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.