Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Are you committing a crime by sharing the things you love? My research into Pinterest

I've recently heard about a fairly new social website called Pinterest & also heard that they are having a few potential legal problems regarding copyright issues.

What is Pinterest?

Currently, you can only gain access to use the site by receiving an invite from a current member or requesting an invite to be placed onto a waiting list by the website itself.

The theory behind the site seems pretty good; you have the option to add images from web pages you visit by “pinning” them to your virtual board to create collages of things you love. E.g. you can create a collage to help plan a wedding or ideas to decorate your home.

So what's the problem?
Well, websites such as Flickr are comprised of users who upload photos they have taken themselves. Users on Pinterest who are browsing through Flickr may see a picture they like and pin it to their board without having the photographers’ permission.

After two days my request for an invitation to join Pinterest was accepted and I was sent an email inviting me to join. Once I'd signed up by linking my Facebook account, I was told that I was automatically following other users who were on my Facebook list that were also members. I performed a quick search on the site for “dreadlocks”. Even though I combed mine out, I still admire them (I’m even considering getting mine back in the near future but i'm still undecided!).

 The search returned quite a large result for images that other users had recently pinned. The image I've circled above is of a regular person whose image gets banded around a lot on the Internet – particularly when dreadlocks are involved. She is from Denmark and goes by the alias of Galapril. She takes her own pictures herself and posts them onto her blog or her Facebook page where they are forwarded on.

Like hers and many of the other images I discovered on that search, they are professionally taken and have more than likely been used without the owner’s consent. Although Pinterest should be covered by Copyright Law in the same way that websites such as Facebook & Twitter are protected from being sued if their users share copyrighted material, it may be excluded as none of the sources of the pictures are being informed that the images are being shared unlike it's predecessors.

In the eyes of the law, Pinterest may be similar to illegal peer-to-peer file sharing software such as LimeWire, Kazaa etc. in that the people sharing the music/video files have not asked the original owners permission to distribute the media for free of charge. While images shared on Facebook are not necessarily always direct from the owner, a disclaimer when trying to upload images states that they must be your own and not copyrighted in any way, if anyone wants to share your photo, then you're notified and if you want to limit who can see and share your uploads then you can change your options too – from friends, to public or even customise a list so only preferred contacts will be able to see your activity.
*image taken from Google images

 Pinterest however, does not currently have that option; users are free to roam the Internet to find their own pictures to add to their boards to show other Pinterest users.

It seems like the owners are trying to work on solving this issue though, as they've introduced a “Pin Etiquette” for their site, created a copyright policy where copyrighted images can be reported and removed and they have also introduced an opt-out button for Flickr users should they want to protect their own images.

This quiz from website knowthenet.org.uk shows just how easy it can be to accidentally commit a crime on the Internet without realising.

I hope you've found this information useful and maybe I've even educated you a little (I certainly learnt a few new things myself!). Why don't you take a look for yourself & test your knowledge on this subject?


1 comment:

  1. Very informative post - and great link to the quiz. I did it - and did learn some stuff. Thanks!