February 14, 2012

The Great Pinterest Debate

So yesterday afternoon on Twitter, I noticed a lot of my art friends talking about Pinterest with the hashtag #donotpin. I had no idea what they were talking about so someone linked me to this article.

The debate is whether or not Pinterest (and Tumblr) hurts artists by people not attributing images or linking them to their source blogs when they are pinned and my answer to that is a resounding “YES” and I’ll explain why by posting what I posted on Facebook last night about it, in response to Less Herger’s blog post about it:

You guys should read the article on Pinterest she links though. It’s not as cut & dry as it seems in the case of Pinterest. I don’t use or know much about Tumblr so I can’t really comment on that but Pinterest is a cesspool of unattributed things. The problem with Pinterest is that people are legitimately too stupid to know how to attribute things correctly by pinning the direct source. Pinterest should do more to ensure that its userbase knows how to do this CORRECTLY, like maybe having an etiquette section in the FAQs and a link on each pin to report it for copyright violation. The other thing is that Pinterest saves a copy of the pinned image, which is dirty pool. Like the blog post I linked quoted (from the blog posts SHE linked, which I also posted this afternoon on my own FB), Pinterest creates a duplicate, competing image, which is counterproductive to the original artist. 

That said, this image here is a prime example of where I saw an image on Pinterest, unattributed, and I moved heaven and Earth trying to find the original artist so I could buy a print:

If it had been pinned properly, I wouldn’t have had to spent a very long day trying to find the original artist but what was WORSE is that what was pinned? Was a VERY high resolution picture of the piece. I don’t know where it originated from but it was likely the artist’s original scan. I saved the image and if I was a dick, which let’s face it, most people are, I could either print my own copy (if I had a nicer printer) or take it to a print shop to get a print of my own for like, $5, which is a very real scenario when no one has any idea if a “real” artist did it or some bored housewife in Idaho (not that that should make a difference but it does).

I like Pinterest. A lot. But I also pin things correctly by attributing them to something’s original source and when I repin things from other people, I make sure they’re attributed correctly as well, but most people on there are NOT that contentious. My mother has been ripped off a few times now by people repinning her things under categories like “DIY” when it’s her original work (this is not copyright infringement but it is damaging when they pin the image and not her original source or when they take her name off their repin).

This hasn’t happened to me yet and to be honest I wouldn’t mind so much if it DID happen to me because I don’t post high-res images and I know that no one could ever recreate in a print what I do in an original but it would hurt my feelings to see a pin, one day, where I wasn’t attributed by proper pinning when I make it so easy for them to do.

Pinterest really needs to take a long look at how they do things. There’s no reason for them to keep a copy of each image and if they insist on doing that, they could at least make it a thumbnail or a smaller image so it’s not competing with the original.

So there ya have it. My $0.02 on the subject.

When I woke up this morning and looked at Twitter, an artist I’m not familiar with had posted a pledge for people to take and while I won’t be taking the pledge, as its worded (I’m not going back through all my boards and seeing if they’re attributed correctly but I will make sure they are from now on) but I agree with the sentiment.

The thing is, the arts communities shouldn’t be the ones doing this. It shouldn’t be up to us to police everyone else or to set Pinterest community guidelines.  That’s Pinterest’s job and they’ve really dropped the ball. If you read the blog posts linked, especially the first one, you’ll see that their terms of use are pretty flimsy. You’re only *supposed* to pin things you own the copyright to but 99% of users are not doing that and Pinterest knows this. And they don’t do anything about it. Because that would kill the whole site if they did.

So there needs to be compromise and I think we, the arts community, need to collectively come up with that compromise, develop a petition and take it to Pinterest directly saying that things need to change. This is probably one of the only instances where a petition may do some good. We could PIN the petition and ideally, it would be repinned over and over again, especially if it’s made cute somehow.

Nothing changes if nothing changes. Y’know? So nothing’s going to change if all we do is hand-wring and write angry blog posts. I saw some people deleting their Pinterest accounts in protest but really, that’s just a drop of water in a very full bucket. That’s not going to make a difference for me or anyone else, that’s only going to make a difference for you, it’s going to help YOU sleep better at night…I guess. But what if we could really enable change? What if?

Pinterest is a great service. I love the site. And it could be really useful to artists and bloggers (or artists who blog!) as far as exposure so why not help create this tool while it’s still in its infant stages? I mean, you still need an invite to even use Pinterest! It’s still in Beta! NOW is the time to voice our concerns to affect change! So why aren’t we doing it?


Edit: This works too! PIN PIN PIN!


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  1. scutterman says:

    I completely agree with almost every point here. Lack of attribution is common all over the internet and, although hard to police, there should be some attempt. I can sort of see that Pinterest may not have the manpower, but if they don’t do something then they won’t have any original content either.

    I can, however, see every need to keep a copy of the images. If something is pinned (by the owner), then they decide to remove the original image for some reason, the pin will still have an image.
    Or if someone has a very small site, and they post and image that gets very popular, it will take down the site simply by the volume of traffic.

    In regards to the images being high-res… Pinterest is about showing off, sharing what you have created. This means, especially with highly detailed works, a high-resolution image is a must.

    It’d be interesting to see how this plays out, but I can’t say I can see change on the horizon. I know people who complain about facebook on a daily basis, yet they still log in ever day and make no effort to induce change, or even change the way they use the site.

    • Sunny says:

      I never even thought about the bandwidth issue, you make a very valid point.

      • scutterman says:

        It’s not just the bandwidth. To many hits to a site can literally take it off the internet until the server recovers. The server will constantly reset connections, and in some cases with shared hosts, the server will think it’s a denial of service attack.
        Where I work, every site we host went down one afternoon because one of our clients made a tv appearance without letting us know, and the hits overloaded the server.

        • Sunny says:

          Huh. THat’s really interesting and a really good point. In that case, Pinterest NEEDS to duplicate the image or the whole thing won’t work because with repinning, you could literally have thousands of people linking your post or whatnot.

  2. Joe Beasley says:

    1 When a high resolution copy of my image is made and stored on Pinterest servers without my permission THAT is a violation of my copyright!

    2 One of my rights under the US Copyright Law is to sell exclusive rights to a image. I may remove all copies from the internet because a client was willing to pay for those rights. So by keeping and displaying a copy that I did not give Pinterest permission to have in the first place, they are interfering with commerce and negative effecting my right to conduct my business!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Sunny says:

      1) Exactly. I found a super high-res image of “Shine” pinned on Pinterest (see my other post on the subject if you care to see said image) that I actually think was the artist’s original scan and that’s just dangerous. How that even got out there is beyond me but now it’s on Pinterest pretty much forever and that’s not cool at all.

      2) I understand what you’re saying and I empathize. Would Pinterest be okay with you if they only saved a thumbnail and had a button on each pin to report copyright violations? Do you see the benefit of Pinterest to your business?

      • Joe Beasley says:

        Not when their TOS say that they have the right to sell what is pinned. I also have a Zazzle account and affiliates
        can earn referral fees by linking to my zazzle products and selling them. We both make money it that example. The way I read Pinterest’s TOS, they could sell my images that someone else posted without giving me anything from the sales. Until that is changed, the Artists will be up in arms!!

  3. Joe Beasley says:

    From RedBubble admi

    “Quick heads up. We have been looking at the Pinterest issue and share concerns about their TOS. To this end we have removed the “pin” button from RedBubble and are looking at our policies at what we might post to the official RedBubble account. Like many we think Pinterest provides useful functionality but there are some specific legal issues we are not currently comfortable with.”

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