Fair use of photos: a no-pin situation?

It's the eve of the Facebook IPO, a few weeks after the Instagram sale, and I'm still trying to figure out Pinterest.  Is it three syllables or two?  But seriously, what does a wildly-popular site built on appropriating other peoples' images mean for content creators?

I don't often google myself but in the wake of the not so great blogger scone photo brouhahah, I've been in the habit of checking TinEye Reverse Image Search once in a while.  I tried searching Pinterest, and sure enough, found a handful of pins from this very blog.

It seemed unfair that folks were pinning my work when I didn't even have a login to the site to join the conversation.  Shortly after I whined about it on Twitter, my invite came through.  (The screenshot here is from after I joined; the first image is my own pin, but the others were there before.)

One thing that's interesting here is that of the photos pinned from limeduck.com, two are not my own work - the shoes and the pillow.  I think I did a good job, at least with the pillow, of giving attribution and linkage, but once the photo gets pinned, the credit, such as it is, goes only to me.  I'm a little disappointed that most of the pins are just stuck in collections without any comments - more acquiring and collecting than really discussing - but it's early yet.  Maybe the channel will become more social over time.

Most of the others are food pics, pretty disposable in my view, but one, the ferris wheel, is something I'd venture to say almost approaches art.  It's a film photo that I scanned, and it's also one that's gotten around on the internets a bit and even been the basis for some derivative work at Deviant Art.

Although I'm irritable about sloppy photo borrowing, I'm also a fan of fair use.  I found out that you can ban pinning of images from your site with a simple bit of code,

<meta name="pinterest" content="nopin" />

but I'm not going to do it, at least not yet.  I'm not a professional photographer and this blog is pretty much here for my own entertainment, so the stakes are low for me.  People who make pictures for a living are surely more concerned about this.  If museum curators behaved like online content "curators" it would be a curious world, wouldn't it?

Compare Flickr.  For all the almost-greatness and killed-by-yahoo hoohah, Flickr is a site for photographers to share their work - on their terms.  Flickr has done a good job of giving users choices about copyright and creative commons licenses, and also offering levels of privacy for photos and groups of photos.  In the last couple of months, Flickr has moved from site-wide nopin to a pin button available at the option of the Flickr user.

Like Flickr, Pinterest actually hosts the photos.  Unlike Flickr, Pinterest holds the photos in the account of the person that pinned them, not the person that created them.  I could delete this blog tomorrow and those pins would still be there. It's also interesting that (so far as I can tell) Pinterest images do not show up in image search via google or TinEye.

Flickr has the power to get pinning done right, and I hope that it carries over to individual content sites like this one.   Flickr pins  go to the image in the photostream in question, but some of the pins from limeduck go to the image instead of the post.  That's probably a result of image search, but it would be nice if Pinterest could work on that.  Even if they don't do it for artists, they'll eventually have to do it for commercial partners.

Will Pinterest ever mean much to social marketers? I'm doubtful of that, but I think it already means something to visual artists, but I'm not yet sure if that something is good or bad.

1 Response

  1. Jess
    I lost hope for Pinterest after my account was blocked from commenting for leaving a couple of very tactful comments with links to the real sources of images pinned from Tumblr rip-off accounts. They were along the lines of "Incredible photo! This is from [photographer's] [series/collection/gallery name]. Here's a link to [his/her] page: [URL]" That, according to Pinterest, is spam and I can't get my account unblocked but the people spreading unsourced work never get shut down or even educated.

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