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(P)INTERESTING COPYRIGHT

It’s not often the words ‘interesting’ and ‘copyright’ go hand in hand (okay, it’s never), but add a P and a dollop of social, and suddenly copyright seems a little closer to home.

Stripped behind its sexy logo (my words, not theirs), Pinterest is essentially an ‘online pinboard’ which allows and encourages users to ‘organise and share things you love’. And sharing the love is precisely what they are doing: Pinterest recently boasted that they were the fastest independent site to reach 10 million monthly unique users in the US. That aside, they still impressively pull in around 11.7 million active users every single month. In three words; Pinterest is popular.

To shed a little more light on the average Pinterest user (if there is such a person); she, yep that’s a she, is an American who has a penchant for fashion, arts and crafts, recipes, special occasions, and interior design – the five current most repinned topics. Despite continually growing male usage in recent months, men, as ever, don’t like to be left out: Recent male-orientated pinboard sites have already started cropping up – for starters, Manteresting and Gentlemint. Ill-fated or not, coupled with a growing male and female userbase, these rival sites point at a real demand for Pinterest’s service and all it has to offer.

Now imagine this; you’re at home in Alabama, planning your wedding to the one you’ve been with since you were sixteen. You repin wedding dresses, bouquet arrangements, beautifully ornate and intricate cake designs, and already imagining those precious weddings moments. Then, like a freight train, it hits you: A HUGE LAWSUIT (it deserved the capitals).

Okay, this is extreme, but it is a possibility. Scary. An owner of an image, if they decide they don’t want you using their work as ‘inspiration’, can decide to sue you and Pinterest, and YOU will have to foot the bill; that’s a lawyer for you, a lawyer for Pinterest and all the costs of defending. What’s more, if you are found guilty of violating copyright laws, you will also have to pay all damages against both you and Pinterest to boot. Hello bankruptcy. But wait… Pinterest also reserves the right to prosecute you for violations. Brilliant, especially considering it is still unclear whether copyright responsibility lies with the site or user. Oh and by the way, you agreed to all this.

Having ranted, I need to say that copyright laws around social sharing are still very much blurry (and yes, that is the technical term). Alongside this, Pinterest has also introduced code which allows image owners to opt out of others being able to pin their images. So, if you seriously don’t want people to repin your image, they can’t… unless they take a screengrab. And anyway, who would anyone really bother to sue? Pinterest is non-commercial (for now at least), the images are being used ‘fairly’ to initiate conversation, and it’s considered a ‘safe harbour’ (users can flag content that violates copyright, so the site can remove it). I’m not sure we even care enough to report an image, let alone sue. Either way, whatever the copyright outcome, I can honestly say I really do like the sexy logo, but I might think twice before I repin it next time…

By Duncan Mclauchlan @duncanjmc

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