Unless you have been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard of the latest popular social media site, Pinterest. Indeed, we considered the potential to use Pinterest to promote your law practice in a prior post. For those who aren’t familiar, Pinterest, which describes itself as a virtual pinboard, allows you to “pin” images you find on the Internet to a page referred to as your “board.” You then can follow your friends’ boards and they can follow your boards. Images can be shared (a.k.a. “repinned”) by the click of a button by anyone who finds your image. If you see an image you like on a friend’s board, you just click “repin” to add it to your board. Similarly, if a friend finds something they like on your board, they can add it to their own just as easily. Most people maintain numerous boards broken down into categories such as “Food I Want to Eat” or “Clothes I Want to Buy”.
The visually pleasing social media site quickly grew in popularity, but not without it’s share of controversy. First, as discussed on The Sociable Lawyer’s sister site, Legally Easy, many people were concerned that Pinterest was, in effect, promoting the widespread infringement of intellectual property. Unlike sites such as Facebook and Tumblr where people were encouraged to share their own pictures with their network, Pinterest encouraged users to share images they don’t own. Indeed, Pinterest’s “Pin Etiquette” asked users “not to use Pinterest purely as a tool for self-promotion.” Instead, they urged users to “curate” a collection of their favorite images. In other words, Pinterest’s “Pin Etiquette” arguably encouraged users to share other people’s images and actually discouraged users from posting their own (and, thus, images they likely owned the rights to share legally).
Second, Pinterest’s original Terms of Service allowed Pinterest to sell user’s content for a profit. In light of the fact that the content on Pinterest is often the work of professional photographers and artists, this specific Term of Service was particularly unpleasant even for users who would have otherwise allowed their work to appear on the site. This issue was confounded by the fact that, in many cases, the artist wasn’t actually responsible for placing the image on Pinterest in the first place.
New Terms of Service
On March 23rd Pinterest announced updates to its Terms of Service and Pin Etiquette to address these controversies. To address the issue of selling content, Pinterest removed reference to the word “sell” from their Terms of Service. In the blog post announcing the changes, Pinterest founder Ben Silbermann stated: “Selling content was never our intention and we removed this from our updated Terms.” Sure, Pinterest will continue to make a profit from the value derived from content provided by its users, but that is no different than the model for many other social networking sites including Facebook and Yelp. The new Terms of Services provide that “you grant us a non-exclusive, royalty-free, transferable, sub-licensable, worldwide license to use, display, reproduce, re-pin, modify (e.g., re-format), re-arrange, and distribute your User Content on Pinterest for the purposes of operating and providing the Service(s) to you and to our other Users. Nothing in these Terms shall restrict Pinterest’s rights under separate licenses to User Content. Please remember that the Pinterest Service is a public platform, and that other Users may search for, see, use, and/or re-pin any User Content that you make publicly available through the Service.”
Second, Pinterest changed it’s “Pin Etiquette” from “Avoid Self Promotion” to “Be Authentic” because “Pinterest is an expression of who you are.” Pinterest’s Terms of Service always prohibited users from sharing material they didn’t have rights to, but the prior language of the “Pin Etiquette” arguably created a conflict with those terms of service. Although the new “Pin Etiquette” is unlikely to actually change the way people use the site, it does resolve that conflict from the company’s stand point. Most experts agree that if you a user using Pinterest, the only way to avoid potential liability for copyright infringement is to only “pin” material which you have the right to use.
Finally, Pinterest announced that they would provide “simpler tools for anyone to report alleged copyright or trademark infringements.” Specifically, they now provide an easy Copyright Infringement Notification Form that can be completed directly on the site. Before they required users to notify them by mail or email.
What do you think of the new changes? Although they will clearly assist in Pinterest’s long term viability, do they do enough to help protect users and address the prior controversies surrounding the company?