Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Photographers concerned about Pinterest

In a New York Post article about Pinterest, the paper gave the wrong credit line to a photo used for illustration.  The credit was given to the blogger that used the photo, but was obtained indirectly through Pinterest.  This prompted a response from the photographer, Leela Cyd:
The reason I’m writing … is to let you know you’ve used my photograph to illustrate your story without proper photo crediting. That’s my image up there, of Samantha Hutchinson of the very popular lifestyle blog, Could I Have That?. The picture was created for Tory Burch’s blog, which was pinned as such by over 500 people, without crediting.
It is this notion of losing photo credit that makes Pinterest so incredibly frustrating and heart-breaking to us photographers and makers of original content. People pin images I’ve taken all the time without proper crediting. It’s not a new issue, but it is a new medium that has busted the digital media world wide open. …
I do not take pictures for fun. I create photographs for a living. I work hard as a photographer as I’m sure you do as a writer — How would you like it if someone reposted your story exactly and credited as simply “”?
Pinterest is a relatively new social media service that calls itself a "virtual pinboard" - a place where you can copy and paste photos and content, and organize them as reminders or interests.  And then opens those pinboards to sharing with others who can "repin", "like" or comment.  While the system does indicate where the original pinned material was obtained from, it does not seem to check whether the content is original to that site, or was obtained (or authored) elsewhere.
  As the photographer responding to the Post indicated, this may result in improper citation of credit, if the reporter or blogger doesn't make the extra effort to track down the original source or credit line.
  It may also be a copyright violation - because unless the copyright holder has given explicit permission to copy and use, the pinned content is technically an unauthorized (i.e. illegal) copy.  Pinterest does recognize this, and has implemented a process that allows copyright owners to request that their content be removed from the site, and developed a "nopin" html metatag that copyright owners can use to prevent tagged content from being pinned.  These actions may help Pinterest qualify for "safe harbor" status under the DMCA, but would not protect individual users from possible legal action for content piracy.  Nor would it protect journalists who use copyrighted content without permission or appropriate credit.

There's a moral lesson here - don't assume that you can reuse anything you find on the net, or that the site you grabbed content from owns it, has properly credited it, or has given permission for it's use in your context.  Journalists may have become a little lazy in this regard as they have traditionally created the content themselves, or gotten it from syndicators or sources with express permission to use.  At the very least, try to go back to the original source to check for the proper credit line and any permissions for use.  And for those thinking "fair use" or a news exemption - remember that only covers the use of portions of the original work.  If you're online in the first place grabbing the content, it shouldn't take that much longer to track down the original source and verify credit.
  And if you don't think this is serious, pay attention to the fine print that news organizations put in when they solicit viewer or reader contributions - at the very least they will say that sending content in gives them permission to use the content; more often, they'll indicated that contributing content transfers copyright ownership to the content.

Source -  NY Post scolded by blog


  1. Often, the main criticism that arises with online phenomenon, such as Pinterest, is the question of our generation’s integrity; are we too lazy and unwilling to go the extra mile to create original work, or at the very least give someone else the proper credit? For one, Google has made it incredibly easy to search and use other’s content as our own. Up until this point, students have just been illegally using content for book reports, random assignment and the last minute project. However, what happens when these students, dependent on the quick and easy access of sites like Google and Pinterest, find themselves in the real world still accessing these sites and using others intellectual property as their own. Frankly, one can get away with lack of crediting work while still in school, less monitoring and the punishment not as threatening. Of course there is a risk, but more often than not these copyright infrigingers go unscathed. At what point will this haphazard work ethic catch up with our generation entering the work place and we find ourselves in a pickle or worse a law suit. We are perhaps “a generation of thieves” states blogger Jeff Turner. Sites like Pinterest are just fueling our fire.

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  3. The Internet makes it very easy for people to steal images and words. However, this does not mean that people always realize what they are doing is illegal. Perhaps if photographers put their signature or a watermark on their photos, they would get the proper credit they desire. With all this technology readily available to many people, artists and writers must adapt to protect their intellectual property.
    The article above talks about photographers and pinterest. Since many pinners do not read the Pinterest agreements, Pinterest is running into trouble. The issues with copyright occurring on the social media site are becoming more widespread because some images are repinned countless times.

    1. Exactly, the idea of copyrighting an image was fine when you had to use actual physical and chemical processes to replicate it. Nowadays, it takes one click. When something is that easy it is hard to think that you are infringing on a copyright.

      Watermarks seem to be the best solution. That way Artists and photographers get their work out there without having to lock it in a vault, and they can sell it when someone wants a watermark removed.

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  5. As a photographer, I think watermarking your work is your best bet. Reanna is right. I recently read this blog post:

    No one takes the time to read Pinterest's terms. I sure haven't. "According to the company’s terms of service, when a user pins something, she is claiming to be the 'sole and exclusive owner' of that content, and she is granting Pinterest the right to use it on their website,"says the author of the blog.

    In addition to this, Pinterest holds the person liable if a photographer sues for violating copyright. It is not evident if fair use can be a defense for pinning copyrighted material. Like the author says, "Users have no idea that they are tacitly giving Pinterest ownership over the content they pin."

    It's a tricky situation, but we are responsible as journalists to do fact-checking. It would be much easier to give proper credit to photographers like Leela Cyd by placing a watermark on the photos. Hopefully then photographers will get the credit they deserve.

    Clara Reed

  6. Yes, Pinterest and other social media sites should be somewhat worrisome to content creators. A good social media site will keep a close eye on copyright useage if it wants to remain a credible entity. However, some people will remain uneducated about copyright, or they will disregard it all together. I agree with the previous poster who mentioned marking your published work. There are so many negative things that photographers can say about Pinterest, but there are also things that may credit them, as well. For example, learning new "stylish" ways that they can enhance their personal style by learning from others trends. Photographers can also become inspired by others works and see something they had never thought of before (thinking outside of the box, if you will). It is also a good site to boost your may even bring you in some business. Overall, I do see how this is bothersome but, just like anything on the web, you need to go the extra mile to protect your own copy and not force blame on others.

  7. As a Pinterest addict, this issue NEVER crossed my mind. Although I've never pinned anything (just repinned), I can see how much of a problem this is. This has become part of our culture--sharing information and ideas instantly, and with that, we lose the idea of how much effort was put into the product or material because it's so easy for us to duplicate or forward. It's the same with online news sites or networking media. Our culture just wants the news as fast as possible, and often those who are providing that information rarely take the time to give credit where credit is due (such as the original sources of the information or photographers). I really didn't think anything about this in terms of Pinterest because there's a website link to most everything, so I just assume everything is credited properly, but now I will definitely be more conscious of where the content originated from.

  8. The main subject to focus on in this case is the New York Times journalist. This journalist clearly did not take the code of ethics into consideration, prior to publishing this article. Rather, this reporter engaged in sloppy, unfair reporting. As a journalist, one is required to seek out all sources and identify them prior to publishing. The first thing this journalist should have done is contacted the Pinterest member who pinned the photograph. The journalist could have then easily determined whether or not the photograph belonged to that member. However, the journalist engaged in lazy reporting, and as a result, this issue of ‘rights’ erupted. If all journalists abided by the code of ethics, cases such as these could easily be avoided.