Is Pinterest simply a vehicle for infringement?

By Pankaj Ladhar of Manos • Alwine P.L.

If you have not yet heard of the online service Pinterest, you likely soon will. Pinterest is one of the fastest growing online social spaces reported to draw more than 10 million visitors each month. The concept is fairly simple. When a user finds something that they like online they ‘pin’ it to their ‘board.’ This results in most boards containing photographs of projects, designs or meals that an individual user has collected from all over the internet.

As you can imagine this quickly raises questions of copyright infringement regarding these images. It seems likely that the vast majority of these images are being reposted without the consent of the person who owns the rights to the image.

The rather lengthy Terms of Use agreement for Pinterest forces users to acknowledge that they actually do have the intellectual property rights to any content that you post. Furthermore you must agree to indemnify, that is reimburse the company, for any damages and legal fees that the company incurs as the result of your content. It seems that they are providing a vehicle that is ripe for users to unthinkingly violate the copyrights of the original content holders and then trying to avoid any potential responsibility they may face.

It is difficult to tell how this will play out in real life if and when it become the focus of intellectual property disputes. This has led at least one user, with some knowledge of intellectual property law to remove all of her content. She did indicate however that the founder of Pinterest did reach out to her to address her concerns and shared planned to make changes to their terms of use to address this issue.

Source: ABA Journal, “Pin with Caution, Says Lawyer Who Deleted All Her Pinterest Posts,”Stephanie Francis Ward, Feb. 29, 2012