, it doesn’t really make sense.

  13. Thanks for this great info! I took my Pinterest down, sometime ago! I don’t know if people realize it, so it’s important to keep putting it up from time to time for those folks who are seeing it for the first time. Dang, don’t artists have enough to deal with? Without companies going after our creativity?! Love your blog!!!

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