New Pinterest Credit Feature Does Little to Protect Pinterest Users

Several days ago, Pinterest announced a new feature that automatically credits and links back to content that Pinterest users re-post from Vimeo, YouTube, Behance and Flickr. The announcement was part of Pinterest’s campaign to counter perceptions that copyright infringement is part of its corporate DNA. But the announcement amounted to little more than window dressing, and could give Pinterest users a false sense of security.

Pinterest, as we pointed out in a recent story, puts all the liability for infringement squarely in the lap of its users. The service enables those users to “pin” content from anywhere on the web onto a virtual bulletin board. Average users don’t realize that what Pinterest encourages them to do–copy and re-publish digital content without permission–is a copyright violation. Not surprisingly, Pinterest doesn’t go out of its way to make that clear to its users.

The automatic credits and link-backs to Vimeo, YouTube, Behance and Flickr don’t give users any added protection. For one thing, content owners post videos and photos to those four sites expecting–no, encouraging–others to share their content. In other words, most people who use YouTube, etc. would sooner thank Pinterest users for re-posting (“pinning”) their digital files than sue them for infringement.

A real accomplishment on Pinterest’s part would be to add a feature that automatically credits and links back to every item re-posted by a Pinterest user. That might satisfy content owners who don’t mind others re-posting their photos, etc. as long as they credit the owners. And it might help people who object to having their content used without permission discover the unauthorized uses and put a stop to it: They could send a take-down notice to Pinterest, and demand payment from the Pinterest user who violated their copyright.

That would be bad for Pinterest’s business, of course. But Pinterest risks little by its very limited credit/link feature, which could ultimately hurt Pinterest users by sending them a dangerous message: that it’s OK to “pin” content without permission as long as you give the copyright owner credit.

That isn’t the case, as any copyright lawyer will tell you. Copyright law says you can’t re-publish a work without permission from the copyright holder. Giving the owner credit is no substitute for permission. Pinterest still has much work to inform its users of their legal risks, and help those users protect themselves.

Copyright Watch: The Liability-Proof World of Pinterest

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4 Responses to “New Pinterest Credit Feature Does Little to Protect Pinterest Users”

  1. Mark Loundy Says:

    Giving credit is commonly believed to be a get-out-of-jail card for copyright. It is not. Further, it can serve as proof of willful infringement.

  2. Mike Savad Says:

    giving credit – i don’t care about, worse though is that pinterest gets my name credit in the search engines. the fact is, they have a large image (and now connected to flickr for even larger images), and they don’t reduce the size. if someone erased the original link, the full size is now orphaned on pinterest, you can still pin from a search like google images. and they make it very difficult to claim the copyright and have it taken down. there should be no reason to tell them where my image came from since the source is supposedly attached to the image.

  3. MJ Says:

    Can we clarify the part about demanding payment from the Pinterest user who violated copyright? It was my understanding that sending a DMCA take down notice provides the party in violation an opportunity to stop their infringing use without being subject to payment; sort of like ‘safe harbor’ as long as they stop using the protected material. What’s correct?

  4. David Walker Says:

    I’m not a lawyer, but my understanding is that the DMCA take-down provision protects service providers who host content posted by other people. In other words, the service provider is protected if they remove allegedly infringing content upon notification from a copyright holder. The customers (or users) who post the content without permission in the first place are not shielded by the DMCA take-down provision.