Pinsurance: The Low Down on Being Sued For Using Pinterest

By on May 22, 2012

The internet is aflame with the fact that people are getting sued for posting images that don’t belong to them on Pinterest. The question is – do businesses have anything to fear? Is there a real chance that someone, somewhere could sue? The answer is yes, and no. Today, I’m going to sort out the ‘Pinterest is suing me’ debacle.

What’s Been Happening?

There have been news reports that certain publications and businesses have stopped using Pinterest because of the ‘user agreement’ that allows Pinterest to sell anything published on their site. The Boston Business Journal’s web editor was one of these people.

The low down is this – if you use an image that doesn’t belong to you, and Pinterest sells it – the owner of the image can sue…you.

To be fair, this will probably never happen. If people sauntered around the internet suing each other, there would be no content on the internet. But for larger companies that are worth their weight in gold, the threat is very real. People love to sue rich companies.

What’s The Problem?

On further investigation, Pinterest’s policies are fairly heavy. They make the ‘pinner’ or ‘re-pinner’ responsible for everything you pin. That means that Pinterest can sell your entire collection of pinned images, completely legally. Better yet, they’re not liable when a copyright owner sues. But who is liable? You, of course!

What Does it All Mean?

It means Pinterest laws are not ideal for the large company – that uses images that aren’t strictly their own images. For the small business, it means nothing. No-one is going to sue a small business, unless they’re insane, and are looking for a $50.00 pay out.

For the lawyers that drew up Pinterest’s user agreement – you’re idiots. Scaring away large corporate brands is not a good idea. They could have changed the wording and said ‘use’ the images, instead of ‘sell’ the images – like the other social sites do. Facebook may worry big business with ‘use,’ but Pinterest terrifies them with ‘sell.’

Now everyone is freaking out, thinking that Pinterest is going to sell their stuff, and that they’ll end up in jail for it. Big fail, lawyers of Pinterest. Perhaps a word change?

As for Pinterest being likened to Napster, in that the site and the users will get sued – everyone take a step back and relax! Pinterest is new, and they have a lot to learn. The user agreement can definitely use some work.

Besides, copyright law does not factor in social developments and new inventions in social technology. They don’t know what ‘pinning’ is. Perhaps this is an issue a tech-savvy lawyer will fix one day.

People should be able to pin anything they want, with a citation – and it should be 100% legal. Period.

Until the law changes, I dare say that large companies are right to steer clear of Pinterest. But the fundamental problem lies in the archaic law. Change the copyright laws, and make it okay to share content across unusual definitions like ‘pin’ and ‘tweet.’

And Pinterest – change ‘sell’ to ‘use’ before you lose all of your potential.

What do you think? Is the ‘Pinterest is going to sue me’ panic worth all the hub-bub?

About John Souza

John Souza is founder and chief strategist of SMMU and Social Media Impact, and is a bestselling business author. He won the 2011 Tech Marketing Awards ‘Social Media Marketer of the Year’ and most recently the About.com Reader’s Choice Award for Best Online Education Site. John has appeared on The Michael Gerber Show, and his business has been honored at the Mashable Awards, Forbes Business Awards and The Stevie Awards.
Close

Like what you're reading?

Like us on Twitter, Facebook or Google+ for more!