Pinterest and The Issue of Copyright Infringement

Social Media is the use of websites and applications that enable users to create and share content or to participate in social networking. It is a recently new digital media platform that is gaining popularity at a rapid pace. When we publish our information by posting, tweeting, pinning, etc. do we ever think about where that information is going to end up, and in who’s hands? Do we know our copyright laws and how copyright integrates with social media? This has recently become a rather important issue in the social media world, bringing forth both the good and bad. In 2009 Pinterest, a virtual world of sharing or “pinning” similar interests via your own and other user’s photos, comments or links, was introduced in the social media world. Pinterest has about 20 million users and is growing rapidly. The basis of Pinterest, and even Facebook and Twitter is sharing with others. In Pinterest’s virtual world you can organize and share all these wonderful images, ideas, and posts onto your personal “pin board.” It’s basically a person’s dream closet; everything they’ve ever wanted is stored on this pin board.

The most important question, are any of these users considering copyright infringement when they “re-pin” someone else’s content? When learning citation in middle school, they taught us that whenever using someone else’s work to cite they’re name, give them the recognition, because you’re simply borrowing their work. Pinterest users do this, Pinterest as a platform does this on its own. One you re-pin a pin (post) the user you are pinning from is cited at the bottom of the pin; but is that enough? No. Just merely citing the name of the user who had this post before you does not excuse you from copyright infringement. This is where we run into the grey area concerning copyright and Pinterest’s way of sharing. “Pinterest allows you to post content, including photos, comments, links, and other materials. Anything that you post or otherwise make available on our Products is referred to as “User Content.” You retain all rights in, and are solely responsible for, the User Content you post to Pinterest.”(2) It then says in simpler terms, “If you post your content on Pinterest, it still belongs to you but we can show it to people and others can re-pin it.” (2) This quote is listed under Pinterest’s Terms of Service and when agreeing to the terms, that little check box you click and never read, you’re basically making yourself liable for infringing on copyright. With the nature of Pinterest, the “re-pinning,” it heavily relies on continuously sharing copyrighted materials.

“The Fair Use Doctrine permits the use or reproduction of copyrighted materials “for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research. “Four statutory factors are considered when determining whether the use or reproduction of copyrighted material is a fair use: (1) the purpose and nature of the use; (2) the nature of the copyrighted work; (3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and (4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.”(3) As a Pinterest user I understand the confusion between Pinterest and copyright infringement, but I don’t believe it is such a huge issue. The purpose and nature of Pinterest is to share with others your interests. When you post something to Pinterest you ultimately want someone else to re-pin what you’ve posted. The nature of the copyrighted work is usually an image representation of a following blog post or internet link, which when posted you may visit the link and read further about what you’ve pinned (posted). If you’re an artist, creative designer, small or big business looking to promote your work, Pinterest has a business platform and under the business Terms of Service the same rules of user content apply, therefore agreeing to publish and have your personal work shared with the Pinterest world. If you are a Pinterest user and you don’t understand that you are sharing the work of millions of other users, then why even participate in this type of social media? Why post something you don’t want someone else to participate in. I believe it is an imaginative portal of social media, where people can share dreams and ideas that they hope to one day pursue or develop.


Works Cited

(1) Hykel, Renee. “Copyright Issues for Social Media.” Legal help for businesses & families: LLC, Wills, Trademarks, Incorporation & More Online: LegalZoom., Inc, n.d. Web. 16 May 2014. <>.

(2) “Terms of Service.” What’s Pinterest?. Pinterest, n.d. Web. 16 May 2014. <>.

(3) Wymore, Mary Ann L. . “Social Media and Fair Use: Pinterest as a Case Study.” Bloomberg BNA. The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc., 14 Aug. 2012. Web. 16 May 2014. <>.


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