Pinterest – You're Probably Breaking the Law

August 16, 2012

Steve Stromberg

President of SmartyPantsConsulting, a professional development and corporate training company based in Minneapolis, Minn.

The hottest thing on the Web right now (and there’s always a hottest thing, right?) is Pinterest. It has been reported that Pinterest is currently driving more business referrals than the top few social media sites and for most businesses, it simply came out of nowhere.

The Pinterest model is certainly nothing complicated. As you navigate your daily web activities you post images to a board using the “pin it” button or upload from a computer or smart phone. You have to request an invitation to Pinterest or be invited by someone who’s already a member.

Once registered, you can develop and maintain themed-based image boards covering a variety of topics, food or home furnishings, for example.  Friends and associates can then comment and “like” the images.

Of course, most Pinterest image boards are loaded with copyrighted material. These can include photos and art which are legally owned by individuals and corporations and protected by U.S. Copyright laws. You have most likely posted protected content many times and never thought a thing about it.

So, who cares? All publicity is good, right? Companies, artists, and writers should be honored that their work and products are being popularized, right?

Most are, but those that aren’t, can turn to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and request that Pinterest remove their protected content. Individual users do the posting and for now the Pinterest model works beautifully. Individual users would be nearly impossible to pursue (although it has been done in music file sharing instances) so you and your Pinterest pals are fine.

When it comes to creating a board on behalf of your company, I recommend these two important steps before you starting pinning:

1. Make sure that you own or have approval to pin the images you’re using.

** For instance,if you have images of an exhibit from a trade show, you may need to speak to the company to see if they’ll allow you to post the photo (even if they are a client).

2. The Federal Trade Commission is watching closely, so don’t create “fake customers.”

**If your employees are posting positive feedback about the photo they should reveal that they are employed by your company.

Pin away.

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