To Pin, or Not to Pin?

In the past few weeks, there's been a lot of talk about the social photo-sharing site, Pinterest. Does Pinterest violate copyright law? Is it all "fair-use"? Is it good or bad for photographers?

I do not pretend to know copyright law. I only understand enough to be able to keep my head afloat in the fields I work in. Frankly, I think, very few people completely understand it.  Copyright Law has gotten very complex, very quickly and is doing all it can to keep up with rapidly changing technology.  When that happens, things tend to get a bit sloppy.  I have a few lawyer friends who practice in copyright law and I've asked them each about Pinterest and (surprise, surprise) I got completely different answers.  Instead of boring you with legal mumbo-jumbo, I'm just going to share my own humble opinion on the matter.

To me, it's all about respect and cooperation.

To Pin, or Not to Pin?

I love it when someone posts an image of mine in their blog post.  It says Hey! I love this image! Check it out!  Plus, I benefit from the free exposure and free advertising.

I don't like it when someone shares my image without any kind of recognition or permission. Would you?  You work hard in building a piece of art and someone takes that art piece and displays it, without your knowledge, and never tells anyone who created it.

It's naughty.

When I first stumbled upon Pinterest they didn't have any way to give photographers the proper acknowledgment.  Copyright was (and still is, I believe) placed squarely on the responsibility of the poster - er, pinner.  That sent up huge red flags in my mind, so I chose not to jump on the bandwagon.

These days, given the popularity of Pinterest, I'm giving it a second thought.  I'm not completely sold on the idea.  I've had images of mine appear on the site without my knowledge or consent.  There is no way to pin one of my images other than through screen capturing, so these pinners went through the extra effort to get the photo.  The whole incident left a bad taste in my mouth.  (It's resolved, by the way. The pinners removed the images and replaced them with watermarked photos after I - ahem - asked ever so politely.)

So, what am I going to do?

For now, I'm going to be placing watermarks on all my images.  I should have been doing this all along, but I've always hated watermarks.  They detract just a bit from the photo.  But I've realized, now more than ever, it's necessary to protect my intellectual property.  If another image of mine appears somewhere, at least I'll have some sort of hat-tip.  It's not 100% foolproof.  Watermarks can be removed (I've even had good friends remove them).

I will eventually be putting a Pin This button up on the blog for Pinterest users to share my images.  This is my way of saying, Yes, you have my permission. Pin your little heart out!   I will let y'all know when I've made that leap. In the meantime, if you would like to Pin a photo of mine, just ask.  I won't say no! But you'll score major brownie points from me.

To current Pinners out there, my advice is this: Do not pin images without the photographer's knowledge or permission.  I know, it's a pain in the behind. If he or she has a Pin This type of button on their site, however, as far as I know and understand, that's their way of telling you it's ok.

If you're a copyright lawyer, or someone who feels strongly either way, please feel free to chime in!  I think the only way for any of us to get through and improve Copyright Law is to discuss and debate.