I’m a pretty active Pinterest user, have been for a couple of months now, and I’m a huge fan. It has managed to combine the features of other image-collecting sites such as tumblr, ffffound, notcot, etc into a user-friendly and organized place to store all your inspirations. For most users, it’s a great place to keep recipes, decor ideas, DIY projects, art, wishful vacation destinations, and most importantly, cat pics. It’s one giant circle jerk of self-expression for stay-at-home-moms, designers, photographers, and creative people alike.
There is a lot of discussion about Pinterest as a threat to copyright laws. As someone who takes photos for a living, I don’t see Pinterest as a threat against my work. I am only concerned about two things: people taking credit for my work, and people making money off of my work. I don’t think either one of those things are happening on Pinterest. I can understand the annoyance at people sharing your work and not crediting you, or worse, wrongfully crediting it to someone else. I’m no stranger to my property getting stolen on the internet, from blog posts to photos. However, in those instances the person claimed to be the author to the writing, claimed to be the person in the photos, which is another tangent of crazy. It is well understood that most images on Pinterest are bookmarked because it pleased the pinner aesthetically, they are not trying to pass it off as their own work. I try very hard to credit the original creator, because I hope for the same if someone ever finds my stuff and wishes to share it.
This photographer and lawyer deleted her Pinterest account, fearing that she would get sued for pinning other photographer’s works. TL; DR – She makes a good point that some photographers could maybe make a case if someone pins their photos without permission. She also compared Pinterest to Napster, in which case, users could be sued for sharing images without paying for them. Which is a stretch. Should I have to pay for every photo that I enjoy looking at on the internet? That’s like saying anyone who heard “Call Me Maybe” on the radio should pay the artist. If you want to get technical, when you share a song, you shared the entirety of that song. When you pin a photo, if the source is hi-res, it will get rescaled smaller on Pinterest…it is no longer the high quality photo that someone could take and use commercially.
People may be making money off Pinterest in many ways, but posting photos of landscape photos from Ireland or of someone’s wedding is not one of them. I have spent very little money myself on products I’ve seen on Pinterest. Keeping a virtual closet of products that I will never be able to afford is enough retail therapy for me, it makes me feel like I already own them. That’s not to say that if I pin a pretty photo, that I legally own that photo.
My suggestion to photographers who do not want their photos passed around on the internet? Don’t put it there. If you required that every person to obtain permission to share your work, no one would share your work. If you truly care about protecting your work from being stolen and used for profit, post lower-res photos or invisible watermarks that allow you to track where your photos are being posted. Or be that person and put a giant watermark that covers 25% of the photo. That way, potential thieves and Getty will think twice about using your image. If it’s not Pinterest, it will be another social networking site that people will be using to share images and ideas. The innernet always finds a way. In the grand scheme of things, art should be admired or it’s's no longer art. Use it to your advantage instead of bitching, and you will be surprised at how well it will work for you.
Also, your work ain’t that good. Chill out, damn.
Addendum: This article makes a great point:
“Photographers own the copyright to their images; and they have a right to make a living from them. But I get increasingly frustrated by photographers who obsess over trivial copyright infringements instead of, you know, actually making money. I really don’t want to see the photography industry take the same path as the tv, movie and music industries have done.
I enjoy taking landscape photos myself so I also spend a lot of time looking at the work of others for enlightenment, inspiration, motivation and just to practice “reading” photographs. Consequently, I could see myself pinning (or infringing!) lots of photos but a landscape photographer will have a tough time selling me one of his prints (I have enough of my own). But, offer me workshops/ebooks/seminars? Now you’re talking!”