As an attorney, I have always been a little weary of Pinterest. Sure, in theory, it’s a great idea. I used to create my own interest boards as a kid. With magazine clippings. On a school notebook cover. With clear shipping tape acting as a laminate. Maybe lame. Maybe creative. Those photos weren’t “mine” but they also weren’t being broadcast to the entire world for anyone to see just for searching for my name.
Pinterest terms and conditions create copyright infringement liability. Do you know who is liable under the terms and conditions of Pinterest? You. The user. Unless you own the pictures you upload and pin on Pinterest, you could be potentially held liable for copyright infringement. Ownership of the photos usually means you took the photos yourself with your own camera or phone, or you have somehow purchased or have been granted rights to the photo through a copyright release. The problem with Pinterest is that most people are just randomly “pinning” something that they like, want, dream about. Following someone else’s pins. Pinterest may be a great way to get ideas on decorating, crafts, clothing and more. But is it worth it?
The legal penalties for copyright infringement are:
- Infringer pays the actual dollar amount of damages and profits.
- The law provides a range from $200 to $150,000 for each work infringed.
- Infringer pays for all attorneys fees and court costs.
- The Court can issue an injunction to stop the infringing acts.
- The Court can impound the illegal works.
- The infringer can go to jail.
Pinterest just reeks of an opportunity to prosecute normal, everyday people who are sort of unaware that their actions may have serious consequences. Think Napster. Jammie Thomas-Rasset from my great State of Minnesota was fined $1.9 million for illegally downloading copyrighted music. Eventually, the judgment was reduced to $54,000, $2,250 per song. Can you afford all of the pins on Pinterest that aren’t yours?
If you really must keep your Pinterest account, please take the following precautions in order to protect yourself and your future retirement fund:
- Make sure the pictures, recipes, etc. are your own. Meaning you took the photo or created the text of the recipe
- If you do not own the material, ensure that you are pinning items that you have permission to do so. Arguably, if a company website has a Pinterest button, they are providing you with permission to post their content. So that is an instance in which it would be acceptable to pin a photo or other copyrighted medium.
- Every time you pin something, be sure to comment in a sentence or two about the item you are pinning. Why? Commentary, criticism, news reporting and the like may protect you from liability for copyright infringement as a result of the Fair Use Doctrine, Section 107 of the U.S. Code. Section 107 contains a list of the various purposes for which the reproduction of a particular work may be considered fair, such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Section 107 also sets out four factors to be considered in determining whether or not a particular use is fair:
- The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes
- The nature of the copyrighted work
- The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole
- The effect of the use upon the potential market for, or value of, the copyrighted work
The distinction between fair use and infringement may be unclear and not easily defined. There is no specific number of words, lines, or notes that may safely be taken without permission. Acknowledging the source of the copyrighted material does not substitute for obtaining permission.
In order to be completely free of the risk of copyright infringement liability, stick to just posting your own content. (Item 1)
I know people really love Pinterest. I think it is creepy to have some unknown internet marketer gaining valuable free information on my consumer habits just by looking at my pins. Its just not for me. Then again, I don’t make it a habit of announcing and uploading a picture of every one of my meals on Facebook because I think my life is more interesting than the person next to me. Maybe its just me. Maybe I should join Pinterest to show how hip and cool I am, so I can copy other people’s ideas and pretend they are my own. Nah, I would rather create garbage. At least its my own garbage. At least my dream house is something I made up in my own head, not some mansion that has the most pins.
What would you like to bet I receive an email from some staff attorney at Pinterest explaining to me how Pinterest is merely an online community for individuals to post their own media? That’s just it. Pinterest is aware of potential copyright concerns, and provides the vehicle for individuals to possibly violate the law.
For more information on copyright infringement, go to the website of the U.S. Copyright Office.
This Blog is not Legal Advice
This is a blog about my love of fashion, courtroom fashion, and instances in which fashion and the law may intersect. The information and advice on this site is general in nature, and may not be suitable for your particular circumstances.
The material on this site is intended to be informational. It is not legal advice.
Reading this website does not create an attorney-client relationship. The information contained on this website is not a substitute for obtaining legal advice from an attorney. Each person’s situation is unique, and the information and materials on this website may or may not be applicable to your legal situation. You should not act or rely on any information on this website without seeking the advice of an attorney.
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