Sunday, March 11, 2012

Pinterest, Information Flood or Copyright Tank

If either you are a women and or  a photographer or both, by now you have heard of Pinterest, the pin-board -styled social photo sharing website.  97% of all registered users are women. Many photographer love it or detest it. Market managers, focus groups and large retailers as Lands End,  are overjoyed. The service allows users to create and manage theme based image collections. Much of the content is appropriated from the web. Here in lies the number one concern of Pinterest for many photographers such as myself. 
The site's mission statement is to "connect everyone in the world through the 'the things' they find interesting.  Pinterest is managed by Cold Brew Labs, based in Palo Alto, CA.  The site's  founder is Ben Silbermann, of West Des Moines, Iowa.
Users of Pinterest curate themed image boards filling them with media imaginary found online using the "Pin It"
button, or uploaded from their computer.  Each such pin item of media is known as a "pin", it can be a photograph, a video, a discussion and or a monetary gift.  Pins are then grouped into "boards" which are sets of pins created on a given topic. Pinterest is a accessed by adding the "pin it" button to the desktop bookmark bar,  "follow me" and "pin it" buttons added to the personal website or blog pages. The is also Pinterest  iPhone application, available through the App Store.
Registration for  Pinterest is invitation or request directly from the Pinterest website.  User requirements includes a link to a Facebook or Twitter account.  Users can follow other Pinterest users. Their is a "Tastemakers" page  for relevant users to follow. The "Pin Feed" button on the site's home page shows activity on boards and pinners that a user follows.
As a photographer and content creator I'm very concerned with copyright  usage and infringement rights. 
Work used without permission is an constant challenge. Many photographers and photo agencies such as iStock and Gettys Images are in discussion with Pinterest over copyright usage.
Pinterest has a notification system which allows a copyright holder to request that an image be removed from the site.  The "safe harbor" status of Pinterest has been questioned given that it activity promotes it users to pin and therefore copy to Pinterest for their perpetual use, any image found to be interesting.  Pinterest users cannot claim safe harbor status and such are exposed to  possible legal action for pinning copyrighted material.
Pinterest clearly states that by making available any Member Content through the site, Application or Services, you hereby grant to Cold Brew Labs a worldwide, irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, royalty-free license, with the right to sublicense, to use , copy, adapt, modify, distribute, license, sell, transfer, publicly display, publicly preform, transmit, stream, broadcast, access, view and otherwise exploit such Member content only on, through or by means of the Site Application or Services.
At the heart of this statement is the red highlighted word sell.  Pinterest can sell any content of yours uploaded to its website. It is also a concern that Pinterest has been known to strip all metadate essential describe, identify and track digital media. With what possible intent do organizations such as Pinterest delete copyright metadata?  Stripping copyright metadata from an originators work does not demonstrate respect, as expressed in the the copyright embedded into the metadata. It should be noted that Pinterest is not alone in demonstrating this practice. Facebook, TwitPic, Twitter and countless other websites do the same despite complaints being sent. 
On the help page of Pinterest there is a published code offered to originators  that do not wish their work pinned. <meta name="pinterest" content="nopin" />  And when a user tries to pin from your site the following message will appear "This site doesn't allow pinning to Pinterest. Please contact the owner with any questions. Thanks for visiting!"   This seems to be excepted by the media and some bloggers as Pinterest responding to concerns. However, it is an entirely different response.  Firstly, many web owners may not be aware that such codes exist.  Secondly, by doing this Pinterest is treating copyright as an Opt-in system. Meaning you do not benefit from purpose copyright until you place this bit of code devised by Pinterest on your website. What it is requiring is that every website in the world to update their website with this bit of code who do not wish their work to be pinned. 
As we know copyright requires permission from the author before usage and reproduction. This device by Pinterest undermines this principle.  What Pinterest should be doing in enabling website owners to embed their URL in the Pinterest website if they wish their work to be pinned to Pinterest.
By getting permission from the originator of the work Pinterest would be respecting the principles of copyright.
Information is more than the contents of our overflowing libraries and Web servers. It is the" blood and fuel  the vital principle of the world", says James Gleick, author of "The Information".

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