How I’m Handling Copyright on Pinterest

I’m preparing for a web presentation on using Pinterest for business  and reflecting on how to answer the many questions that have come up lately surrounding the issue of copyright. Remember that what I advise below is not legal advice because I’m not a lawyer. Instead, I’m a social media professional trying to wade my way through the ever changing landscape of copyright (remember Napster?) and the virtual sharing of material online. Here’s what I’m doing to try to resolve the issue on my own blog and for my clients.


Opinions vary on this topic. There are some that have decided to delete their boards altogether, like Kirsten in this article:

A Lawyer Who is Also a Photographer Just Deleted All Her Pinterest Boards Out Of Fear – Business Insider Magazine

Curiously, I recently tried to visit the Pinterest account of Evan Sharp, Pinterest designer and Co-Founder and found this 404 not found message:

Pinterest 404

Hmmmm. Not sure if this is due to copyright issues or not, but curious nonetheless.

I was able to find plenty of articles that cautioned business owners yet still recommended ways to pin appropriately without violating copyright laws, such as:

What You Should Know About Pinterest and Copyright – PC World

Pinterest Copyright Legal Issues – Mashable

Here, Forbes Magazine weighs in on the Fair Use Defense argument for copyright issues.

So here’s what I’ve decided to do.

I’m going to continue pinning with caution. I’m creating my own content whenever possible and using the “when in doubt” rule. If I don’t have permission to use it on my blog, I’m not going to pin it on Pinterest either. I”m also making sure to comment on pins I’m sharing from original sources.

I’m thinking twice before repinning. When I first joined Pinterest I repinned with abandon – not thinking to click through each pin to make sure it lead to an original or credible source. If I liked the image I shared it. I learned my lesson when I repinned an image that led users back to an image with a virus. Thankfully a user pointed out my error, albeit on my client’s Facebook page. Duh! From that moment on I realized I should be checking each pin BEFORE mindlessly repinning it. Lesson learned.

I’m pinning from other sources I’ve created. For example, I have a photo blog on Tumblr that explores my passion for gardening. I’m pinning images from it more often.

I’m making sure the original source is credited. I share infographics on personal branding and social media best practices quite often as well and I’m taking more care to make sure they are pinned from the original source – or I’m repinning them from that source. If Mashable pins one of their images, for example, I’m repinning from their original pin, as I’m pretty sure they are ok with me sharing their content.

If the original site has a PinIt button I’m going to use it. Sites like Pottery Barn stand to benefit a great deal from users repinning their images.  Their website has a Pinterest button clearly displayed as one of their social connection methods and I’m going to assume that if a site includes a PinIt button they want you to use it. Although this doesn’t offer full protection against copyright issues, I’m going to guess that sites like these are probably not going to go after users of their content.

I’m going through my boards and removing images I’m not sure fit these rules. As I learn more I’m going to trim and delete until I’m comfortable with what I’ve shared. This will be an ongoing process as the landscape for social media sharing and copyright continues to change.

All that being said I’ve already written a couple posts on using Pinterest for Business and on how to schedule tweets from Pinterest if you’d like to learn more.

How are you handling copyright issues on your Pinterest boards? I’d appreciate your comments here.

3 thoughts on “How I’m Handling Copyright on Pinterest

  1. Interesting and helpful. I’ve hesitated diving into Pinterest for this very issue. Nice, actionable guidelines.

  2. If you look for the founder Ben’s board too, you’ll find he deleted it once Kirsten’s article went viral. Your advice here is good.

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