Pinterest. That’s Your Image, Not Now It Isn’t.

by Peter Zack


When it comes to social media sites, this isn’t new. They own your images the second you upload them and can do whatever they like with them. Facebook’s terms have changed so many times I can’t keep up with the terms of use but it’s often been discussed that you take your chances when uploading content there. If you read the Terms of Service (TOS) then you see you’ve lost control of how your images are used.

Facebook’s TOS:

Sharing Your Content and Information

You own all of the content and information you post on Facebook, and you can control how it is shared through your privacy and application settings. In addition:

For content that is covered by intellectual property rights, like photos and videos (IP content), you specifically give us the following permission, subject to your privacy and application settings: you grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook (IP License). This IP License ends when you delete your IP content or your account unless your content has been shared with others, and they have not deleted it.
When you delete IP content, it is deleted in a manner similar to emptying the recycle bin on a computer. However, you understand that removed content may persist in backup copies for a reasonable period of time (but will not be available to others).

Now comes Pinterest. The hottest new social media site. Actually I like the concept, it’s easy to navigate and easy to use. I’ve found quite a bit of interesting stuff there I probably wouldn’t have been exposed to. Yes I do have a board there with a couple images and that will be deleted today or at the very least, drastically modified. Why? Because their terms of service also grants them total control over what you post. As a wedding photographer, I would like to upload some samples of my work to display and promote the business. With these terms, I could potentially see a recognizable bride wanting to sue if one of her images was used in someone’s advertising campaign as an example. Unfortunately, once I’ve uploaded the image, I’ve lost total control over it’s use.

So when dealing with any social media, keep this in mind. Once you upload your photos, they are no longer in your control and they can do whatever they like with them, including sell them to a third party.

In case you didn’t take the time to read it, here’s the Pinterest TOS clause regarding content use:

Member Content
We may, in our sole discretion, permit Members to post, upload, publish, submit or transmit Member Content. 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 perform, transmit, stream, broadcast, access, view, and otherwise exploit such Member Content only on, through or by means of the Site, Application or Services. Cold Brew Labs does not claim any ownership rights in any such Member Content and nothing in these Terms will be deemed to restrict any rights that you may have to use and exploit any such Member Content.

You might like to read this article in The Verge: Pinterest’s uneasy relationship with copyright law: what happens next.

Update Feb 2th, 2012: It seems Pinterest is reading all the interest in their TOS and have provided a “No Pin” metadata tag for your web site or blog. This goes part way to a solution at least for those who don’t want their work on the site and don’t even have an account. You can see the details here “Forbes”.

Cheers and good shooting
-Peter Zack

Related posts:

  1. Pinterest. Maybe not so good for business.
  2. F-BoM May 2009: Pixelated Image
  3. Free Image and Photo Editing Software Resources
  4. Review – Canon S90, Part 3: Image Quality
  5. Review – Olympus Pen E-PL1, Part 3: Image Quality & Conclusion

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  1. Yes, the bride in your example could sue if her image is used in an advertisement, but it’s the publisher (the advertiser who used the photo) who bears liability. You could even post the image, give it a Creative Commons license that allowed free commercial use and the subject would still be able to sue any advertiser who used it without model release, as happened here. The threat of lawsuit is exactly why you can be certain your wedding photos won’t end up in any advertisements.

    The Pinterest TOS isn’t significantly different from that of Facebook, Flickr and enumerable other photo sharing sites in the uses it allows the hosting company. I wrote a fairly long piece on the issue a while back:

    • Mark, certainly all of that is true but most people don’t know this or don’t bother to read the terms of service for any of these photo sharing sites or social media sites. They also may never know how their images are used. In one case I read about images taken from Facebook and used on a child porn site. Read: The Blaze Many people couldn’t afford the high costs of hiring a lawyer to chase down some internet site to have the images removed or go after a company like Coke Cola who have much deeper pocket.

      Plus maybe more importantly. If you’re in a photography business like weddings, events or shooting anything involving people and this happened, you’re the one who looks bad. Does the bride really care if Facebook or Pinterest allowed the company to take the image? No, she going to be mad at you for posting the photo and embarrassing her. That will result in more damage to your business than it’s worth risking. I’m sure her lawyer could find a way to sue you for posting her picture and agreeing to the TOS.

      • Why post the article if you aren’t going to bring any light to the issue? You understand the issues, but don’t bring those issues to your readers. Instead you posted a scary sounding article that makes Pinterest sound evil, without explaining what that clause actually means.

        I agree with Mark. The wording sounds more aggressive by Pinterest, but it’s pretty much the same as Flickr, facebook, et al.

        As for client pictures, you really shouldn’t be posting client pictures to social media without explaining it to your clients in the first place. Give them the option to opt out before they can feel embarrassed.

        • David, I’m not sure what you mean. The article was simply to show the TOS of another sharing site. People get excited about these sites and rarely read the ‘fine print’.

          The wording:

          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 perform, transmit, stream, broadcast, access, view, and otherwise exploit such Member Content only on, through or by means of the Site, Application or Services.

          Seems quite straightforward to me and doesn’t need a ton of defining. As the title suggests, once you upload your images, you loose control over their use. Again, my point is, people need to read this stuff and if it’s important content, keep it off these sites.

          Of course once you post anything to the web, you loose some control, even from your own blog. A perfect example of this is Jeff Ascough’s work. He’s a firm believer that these sites are a bad place for professional photographers to show their work. Even though he has never once posted to the site, you can find his work there without his permission.

      • Peter, I’m not sure what the point of that link to the Facebook/porn story was – it was not an example of issue your original post addressed (legal trickery to grab copyrights) but rather it was just plain image theft. This occurs daily and TOS agreements don’t affect it in any way!

        TOS agreements broadly like the ones you mention have been in force for over a decade now and I have yet to find a single instance of their misuse in the manner which you fear. Coca-Cola will never license any images from Pinterest/Facebiik/Flickr/etc., regardless of whether the TOS permits it, because their exposure to risk would be even greater than yours. (Facebook uses clip art and stock images in all their own ads instead of actual users’ photos even though their TOS clearly would permit it.) This is a tempest in a teapot.

  2. If facebook and twitter doesn’t already make you sick, then you can be sure there is something around the corner which you should apparently take interest in, yet ultimately leaves you unfulfilled. Pinterest. I wasn’t bothered with it before, and I’ll definately stay clear now.

  3. thanks for sharing that. I’ve looked at Pinterest, added 2 photos I think but this would make me think twice….
    If they want to exploit users submissions for profit (like Facebook with users details, demographs etc) then they could be sitting on a very big mountain of money. the only thing could be the resolution of images mighn’t be great for many uses.

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