Over the last few weeks a very interesting debate has spread all over the internet concerning everyone’s favourite website: Pinterest. Now, I love Pinterest. I tried to resist joining as long as I could knowing fully well I’d spend way too much time on there that I really don’t have. Of course I folded and am now pinning away when I really should be filling out my tax returns. You can find me here.

However, apparently Pinterest is violating copyright law. This is something that affects me not only as a user but mostly as a photographer whose images are being pinned on Pinterest. Have a look at this post for more information about the issue.

We have seen the whole debate back when Facebook changed their terms of service and claimed unlimited usage rights on every photo you upload to Facebook. So how is this different? Well, firstly you are in control of what you upload to Facebook. If you plan on selling your photography or do not feel comfortable with that image showing up anywhere else on the internet, do not upload it.
With Pinterest you have no control over who pins your photos. The main issue appears to be the fact that, as opposed to google image search for example, Pinterest hosts the actual image on their own servers and doesn’t just display a thumbnail that would link to its original source to view the entire image.


Here are my thoughts about the whole topic, both from the viewpoint of a photographer who has their work pinned as well as a user who likes to pin other peoples pretty photos:

– If you put your photos on the internet you are always in danger of someone taking and using them for something you don’t agree with. Either plaster them with watermarks (which I stopped doing simply because I think it looks ugly) or just let it go. You cannot control it.

– I doubt anyone is actually going to steal and then sell my photo for a truckload of money. If you are stealing it to use it on your blog or mood board without asking me I won’t like it but there is nothing I can do. People who take photos from the internet and illegally sell them have some serious issues anyway. They would never ask to buy these photos from me in the first place even if they weren’t freely available so I am not actually losing any business.

– If someone gets inspired by my photography that’s a good thing. If someone decides to copy exactly what I did then that’s okay, too. I am confident enough in my ability to produce unique photos that I do not fear anyone “ripping me off”.

– I’ve even added a “pin it” button to my own blog because frankly, I am flattered if someone likes my photos and wants to add them to their boards. This makes it easier for people to pin my photos straight from the original source, including the link back to my website.

– Do I like that Pinterest states in their terms of service that they have 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” my photos? No! But, just like the Facebook terms of service uproar a while back, these terms are necessary for Pinterest to be able to show any photos on their website without being sued themselves.  Has Facebook ever sold a single photo that their users put up? No. Because they rely on the community to make their website work. Just like Pinterest. The day they will sell any of the photos on there they will kill their own business. They simply can’t afford to upset their users.


In the end I believe that we as individuals do have a certain power after all. Act responsible and you will be fine. Don’t steal and give credit. It can be so simple.



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3 Comments. Leave new

i totally agree, ann. one thing i would add though, is that often people pin images from third party sites (like, if someone took an image from your website and re-posted it on their tumblr site, for example) and then there is no link back to the original source and no credit to you, the photographer. once an image is on pinterest (with no credit or link to the original source) it will likely get re-pinned over and over again. while i am definitely not opposed to pinterest (i use it and love it!) i do think people should be aware of crediting images and linking to the original sources.


Excellent point well made, Julia. It’s a little bit what I mean when I say “act responsible”. There is a certain way on how you can use Pinterest and help to keep standards up, by always finding the original source before you pin an image. And Tumblr is a whole different pot of tea – don’t even get me started. ;)


yes, let’s not talk about tumblr. it’s friday afternoon (here at least) and i’d much rather be sneaking out of work early and drinking beer than talking about tumblr :)


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