Pinterest Ethics: Questioning, Considering & Doing our Homework

the ethics of pinterest, anile prakash, girlfriday

The internet: where everyone goes, and where very few know how to behave. Not through lack of trying, mind you – many of us try our best, but NEW AND FUN THINGS keep popping up on our radar and we just want to THROW OURSELVES IN. Terms of use? Yes I agree, yes yes yes! Just let me into this app/game/website. Whoops, this might infringe on the rights of others – whatevs, that’s the website’s problem, amirite?

Sadly and all too oftenly, nope.

Many of us aren’t strangers to being “borrowed” from. A few years ago I designed a logo for my dear friend Michelle, then one day she emailed me with a little surprise:

girlfriday, anile, pinterest ethics

Isn’t that a delightful homage? I didn’t think so, either. I emailed and respectfully asked for a take-down and the person wrote back to say that she had found my image by Googling “cupcake” and that as such it was fair game. Um, no, it’s not, really. It took a few diplomatic emails to explain why this was inaccurate. I was beginning to despair when the lightbulb moment finally arrived as I explained that had she found the McDonald’s logo instead, she wouldn’t have used it. She agreed to take the logo down.

If only it always went down this simply – often the stakes are much higher. I regularly see many talented independent artists getting ripped off by big corporations. But what if your images are not being modified or used for personal profit, yet are being shared at a dizzying rate, without your permission or even without leading back to the correct source? Surely an artist doesn’t mind getting a little free promotion, right? Well, you don’t need me to tell you what assuming does…

Pinterest has been around for a few years now, but has gathered considerably more steam and attention as of late. It’s a pretty fun concept. “Pinterest lets you organize and share all the beautiful things you find on the web.” Hey, cool. With all the nifty things I find on the web, and with all of my ideas and future plans/haircuts/meals/renovations depending on it, I could use some organizing help. There’s even some pin etiquette to help get you started. Interestingly, they’re saying to avoid self-promotion. Really? Ok then. Moving on… wait. What’s this in the Terms?

“You acknowledge and agree that you are solely responsible for all Member Content that you make available through the Site, Application and Services. Accordingly, you represent and warrant that: (i) you either are the sole and exclusive owner of all Member Content that you make available through the Site, Application and Services or you have all rights, licenses, consents and releases that are necessary to grant to Cold Brew Labs the rights in such Member Content, as contemplated under these Terms; and (ii) neither the Member Content nor your posting, uploading, publication, submission or transmittal of the Member Content or Cold Brew Labs’ use of the Member Content (or any portion thereof) on, through or by means of the Site, Application and the Services will infringe, misappropriate or violate a third party’s patent, copyright, trademark, trade secret, moral rights or other proprietary or intellectual property rights, or rights of publicity or privacy, or result in the violation of any applicable law or regulation.”

*Holds up hand* Soooo…. how can I post anything if I shouldn’t self-promote but those are the only images I actually own? How can I pin to my boards if I don’t have the rights to use the images I find on the interwebs? *Waves hand around* Is this even a sustainable business model?

It’s great that Pinterest encourages their users to credit the source (if you spend any time on Pinterest, you’ll see that a lot of images are credited to other pins, or Tumblr, or whatever other site they were copied from, instead of actually leading anywhere that would be productive to the actual creator of the image). Not to mention, Link With Love is doing an admirable job of raising awareness in this regard. And many Pinterest users are conscientious, caring people who are crediting, attributing, linking wherever they can. But there’s one thing everyone mentioned here has forgotten about:

Most, if not all, of the images you’re posting do not belong to you. You need to ask permission.

I probably should put my hand down now – my fingers are getting numb, and I don’t think anybody’s going to be able to answer my question, at least not for now. If everybody on Pinterest actually took the time to ask permission to use the images they’re pinning, would anybody still be on there? And if you really think about it, shouldn’t this already apply to all blogs, tumblrs, facebook pages, etc? I realize this is a much bigger issue that stretches far beyond the scope of this (already very long – and it keeps getting longer) post, but it’s something we should all consider on our daily internet wanderings. Professionally, when I come across a font or texture I’d like to use for a project, I read the terms of use. If they don’t grant permission for commercial use, I don’t use it. If the creator wants attribution and the project I’m working on doesn’t allow for that, I don’t use it. And so on. Why should anything else on the internet be approached any differently? If there’s a share button, or some kind of disclaimer where you agree to respect the terms, go for it. But if there isn’t – do you really need it that instantly that you can’t write a short note saying how much you like said image, and can you please use it? Not only is it respectful (and lawful), but 9 times out of 10, you’ll be making that person’s day. I don’t know about you, but I LOVE making somebody’s day…

Pinterest is trying to set up some measures to help with this. They’ve created a “pin it” button you can add to your site to allow users to pin your work, and conversely they’ve also created a code snippet you can add to your website that will block people who try to pin from it. Flickr has already implemented this code to pages with copyrighted or protected images.

Unfortunately, the code snippet is very easy to bypass and I have seen websites with no-pin codes continue to have their images pinned to Pinterest – meaning that users are still pinning even though the copyright owner of the work has specifically and unmistakably requested that they don’t. This kind of behaviour is exactly what has some content creators and bloggers so concerned, and the fact that Pinterest continues to be so passive about it (i.e. you need to contact them to file a claim of infringement, but they aren’t actively discouraging this behaviour nor investigating/enforcing this on their own).

Additionally, the pin-it button does not necessarily eliminate the permission question. Firstly, if I have obtained permission to run somebody’s work on my blog, this doesn’t necessarily mean that they have also given permission to allow their images to be pinned to Pinterest. Adding pin-it buttons throughout your blog can be misconstrued as a green light to pin when, in fact, you may not have the right to offer this kind of permission. Secondly, a trend seems to be forming where major sites are adding pin-it buttons across the board, regardless of whether the content belongs to them or not, and without giving any kind of opt-out choice. Behance has since revised their approach and are not including the pin-it button on any portfolio work that is not cc (creative commons). Etsy remains particularly worrisome because they exist primarily to showcase and promote independent artists’ work, and at the moment there is no option for sellers to remove the pin-it button from their images.

And what about all the sites that don’t have pin-it buttons? Pinterest is basically suggesting that the entire internet needs to modify their sites with the (slightly ineffective) block-out code in order to opt-out. It shouldn’t be an opt-out. It should be an opt-in.

Ok, so back to me. Since I can’t post anything I don’t own or have the rights to, how about I throw suggested pin etiquette out the window and just post my own work? Then I’m safe, right? Wrong…

“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.”

Some of these rights sound a bit scary, but as with many other sites, they are necessary in order for the site to function as it promises to. But SELL? That’s a bad word to see in there. (“And otherwise exploit”… after everything else they’ve listed, I can’t even imagine what that would mean). If I post any of my work, I’m granting Pinterest the right to sell it? Oof. A few years ago I used to warn artist friends not to post their work on Facebook for licensing reasons but most people really don’t seem to care. And, I will admit to using Instagram (for personal use) with gleeful abandon. Perhaps Pinterest will be free of this kind of care, as well. But until the terms of use change, I think I’ll refrain from pinning my own work, or adding any pin-it buttons to my site; at least for now, thank-you.

Don’t get me wrong – the idea that somebody might like my work enough to save it as inspiration or just to share with others tickles me absolutely pink. But I have a problem with granting this kind of access to a site that will claim selling rights over my work. I wouldn’t even be able to track it or embed copyright information into it, because Pinterest strips all embedded metadata from its files. (p.s. so does Facebook, Twitter, and others).

Think you’re safe because if anybody gets really upset and starts suing, the website will take the fall? You’re not. The Pinterest terms of use state that they are free and clear of any wrongdoing. In fact, if they get sued, not only will you have to pay to defend yourself, but you’ll have to pay to defend Pinterest, too. (Facebook has similar terms, by the by).

Pinterest is a small company of 20 or so people. I understand how this can make it difficult to resolve massive issues such as this – but since they’ve already been around for a few years, and seeing as their business model appears to be built around sharing images that nobody has the rights to, I certainly hope this is something they are working on. Surely they realized this would become an issue? (Pinterest: quit calling me Shirley. Badum-bum). Recently, a petition was passed around to limit the amount of characters you could add to a pin. Turns out, people were copying entire blog posts or recipes and adding them to their pins, which eliminated the possibility of people clicking through to the actual site that was responsible for the content. Pinterest graciously implemented a character limit soon after. While I applaud this move, I feel that this was a relatively quick fix and still skirts the main issues at hand. From what I have read, they’re a conscientious team and they’re trying to do the right thing. I hope this means that significant changes for the better are in their not-too-distant plans.

If you are frustrated by the ongoing silence and lack of updates from Pinterest, and are concerned about the ethics of your Pinterest boards but lamenting the return to simple bookmarking, there may be another solution for you: Image Spark (in fact, when Pinterest showed up as the new kid on the block a while back, I thought: hey, another Image Spark). Image Spark differs from Pinterest in that it allows you to make your image collection private (this is a key difference that allows you to assemble your favourite images in one place while helping to avoid the more complex issues of sharing), has much more acceptable Terms (and in the FAQs, they specifically state that getting permission is your responsibility) and has the additional fun feature of personalized moodboards.

As for where this leaves me, I did sign up to Pinterest not long ago to see how it works… but I haven’t pinned anything, and for the time being I don’t plan to.

To sum up:

  • Just because something’s on the internet doesn’t mean that it’s free for public use – it is still protected under copyright law. Some sites share their permission policies prominently but if there is any doubt, ask.
  • Not everyone wants their work to be shared on Pinterest, or any other site. It doesn’t matter what their reasons are. We have all snapped a photo or similarly created something that belongs to us. Try to be respectful of others’ wishes.
  • Crediting a source, while admirable, is often not enough – you should be asking permission. Drop them a line, tell them how much you love them, and ask. If they say no, move on.
  • If something has a pin it button, and you know for a fact that permission has been granted, go crazy and Pinterest your pants off. If you’re unsure that a site truly has the license to share, or you come across a site that doesn’t specify whether you can pin or not – regardless of whether there is a Pinterest blockout code on it or not – ask.

Wow – you’re still here?! You super trooper, you. Thanks for sticking around. Gold star for you! And, a very special gold star thank-you to Jessika and Oh My! Handmade Goodness, for inviting me to share my thoughts with you today.

About Anile Prakash: 

A born and bred Montrealer discovering the joys of the Hudson countryside, I am a freelance graphic designer and illustrator. I am delighted by the opportunity to work directly with clients who, despite being pulled in many directions at once, still place a deservedly high value on functional and beautiful design. If you have a project you’d like to chat about together, feel free to drop me a lineI am also the design director for Pure Green Magazine, a Canadian independent print publication featuring the diversity in the green design and lifestyle market. You can subscribe here!

Connect with Anile on her website Girlfriday + Twitter & Facebook 


Editor’s note: I invited Anile to share her post with us (previously published here) for our ethics theme because she does such an excellent job laying out the major legal/ethical concerns with wisdom, humor and excellent research. Let’s continue this conversation in the comments below or join us tomorrow (Thursday, March 15) from 1-2EST for a Pinterest ethics #omhg chat with our lovely co-host Anile! Get all the details here.


  1. Georgia says:

    I hope you don’t mind, but I am going to put a link to this post on my blog. I think this is such an important issue. While I love the internet for its wealth of ideas and inspiration, I hate to see that people (usually small business artisans) are getting ripped off. I originally signed up to pintrest thinking that is would be a good way to promote my work, then I read the thing about not self promoting and respected it. Now all this is coming out, I’m glad that I haven’t posted my own images, as I’m sure there are mosre business minded people out there who would take advantage of them.

  2. Moxie Lisa says:

    Anile, I read your original post and just re-read this one and it is absolutely great! After all of the confusion about who owns what and who can use what I took it upon myself to delete my Pinterest account. I really would like to have a private place to keep my mood boards anyway…going to look at Image Spark right now! Thanks again…what a great discussion!

  3. Sara says:

    Wow. Great Post! To be honest I never really thought much about it. I use Pintrest and think it is an amazing organizational tool. I love being able to “pin” and categorize images I find so I can go back later and reference them. Reading your post has opened my eyes a bit. Seems they are going to need to do some revising to their terms and condition to make them make sense. But I have to admit I don’t want to give up my tool so I hope they can figure it out.

  4. Gaia says:

    Sara, I’m in the same boat as you. I use Pinterest as a way of keeping track of images I’m interested in so I can find them later on. Like a reference library. I’d happily have my boards be private!

    I just discovered GimmeBar which seems like another alternative. I’ll look into the fine print, but you can have private boards on there.

    It’s interesting to hear where people fall on this issue. Maybe people are trusting that Pinterest will figure out these issues? I just got a newsletter from a creative indy business ASKING us to pin her goods on Pinterest. Which in that case would be ok…Right?

  5. Marisa says:

    Great thought-provoking post Anile!

    I find the whole Pinterest backlash very interesting and am expectantly waiting to hear some actual changes from the Pinterest team.

    While not a prolific pinner, I have been using it for over a year and do find it to be a useful tool both for collecting links / inspiration and for promotion. Having considered the matter for quite awhile, I’ve made the decision not to delete (all) my boards BUT to change how I use Pinterest as a tool.

    The first thing I did was delete my Art board. I don’t want to be responsible for giving away the rights to someone’s artwork. I also deleted a couple other boards which were image rather than content heavy (I pinned for the image not for the link – there was no reason to go back to the original post).

    The second thing I’m doing is slowly but surely going through each of my pins to check that each one links to the creator of the content and is not a dead/run around link. I will also be checking to see if the content creator has installed the Do Not Pin code.

    I am also going to do my best to stick to pinning the following:
    1. Links to DIY projects.
    2. Links to recipes.
    3. Links to products which can be purchased.

    I will pin more thoughtfully and do less thoughtless repinning. I will use my “like” button more often.

    To be honest, the liability scares me most of all but I do see many content creators welcoming pins & the resulting traffic. I am happy to support the decisions of those who do not wish to be pinned and those who do.

    I think that the biggest hurdle in all of this is that the dissenters / the creators / the concerned are a small number for a site experiencing an explosion in users. For each person who deletes their boards and calls for change, there are many (many) more signing up and pinning away.

  6. Patty Palmer says:

    The essay got a little long, so I only read about halfway through, but you certainly made some valuable points.
    My site gets pinned ALOT. Some pin from the source and some don’t. I’ve gotten my dander up after reading posts like yours about the ethics of Pinterest, but in the overall scheme of things, I like Pinterest too much. I use it and love it. It would be lovely to be able to keep some boards private…just for my eyes and organization only.
    Thanks for opening up new awareness so we can be better pinners!

  7. Laura Comito says:

    Before the internet I purchased magazines ( I finally recycled 10 years worth of Martha Stewart) . If I found something I liked I ripped it out and started a file in a file cabinet. I cut pictures out of catalogs and taped them into notebooks. Maybe I liked the colors or a part of the idea. I wrote notes to myself in the margins. I still have my notebooks- all 14 of them- and I still refer to them. I use Pinterest the same way. If someone emails me and objects I remove the pin. How can you police something as big and far-reaching as the world wide web?

  8. Thank you for reminding me about Image Spark.

    At this point, I’m WAY over the Pinterest debates and more specifically, Pinterest’s complete & total lack of response to everyone’s concerns- a blog post on their site, a tweet, something. They’re just coming off as sketchier and sketchier by the day. After reading how they swap out Amazon affiliate links for their own (which I think they’re entitled to do, but let’s be upfront about it), remove metadata and then someone last night said they had a pin they didn’t add on one of their boards with an Amazon link…I’m just over it.

    If Pinterest was a boyfriend, we wouldn’t put up with this poor behavior, right? Instead of wishing and hoping and talking about how great it’d be if Pinterest changed, we need to cut our loses and move on…find a site that respects us as artists and users and is willing to communicate openly and without us begging.

    (Or just quit wasting time pinning someone else’s work and get back to making our own- lol!)

    • Jessika says:

      I am really enjoying reading everyones different perspectives on the ethics of Pinterest-it seems like many of us have decided to change or altogether delete our accounts when we realized the full implications. @Nicole-I agree there have been a lot of posts on this topic but each time we raise it we generate new dialogue on how we feel about ethics & image sharing. I am also over Pinterest due to their lack of engagement of ANY kind publicly-I appreciate ‘changes on the horizon’ but with so many concerns I am surprised they haven’t replied with a video/twitter chat or some kind of response. Have you been following the Invisible Children campaign & their #askICanything-regardless of whether we believe in their mission the engagement/accountability to public is so impressive. I hope Pinterest & other up & coming sites are paying attention!

      @Laura-I for one have no interest in policing the internet-only in working together to be respectful of the rights/wishes of those who share their work online. Just because you love it doesn’t mean it is legal, ethical, or won’t negatively impact the people you are pinning. The difference between Pinterest & your notebooks is that when you pasted something in your notebook you weren’t giving permission for Pinterest to sell or otherwise exploit that content. Using images for your own personal inspiration is wonderful-making choices for the creators of those images that could have large impact on their work/business is not so wonderful (at least for the artist!).

  9. I originally read this post on Anile’s blog, and am happy to see it reposted here. I too am surprised that there hasn’t been any response from Pinterest, even if only to say “We hear you and we’ve got our thinking caps on–more later!” I’ve sent tweets to them about my concerns, and my concerns about their lack of response and haven’t heard a peep (or tweet) back. But, even if we are “done” with Pinterest, Pinterest will not be done with us since people can still pin our work and let Pinterest have its way with it. I haven’t tried the no-pin code, and have heard it doesn’t really work anyway. But, I like sharing my work and don’t want to stop that. What I don’t like is that Pinterest has decided it can do whatever it wants with my work simply because someone else likes it.

  10. Jenni says:

    I love this series and this post especially. It is such an important topic and one I’ve been struggling with lately. I love the idea behind Pinterest and had originally started my boards as a place to help me actually be a better blogger… I had folders of photos on my desktop with no attribution connected and I didn’t want to post images (in an inspiration board for example) without proper attribution. Pinterest seemed to be the perfect answer.

    But, the longer I am in the blogging world the more that I am beginning to understand things like copyright, etc. I’ve been guilty of posting images that I did not ask permission for assuming that my attribution to the image was enough.

    I still haven’t decided what to do with my Pinterest account or my blog in respects to Pinterest. I am hopeful that things get worked out. And, I am excited about looking into ImageStax. But, I do know that I won’t make the mistake of posting an image before getting permission ever again!


  11. Brenda says:

    Pinterest..As stated above you are like a bad boyfriend..Oh how I loved thee, was inspired and entertained by things you showed me, you put my work out to the world and now I feel guilty even mentioning your name……your hidden secret is out.

    I have no answers for this and really thought it was a wonderful way for artisans and other small creative business’ to get their work out there and to find inspiration..I really never waste time worrying about someone copying my work..I am just bummed by this whole legal conundrum….haven’t pinned a thing for awhile or looked at my boards..Dang.

  12. Pamela says:

    I love this series on ethics. Oh, if everyone were on the same page with all of the rules – but they clearly are not. So, where does that leave us?

    I believe that education (like this series here) is going to be key in protecting the rights of the creator/writer/artists but, in reality, people are going to do what they are going to do.

    We can be vigilant and constantly on guard, but in the end, don’t we really want our stuff to be ‘shared’? And even with all the “don’t steal my stuff” we STILL put “Share This” links on EVERYTHING – from our posts, our art to our entire websites – ??

    For the ethical and educated it’s an opportunity to share with link backs and credits, For the uneducated and unethical, that’s an open invitation to take this and pass it around, link backs and credits be damned.

    Can we really expect a “Look but don’t touch” morality when we tell (beg, invite, encourage) people – “Take and share”? It is a dilemma.

    • Jessika says:

      @Pamela I am loving this series too!!!! I agree people will do what they want & we still want our work shared-just with respect and credit at the source. Meaning instead of stripping meta-data & forcing the web to participate, Pinterest (and others like them) consult with creatives to build platforms that share work in a way we can support & that protects the rights of creators. I think having in-built systems of crediting that reflect the basic respect many bloggers who credit properly have worked hard to establish as part of these image sharing platforms would go a long way to encouraging the ‘masses’ to pin/share/tumble etc in a less entitled way. It does come down to entitlement for me ‘if it is on the internet it is free for me to do whatever the heck I want” seems to be a pretty common philosophy online but it doesn’t serve us well at all. If instead we look at the work online as someone’s property (just like a bike on the lawn, car in the driveway, picture on the wall) and take a little time to connect, ask, or check in if it is okay if we remove their work from its context maybe we will start changing the entitled way we interact with the internet & make it a more compassionate place.

      Or maybe that is the unicorns & pixie dust making me say crazy things again;)

  13. Hi Jessika,

    I’ve been reading ohmyhandmade for a while now. It’s been great so far, but for some reason this is the first post of several things I actually have to disagree with. I know not everyone’s going to be happy with what you say (or what I say for that fact), but we all have our opinions and I can see your opinions from what you stated.

    I’m actually going to have to disagree with you in regards to your logo design vs the other’s logo design.

    For examples I have submitted logo’s to Other designers have taken my concept, drew it, and altered the image and made it “better” in their own way. I reported the altered designs to as fraud, and came back and said while the concept is the same, the design is different. Therefore it the other designers logo where they took the idea from me stays. I ended up loosing a design competition over it because the other logo was actually better.

    I’m not saying your competitor drew a better logo then you, they actually didn’t. Yours is better.

    I am also reminded of Branding. Overtime brands do get a make-over. Such as Starbucks. KFC. (more examples here The design is the same, but as you can see it looks different. It’s called “Rebranding.”

    If I was in your position, as I once was, I wouldn’t be proud that someone took my concept and redesigned it to make it look different. However I wouldn’t have the right to tell them they copied my design, because it truely is different. If a designer wants to show their talent and let others see how they can “rebrand,” then go for it.

    However I think if they are going to Rebrand, it needs to be the owners decision of Clever Cupcakes to seek a different design, but to use the same concept.

    I do think that you claiming the “Still mine” on the other design is very indeed wrong for you to state that. If your trying to say “my concept, but different design” then that’s understandable.

    Another example. An illustrator draws an illustration of a person standing in the same pose, and another illustrator comes along and draws a different person but in the same pose. We can’t tell the other illustrator to take down their image because the concept is the exact same but the overall design is different. You know what I’m saying?

    As for the pinterest heeplah copyright/ethics issue. I still pin. I wrote a post about why.

    I do understand your theory about how websites shouldn’t have to alter their code to put no pin meta tags in them. The way I see it, the www is a constant change, and we need to flow with social media. Pinterest in it’s way is kinda like social media, but without words. 🙂

    Pinterest did talk about the copyright issue. You can find it here:

    • Jessika says:

      Hi Autumn!
      You are welcome to disagree-I am so glad you enjoy reading OMHG & we welcome different perspectives (even if we don’t agree!). These are actually not necc. my opinions, they are Anile of Girlfriday’s and I respect her thoughts. My ideas on the whole situation + ethical image sharing in general are here:

      I agree the web is in constant change, if we want it to be a place of kindness & collaboration we need to set boundaries and make the companies who profit off our work accountable to the creators of the content. It might be easier to throw up our hands and say there is nothing we can do, but there always is, and the more of us who work together to create an online culture of respecting the work shared the kinder the internet becomes.

      As for Anile’s post/design-just to play devil’s advocate-If I went to your shop and grabbed this:
      changed the colour to pink and a few of the fonts to something else, then relisted it using an edited version of your listing text, you think that would be within my rights? It wouldn’t upset you as a designer to see your work mangled? Re: your other example-if the copier grabbed a pose of the person standing and traced over top of it creating a duplicate image with a few changes that is still absolutely copyright infringement. According to the law if a design is changed by 20% or more it is no longer the ‘original’ but just because its the law doesn’t mean it is okay or doesn’t require being addressed in a respectful way.

      In a rebrand the original company GIVES PERMISSION for a new designer to rebrand their work, maybe if the designer who wanted to use Anile’s graphic had asked respectfully it would have been a whole different situation. Although with their font choices maybe not;)

      Why is it we allow and expect large corporations to defend their branding/collateral but when a small designer is ripped off they are often told to let it go and move on? It seems a highly unfair double standard.

  14. Pamela says:

    @autumn. Whoa. I have to disagree with your comment re: concept and rebranding. I’ve been a graphic designer for 30+ years. Yes, before computers came on the scene and turned a lot of people into ‘wanna be’ graphic designers – now, don’t get me wrong, computers are an amazing tool for designers (and others) but, unfortunately, the technology and the web have made outright stealing a breeze.

    The cupcake logo – it is clearly an original “shape” and concept – it is evident the original art was manipulated (and not in a good way, might I add) and then sold to another cupcake ‘biz’. The argument that they used the concept and made it their own is not valid. They stole the art and changed the colors and added a different font. Clearly a violation of copyright. A plain cupcake of just any old variety would have trouble being copyrighted – lol. But that logo of a cupcake with wings – the very concept (intellectual property) and the drawing is protected. And should be.

    If someone took your UNIQUE design and concept and “made it better” – they stole it. I think you were misled by 99designs.

    As far as “rebranding” – that is when a company’s brand (their logo, their concept) updates/changes THEIR logo/identifying mark that is representing THEIR brand and ONLY their brand. A designer cannot take someone’s logo/brand and then rebrand it for another company. That’s called stealing.

    Illustrations of poses are a different matter UNLESS the original pose was “traced or copied” and then somehow enhanced or changed by color, clothing.. there are many cases of tracing and “enhancing” out there… and then there’s the concept related to the pose…

    “Different” (slight variations/colors/fonts) doesn’t translate to ORIGINAL.

  15. Pamela says:

    @Jessika – you and I are on the same page. It really is about education and working together to find a solution. I’m totally on board with that.

    I’m aware of the 20% rule and – in my humble opinion – 20% change to make it “original” is way too generous.

    And, no, the pixie dust and unicorns are not making you say crazy things. lol But the glitter, oh, the glitter…

  16. Sharon says:

    Thanks for this — I am still trying to figure out these issues. I have stopped pinning and will probably remove my boards. But I wonder … if just as “just because it’s on the internet doesn’t mean it’s your for the taking” …. if just because Pinterest states that they are not responsible doesn’t mean they aren’t when in practice they are providing the vehicle and facilitating this process. I seem to remember that contracts that include illegal stuff (like claiming blanket rights to others work) are not legal and binding contracts even if signed. Any lawyers with more than vague memories care to comment?

  17. I just wanted to say thank you for writing a great post. I am hoping that the issues with regards to Pinterest will make people more aware of copyright laws.

    Back in December I found a Facebook page, where a crafter had created a photo album of other peoples work, including mine. It was titled ‘Things I would like you to order, so I can make them.’ The photo’s were taken from a variety of e-commerce sites and were not credited in anyway to the designer/makers.

    We asked the crafter to remove our photo’s from her page and she refused to believe that she was doing anything wrong. What really shocked me was that so many of her followers also believed that she had done nothing wrong. They believed that you could take any image you wanted from the world wide web and do with it as you please (even to take orders from and then do versions of!)

    In the end she deleted her album, when we explained that she needed permission to use other peoples photo’s. I just hope that posts like this will make people more aware of copyright laws. Thank you.

  18. Georgia Parsons says:

    I have just found a really interesting blog post called “how pinterest removed all my pinned images in minutes”. It’s actually a 2 part post and it shows not only how to check whether your images have been pinned, but also how to resolve copyright infringement with pinterest. I thought it was relevant to this discussion. The author of this post has given permission for all the information to be shared,

  19. …just a thought: even if you could make your boards private (on Pinterest or anywhere else online for that matter), you are still claiming ownership or the rights to share that image. Even though your boards are closed to outsiders, they are still stored in the Pinterest/other database for use as they see fit. You have still pinned them and we are back at the same argument point…

    Having just this very morning been in conference about this very issue: ‘Pinterest and the whole online sharing ethic’, and some interesting points made by my friend, I am reminded of the question, do any of us actually own anything once it leaves us and goes out into the world? It is my understanding that the internet was created for the free exchange of information and ideas among people. By participating in this web of information and ideas through the sharing of my own ideas, images, words, I am adding to that collective pool from which to pick. I add my thoughts to the pool in exchange for resourcing others in return. By the way, this ‘taking’ is no different to my having a conversation with you on the street, reading a magazine, book or watching a tv show, it adds to my personal bank of knowledge for use as I need.

    Trust me, I do get the whole ‘ownership’ and ethics argument, but when I step outside of ego I do wonder if by participating in the whole internet sharing thing I am at the same time letting go of any perceived ownership I may have had of ‘my’ images or ideas.

    The problem in deciding the best code of practice for all, is that there are so many differing views and ‘laws’ across the globe. Each country has it’s own variation and rules regarding copyright and ownership: some state that as soon as the idea is manifested it is protected, others you have to go through a series of registering proceedures, and others still advocate that no one personal actually owns an idea or device. While these work in the real world, they fall apart online for the very fact that no one person, country or thing owns the internet (sorry Google!). The collective conscious of the web-enabled human race does, if anything.

    I have no answers. I may be wrong. I may be right. But in speaking to my offline friends this morning, this topic once more came into debate and more opinions and food for thought was brought to light…

    For the time being I have opted out of Pinterest, installed the ‘no pin’ code (for what it’s worth) on my blog, protected my Flickr account and done the best I can to disuade those that might. There are always loop holes, of course 🙂

    The internet is a great enabler for the individual, allowing us to become our own marketeers and publishers of our work, reaching an unprecedented and highly personal audience then ever before. I want to be a part of this. It has the potential to be truly amazing.

  20. Kimberly says:

    Pinterest has since changed their terms. They are quite different now. Please check out their site for these seriously revised terms.

    I don’t work for Pinterest, but I received an email from Pinterest on March 23rd indicating that they had new terms which were more realistic about ownership of images shared.

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