As Pinterest continues to try to figure out ways to argue that its photo-stealing pinning service is legal, lawyers keep freaking out about it.
Two weeks ago, a lawyer read Pinterest’s Terms of Service, realised that she could be held responsible for copyright theft, and then deleted all of her photo boards out of fear of getting sued.
And then, today, a lawyer told Steve Eder of the Wall Street Journal that Pinterest users should never pin any photos that they don’t own:
“The best and easiest way to avoid trouble is to put up your own content, the content you created,” Jonathan Pink, a California-based intellectual property lawyer with Bryan Cave LLP told the Law Blog.
For example, Mr. Pink said that if a Pinterest user sees a piece of furniture that he or she likes, or a tasty-looking cookie, they’ll be safe taking out their smart phone, snapping a photo, and pinning it.
“Own the content you are publishing,” Mr. Pink said.
On the flip side, Mr. Pink said, “if you are going to play it conservative and safe, you should never pin an image on Pinterest for which you don’t own the copyright interest or for which you have not obtained a licence from the copyright owner.”
Also a “no-no”: Pictures of celebrities, especially ones interacting with brands. For those, you’d better get permission from the brands.
The one exception is photos taken before 1923. Those apparently aren’t copyright protected.
There’s plenty of stuff on Pinterest that commerce companies (and others) want pinned, so we don’t think the company will get sued into oblivion like, say, Napster. But we do find it ridiculous that the complete reproduction of a copyrighted photo on another site would somehow be protected usage (this isn’t a search site, and Pinterest photos aren’t “thumbnails,” like those in Google Image search).
And, regardless of how legal Pinterest thinks its service is, we doubt this issue is going to quickly go away.
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