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Update: Pinterest

Mary has sent in a copy of Pinterest’s user agreement, pulled yesterday from the Pinterest site. (You can see her comment on the previous post, here.)  The wording has changed from the previous agreement, which was in force at the time I originally wrote my blog post..  Pinterest now acknowledges each user’s rights to his or her own data:

Pinterest allows you to pin and post content on the Service, including photos, comments, and other materials. Anything that you pin, post, display, or otherwise make available on our Service, including all Intellectual Property Rights (defined below) in such content, is referred to as “User Content.” You retain all of your rights in all of the User Content you post to our Service.

(Bold is my emphasis.) That’s an excellent change, and reflects the legal realities of content produced by other entities (corporations or individuals).

Here’s the original paragraph, from the previous agreement, which unilaterally granted the owners of Pinterest with all rights to user data, forever

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.

That has now been replaced by this one, which is more carefully written

Subject to any applicable account settings you select, you grant us a non-exclusive, royalty-free, transferable, sublicensable, worldwide license to use, display, reproduce, re-pin, modify (e.g., re-format), re-arrange, and distribute your User Content on Pinterest for the purposes of operating and providing the Service(s) to you and to our other Users. Nothing in these Terms shall restrict Pinterest’s rights under separate licenses to User Content. Please remember that the Pinterest Service is a public platform, and that other Users may search for, see, use, and/or re-pin any User Content that you make publicly available through the Service.

. . . which essentially says that Pinterest has the right to use data posted as it pleases in order to operate Pinterest.  That’s a much better user agreement, but these new terms are still a matter for concern, though.

As  Venture Beat has noted:

[These] changes, however, fail to address many of the copyright infringement concerns outlined by the photographer community.

Lawyer and one-time Pinterest-lover Kirten Kowalski, for instance, ostentatiously deleted her boards after learning that Pinterest’s terms of service could leave her vulnerable to copyright litigation. The new terms of service still state the user is “solely responsible” for the content they pin to the site.

Here’s a distillation of some of those copyright concerns, from a different Venture Beat article:

Members can easily grab copyrighted works from photo-sharing or media sites and clip them to their boards. Pinned images often include attribution, but sources later get lost in the shuffle, and some members go on to use images on their blogs or websites. Plus, considering that Google is the second most popular source of pins, a sizable percentage images are likely misattributed.

These copyright issues are not only a matter of concern to photographers, but to everyone who posts images on the Internet.  The issue of what amounts to wholesale theft — however unintentionally — of images isn’t really addressed adequately here.

There are legal issues that should be of concern to individual users, too.  Here’s what  SocMedSean, a social media blogger, wrote about the new user agreement:

Basically, “if you get sued for something you posted and didn’t have the permission to post…you’re on your own.” And remember, Copyright infringement is evaluated unders a standard of  Strict Liability so it doesn’t matter if “you didn’t know it was protected by Copyright law” or “didn’t mean to share something protected”. If you violate Copyright law…you’re on the hook, whether you meant to or not.

The interesting thing, here, is that Pinterest appears to be taking the approach that if they add an indemnity clause to their Terms of Use and they treat themselves as just the platform where the activity takes place, they’ll be able to claim the “safe-harbor” defense under the Digital Millenium Copyright Act. Not sure that worked out so well for Napster, so it’ll be interesting to see how Pinterest behaves when the first big copyright infringement lawsuit arises.

In other words, you, Indiana Mom, could find yourself on the wrong end of a lawsuit for “pinning” those images you found on the internet, but have no right to use.  And Pinterest won’t be defending you, or provide a legal shield for your (perhaps unintentional) theft of other people’s work.

What does this mean for users of Pinterest?

  • you have the right to upload your own images, not anyone else’s
  • you may face legal liability if you chose to ignore that restriction
  • allowing Pinterest, and Pinterest users, access to your images seriously limits your ability to control their use

The revised EULA is a huge improvement over the previous one, but fails in some critical areas.  Decoding user agreements, and understanding the implications of those agreements, isn’t easy for an average Internet user.  This one is no exception.  When considering participating in a social media site, the burden of understanding what you’re getting involved with is on you, only you.  You can’t count on “common sense”, the website itself, or your belief that things are run a certain way, to protect your interests, or those of others to wish you may wish no harm.

For those of us who are concerned about these issues, and do not want our content appearing on Pinterest, Paulund provides these instructions for preventing “pinning” from your own website.  I’ll be adding this blocker to mine.

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  1. Shams
    May 2nd, 2012 at 14:06 | #1

    Interesting! That was quick action!

    • May 3rd, 2012 at 11:34 | #2

      They do get points for noticing — and acting. Unlike the Zuckerberg approach, which is to change one tiny, hard-to-use-or-find-thing, and move only by miniscule increments. I think the P–people outgrew themselves and were taken by surprise. Their response was faster and better than it might have been, that’s for sure.

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