The Bad Thing About Pinterest

Pinterest encourages, indeed actively promotes illegal behavior. In pursuing their personal interests they are riding roughshod over the intellectual property rights of the little man and woman. They are an example of the wild west nature of the internet. They hurt independent website owners. There is nothing to stop them. Pinterest knows that. They are using the unregulated nature of the internet while they can.

Pinterest Encourages Breach of Copyright


It’s all about copyright. This is something the internet almost ignores and which internet users know little and care less about. Yet copyright is an intellectual property right of value, sometimes of great value.

Every picture created was at one time protected by copyright. The creator, usually a photographer owned or owns the copyright. 90% of the images have no commercial value and the creator allows his work to be used by others. He may do this by saying people can use his images or he acquiesces when people take the image and use it. These images enter the public domain.

However many people create serious works of value that are protected. These works are “stolen” from websites that depend on the works being on their website to encourage people to visit.

Pinterest actively encourages people to take these images because the company exists on the basis that these images, protected or not, will find their way onto their site. People usually do this by using a Pin It button on someone’s site. But where this button does not exist people can still do it by either downloading the images from a site and uploading to Pinterest or by capturing a screenshot and cutting out the image and pasting it on Pinterest.


When for 2 days (now deleted) I included a Pin It button on PoC I had no idea that next to every pinned image on Pinterest there would be code that allows people to put that image on their site. This is totally incorrect and improper because many are copyrighted. It is a blatant encouragement to abuse copyrighted images. Many pictures have been illegally taken from PoC. Visitors don’t realise that. These images find their way onto other sites. Google finds these sites a well as the images in Google image search, which damages PoC. Who cares? Well I care because the pictures of Helmi Flick are here because she has granted permission. They need to be protected because she is a professional photographer. She makes a living from these photographs.

Also of course the “stolen” image that is protected by copyright is presented on Pinterest. That too is a breach of copyright.

The point is this. People should not pin copyrighted material on Pinterest. And all the images on PoC that are protected by copyright have a notice on them or under them. Yet people with Pinterest accounts ignore these notices and pin the image on the Pinterest website because they are encouraged to do so by Pinterest. The Pinterest Pin It button should at least be able to read a copyright notice below the image placing a barrier to the picture being pinned on the Pinterest site.

The Bad

This is why Pinterest is bad for many people. They don’t educate people enough about the niceties of intellectual property rights. They can’t because they know people are not interested. For this reason Pinterest is behaving in a very irresponsible way.

For some people Pinterest is good because it promotes their work. But Pinterest doesn’t exist to help these people. That is just a happy by-product. They exist to help themselves at the expense of people who don’t want their work stolen. People who like things done properly.

Pinterest is an example of big business crushing small business. It is an example of what people are sick of; little man being used by big man. Pinterest helps the internet to be run by only the big sites. It is like the high street shops. The big supermarkets are killing-off the independent shop.

The trouble is people who use Pinterest have no idea about this legal stuff. This is partly because copyright law is complicated and there is a habit and convention on the internet to ignore intellectual property rights.

Even Google promotes illegal behavior by finding illegally copied material and presenting it in a search above the original version. Yes, a person can complain to Pinterest if someone steals a photo. They must have hundreds of thousands if not millions of complaints. But this puts the burden on the copyright holder and it is a substantial  burden if hundreds of pictures are stolen. This is very unfair and morally wrong. They don’t care about that. They conveniently brushed that knotty point to one side when they discussed creating Pinterest.

It is time to stop this unfair behavior and inject at least a modicum of regulation and decency into the internet with respect to intellectual property rights.

The Future

I feel that Pinterest will fade eventually because it is too abusive of people’s rights. People’s rights need to be respected more. It is a worsening situation that will result in a backlash. It is almost as if the internet is trying to destroy the legal concept of copyright for its own benefit.

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The Bad Thing About Pinterest — 11 Comments

  1. Great article Michael. You really make a valid point but you also do a very good job of making something otherwise totally abstract, look and feel like a real thing which is actually happening. And the high street shops is the perfect metaphor to cap it off. Is there something you can do with this article? Maybe firstly send it to pinterest but also get it published elsewhere? That would be a good thing. The truth is though the on average the human being is a consumer without principles so things have to happen before the average person gives a damn. The world and the high street shops have to become so overcome that it bothers even the person who doesnt care about anything and eats macdonalds. Somehow even he has to stop and think ‘wait, this sucks it must change’. The internet is amazingly sloppy at best. I work in publishing and so I am used to paying attention to all these things. We work with photographers. Most use watermarks because there is no way to uphold law on the internet. Wouldn’t it be nice if pinterest got nailed by a massive lawsuit and millions of people lost their hard work of building their accounts. Then the next time all those people thought about being creative on the net they might consider who they are doing it with and what laws are concerned. Its only that kind of disaster which can have any effect on the average person who doesn’t care about any of this.

    • I couldn’t agree with you more in all you say.

      “the human being is a consumer without principles”

      This so true as well. The big businesses use people’s weaknesses to make money out of them. They confuse to abuse. And bend and fiddle and fudge. People, the public acquiesce. It makes me mad frankly. Running a website is like running a high street shop in some ways and it is very competitive on the internet, the more so when there are no rules which allows people to steal. People not only take photos they also copy whole articles, provide a link back to your site credit you and thank you and expect you to accept it all. Then Google finds the copied stuff and ignores the original material. It is madness,

  2. Thanks for the education Michael. I can’t forget the instance where a person lifted a photo of my cat “Matahari” and put in in the “Traditional Persian cat” wikepedia photo’s under a different cats name.This was one of the best photos of my cat, taken in my building garden when she was 9 months old and at the peak of her “Cat beauty”.As a blogger and a prolific writer i discovered this mischief while browsing through the net, surprised at looking at cat Matahari under a different name.I wrote to Wikepedia site authors and also to the person who stole the photo.Later the photo of my cat was pulled out of “wikepedia” although a “DUPLICATE” of matahari still exists on the internet under a different name. I have donated all my travel and cat photos to “Wikepedia Commons” as i don’t derive any commercial income from the same.Authors who use my photos always credit my name to their articles, hence a consolation that your photos are put to good educative use and never wasted.I learnt “INTERNET ROBBERY ” the hard way.

    • Good comment, Rudolph. I agree that most photos should be free to use as they can educate. When photos are part of a business and protected by copyright they should be respected and left alone or the person who wants to use the photo should ask first. There should be an attempt to do the right thing.

      You make a good point about duplicate photos. When a photo is stolen it is often then re-stolen and so on, making it impossible to recover the photo from the public domain.

      Matahari is a beautiful cat. Stealing her photo was a compliment 😉

  3. An attorney wrote an article recently on pinterest after reading their “rules.” Should someone sue someone else for posting photos and pinterest is also sued by that person, the person stealing the photos has to pay their own attorney fees as well as pinterest attorney fees.

    • Interesting Elisa. I’ll have a look at the rules myself. I have not done that yet because my post is based on the obvious. However, the rules need looking at. But the rule you mention, if true, protects Pinterest from irresponsible members of Pinterest. There are many. But almost no one sues for copyright violations on the internet because it is international. If I want to sue some one in Thailand, and Pinterest is in America, where do I start? How much will it cost (a fortune)?

  4. I’ve also used several photos belonging to cat rescuers. I always give them credit. My favorite is Mia Anelli is California. She has her own photography business and also photographs shelter pets. And I always ask before using the photo and save the email mail where I got the go ahead.

    • That sounds good. You ask and get permission. That makes things completely OK. I don’t want to say it but a lot of bad behavior happens in Asia. And of course anyone can visit any site. I have made countless complaints to Google about blogs run by Asians, Russians and Eastern Europeans. That is just a fact not racism.

  5. I agree there is a lot of abuse-ability here and I think that users need to be educated about their rights. Major sites like Flickr make it to where you can allow your photos/videos to be shared or not shared. It’s super easy to lift these pictures, a little harder for videos, so this comes down to a person like myself seeing that the Flickr members doesn’t want their stuff shared and that’s the end of it. Facebook takes a different path, they block it all together. At least Pinterest doesn’t declare ownership of anything and everything put on it like Facebook does. This is a big deal. These Pinterest folks are just kids. They’ll learn.

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