Pinterest: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

The world is all abuzz about Pinterest these days. The newest social media darling burst onto the scene late last year among a flurry of excitement. For those of you who may not know, Pinterest is a platform for sharing images and sorting them onto digital pin boards for inspiration or self-expression. Users can pull images from almost any website for use on their boards… and there is the rub. Pinterest buzz has recently morphed into a heated debate about copyrights and image use. But, more on that later in the blog.

First, the good stuff. Pinterest is fun. Scratch that. Pinterest is REALLY fun. In a world overrun by words in news, blogs, tweets and texts Pinterest is a welcome respite. It’s refreshing to browse a purely visual site full of beautiful images. You will see so many things you like – things you want to try, things you want to buy and things you simply admire. Pinterest is full of positivity. The site has done an amazing job thus far of limiting commercial abuses and endemic internet porn to keep pinning enjoyable. It is easy to control your pin stream so you only see things that genuinely interest you.

Pinterest is an ideal community for creative people and the handmade movement. Many artists in every medium are active on the site. Creating boards is an amazing way to fuel your creative drive. Run a search for a theme you are pondering and you will quickly find visual inspiration that is pre-filtered in a way ordinary search engines cannot duplicate.

For small businesses and professional artists, Pinterest is a great opportunity. It offers a unique way to promote your work by pinning images from your website and having those images shared through social connections. It also offers search engine optimization (SEO) benefits because those pins act as little votes in SEO algorithms that will gradually improve the search rankings of your website over time.

So, now the bad stuff. Obviously, there are some risks as well. The biggest risk for artists is that their work will indeed spread across the internet but with no reference to the artist or link to their original website. Pinners who take images from aggregator sites like Artful Home or Etsy may not take the time to cite the artist in the pin title. Or, even if the first pinner does use a citation, subsequent re-pins may delete that information and spread the image without credit.

Like many new technologies, Pinterest is facing challenges. The concept behind the platform is brilliant but in practice it gets a little more complicated. There are legitimate concerns about image ownership and rights as pins are freely added and shared. The original source of an image is often lost or never credited to begin with. Thankfully, Pinterest recently clarified their Terms of Use to diminish some of the copyright concerns of many individuals. They now offer a way for you to block pinning from your website as well if you choose to do so. However, exposure is a goal for any small business. You cannot increase your sales by hiding your wares from the world. You are better off encouraging responsible pinning of your work. Also take the time to troll Pinterest periodically to look for your creations. If they are not credited to you and/or linked directly to your original website, just post a kind request comment on the image so the pinner will update the pin. Most pinners are happy to properly credit images when it is brought to their attention.

All of us as Pinterest users also need to make an effort to pin more responsibly. In the early months of the new website people were far too casual about posting and sharing images without even considering the sources. With the Pinterest debate heating up we all need to make more of an effort to make sure pinned images are linked to the original source’s website and/or credited in the pin title. I was equally guilty but I now try to only post and re-pin images with a clear origin. Whenever possible, I go back and update my old pins with more complete information.

Finally, the ugly truth. Pinterest may be the latest lightning rod in the debate of copyrights on the internet, but it is not the sole culprit. File sharing is an issue on many digital platforms. No matter what the service providers do with their terms of use or their privacy settings these issues will persist online. You can be angry about it, you can shake your fists and you can try to hide your work from the world but it will not change a thing. Instead, you will just miss out on the opportunities that exist right alongside the risks. Mitigate the risks to the extent possible and then know you cannot control everything. Enjoy Pinterest for what it has to offer and do the best you can.

You can follow our pins at . Now that you have my two cents worth. What do you think of Pinterest?

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  • I actually would be honored if someone copied my work. In this day and age I would think that any artist that uses social media as a way to promote themselves would realize that they are going to be copied. Many of the mentors I have had over the years are artists that have shared their skills and I thank them for that. I learned by copying them although I always changed their designs up a little. No 2 artists’ work looks the same, even if they are making the same thing. I guess it’s all in the way you look at. Even if someone copies for profit, there are enough customers to go around.
    Enough said, I have to go print a copy of the first picture you posted. It gives me great inspiration for a fairy house I’m making from metal clay,lol.

  • I totally see the lure of Pinterest. When I learned about it many months ago, I was totally entranced and instantly addicted and spent literally hours following one Pin after another the very first visit to the site. After my head cleared and I could think more clearly, I immediately knew there was rampant copyright infringement happening, and terrible and irresponsible repinning going on. It really cooled my jets, to the point that although I had requested an invitation, I never did join. I wanted to wait and see what would happen with Pinterest. Because I never joined, I never did read the ToS either. Several very informative viral articles about P’s ToS later, I am so glad I haven’t jumped on the bandwagon yet.

    Your article speaks to my frustrations with Pinterest. It’s the copyright and the irresponsible pinning of simply another pin and not the source that really chaps my _ _ _. I had to track down over 15 pin links trying to find something the other day and eventually gave up and just googled the dang thing…and wouldn’t you know, I found the original source quite easily that way. It really bothers me that people can’t be bothered to do that. As for missing out on possible opportunities, I’m sure you are correct, but I’m just not ready to ‘go there.’

    In the meantime, I stay away from Pinterest. To me, it’s kind of like the devil’s playground. I’m a chocolate addict in the midst of a chocolate world when I go there. Nope, I just stay away instead, I don’t miss out on a dang thing. The world still spins and I find inspiration everywhere around me.

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