Like Twitter and Facebook, Pinterest is a social media concept that’s compelling by nature and has quickly taken the social community by storm. And it’s easy to see why.
Pinterest is a concept of “pinning” your favorite interesting photos found across the internet, to a virtual bulletin board, complete with categories and descriptions for content. In essence it is a virtual visual collection much like a wish list, or even a dream or vision board. Only you can have several boards all hosted on Pinterest.
Have an interest in Dr. Who like I do? You can create a board there to pin your favorite photos of Daleks and actors, the electronic screwdriver you want for Christmas and even the Tardis Kindle Cover I pinned and later received for Valentine’s Day (my hubby is the best!). And the cool thing? When you pin, Pinterest links that photo “pin” directly to the site you pin from. From there your friends and followers can also “re-pin” the photo to their boards, link intact. It’s a great visual way to share with others. A lot of words aren’t necessary when a picture paints a thousand words.
Btw, you can view my Pinterest boards here. I’m slow to adding to my pins and follows, as I try to do so with purpose. Ever since reading Forbes’ article about the potential costs caused by digital hoarding, I’ve looked at collecting a whole new way. But that’s another story for another time.
As it is with most social things, I first heard about Pinterest from a friend. I wasn’t sure what to think of it at first, but I’m pretty darn sure now that there can be some marketing aspects to it. And only a week ago, The Wall Street Journal seems to agree. I finally joined because I kept seeing referral hits on my blog from Pinterest and I’m pretty sure at least one pattern sale this month originated from that direction as well. I’ve also found it’s a great way to find more things in genres I love, like Dr. Who, Steam Punk, etc.. The kind of things that pretty much it takes one to pass it on to find, but Googling might not discover. And it seems more efficient than StumbleUpon. Being very visual in nature, the platform is perfect for collecting visual experiences that only a photo can describe. I am sent photos over the internet nearly every day in one inspirational Power Point presentation or another means. I’d far rather be tagged on Pinterest and know where the photo came from.
What About Copyright Issues?
Along with the pioneering spirit of Pinterest’s visual landscape, though, copyright controversy has also been in the air. There have been complaints from image owners who don’t want their images being pinned and don’t know how to stop the frenzy. Many Etsy sellers are included in this lot. Unfortunately, some sellers have even found their for-sale items pinned to boards with descriptions like, “$60 is too much! I want to figure out how to copy this.” Not to mention the on-going concerns many photographers have.
It’s disconcerting to go through. Sellers are trying to make an extra income. Some Etsy folks are there because they lost jobs, or need a second income. Some are there because they were die-hard makers to begin with. I know we can totally appreciate their plight. No one likes to feel victimized. Everyone desires respect and professional courtesy. No one wants to lose money or have their ideas swiped. And it’s a bit of a poor show for someone to pin a seller’s item with a blatant stated intention of copying.
To add fuel to the gathering flames, just last Friday, Galen Moore wrote his article “How Your Business Could Get Sued Using Pinterest” for the Boston Business Journal. In it he explains a little known clause in Pinterest’s user agreement that gives them the right to actually sell any image uploaded to their service. A clause many people probably never noticed. I didn’t. And we could be liable for it. Eek! Really?
Also on the same day came Kevin Lincoln’s article “Pinterest Might Be Enabling Massive Copyright Theft” for Business Insider. In that article Kevin interviews a media law attorney, Itai Maytal, on the matter. Along with the varying answers both grey and pointed, Mr. Maytal points out that the recent copyright concerns are likely to be an issue for Tumblr as well.
Concerns Are Being Heard
There does seem to be some action being taken for folks who don’t want their items to be pinned. Not unlike how photos on Flickr can be protected and how photos on Google image search can be removed.
And Pinterest is no exception. They even wrote a blog article this week on the copyright subject. Seems they’re listening and they’ve created a code you can put on your website to disable pinning. Owners can also file copyright infringement complaints directly with Pinterest to have pins taken down. You can fill out that form here.
Flickr, a photo hosting service, is also listening and jumping in to protect their users. Just yesterday they enabled protection for Flickr users from having their photos pinned. Check out yesterday’s discussion on Flickr here.
Is This Much Different Than A Xerox Machine Though?
Many folks might remember though, this kind of thing isn’t the first time new technology caused copyright concerns. The invention of the copy-machine came first. There was a lot of controversy over the ability to steal copyrighted material, and yet copy-machines are indispensable today. Read more about that history at “Copyright And The Advent Of Xerox Machines,” a great little article on the “History of Information” blog from Berkley.
Some Of My Thoughts, As A Seller & Designer
Copyright protection is important. Seriously important. And for more reasons than just products and inventions. I don’t want my children’s photos, for instance, posted around the internet without permission either. An approach to the issue I haven’t really heard much about and a subject for a different conversation.
However, I think the truth is that with or without Pinterest, the copy-cats are there doing their thing anyway. In my experience, many may covet, but few truly act. (See my article “When Artist’s Hear, ‘I Can Make That!‘” for more.) And honestly, whose people aren’t my market anyway. Services like Pinterest just make it easier to find out that someone might want to copy your work. People will do this sort of thing with or without help of services like Pinterest.
Case in point: At a local juried show a few years ago, I had a woman come into my booth, handle/look at all my goods, ask questions, acted like she wanted to buy, let me talk to her about my hooks and methods, etc.. After much conversation and time, she then walked out of my booth with these words over her shoulder, “I hadn’t thought about making these kinds of things to sell in my booth! I’ll have to think about it and make some now.” She then proceeded to walk back to her booth on the opposite side of the show.
I was completely disarmed. Usually, rather exclusive juried shows include better vendors and behavior than that. But still, this sort of thing can happen. Me personally? I just can’t fathom taking the time away from my customers and booth during a show to do that to someone else. She was even old enough to be my mom! Very surreal experience, but it definitely taught me something.
Those people are out there and being in public puts you in their path. And being in business at all means risk – that’s the nature of business. Show me a good thing and I’ll show you a way someone could be victimized by it. And likewise the opposite is true. Everything in life is pretty much a two edge sword. It’s all in how we live. For now, I’ll conduct myself ethically, pursue my passion with a pure heart. If at any point I need to do something, I will. And judging intent is a tricky thing. Makes for interesting discussion though.
Overall, I see the Pinterest service as kind of a reorganized Google image collection. Everything’s already out there on Google and coming up in searches. I receive a lot of hits from Google image searches and I use image searches myself to find specific products I’m looking for. Like that stitch guide I like but keep misplacing. I never remember the brand name for that thing and I’m always losing it. I probably have 10 of them now.
Though I’m not a huge pinner yet, overall I think Pinterest can be a huge benefit to people who’d like to be discovered and I hope it stays. It’s a great tool. A great way to hang onto something visually, link included, without taking up space in my bookmarks (a system that doesn’t really work for me anyway) or my tab groups in Firefox (which works, but is mainly suitable for my research, not a lot of other things). It’s a great way to share new products with others too. Pinterest even helped me get the Tardis Kindle cover I wanted, originally pinned by a friend of mine. Amazon’s Universal Wish List never quite did that for me. And that Etsy seller would not have gotten my husband’s sale without Pinterest. Just saying. From a wishlist standpoint, the easy photo-with-link system works.
The internet is still a new frontier and as more people get on and learn how to make use of it and carve a new world out of it, the more needed tweaks and corrections will be discovered. Not much different from settling the wild west. It’s still the land of opportunity. At the same time, folks have to stand up for themselves and their principals. Though hopefully we will manage to keep it a relatively free world for generations to come.