Disclaimer – We are not attorneys and this is not legal advice. Seek the advice of a qualified attorney if you need copyright advice.
Has someone recently told you it’s okay to grab, alter, and republish someone else’s material from Pinterest or another website? If so, you should be very wary of that individual’s ethics and so-called expertise.
You want to write books because you have something to say and you’re good at it. However, we all know the other part of the equation is…the dreaded marketing. Unfortunately, many authors can write, but have no idea how to sell a book. In fact, they’ve never sold anything at all.
So, how do you fix that? You decide to learn. Good plan. Where do you find the information you need? From others who have been around the block. Again, good plan…maybe. How do you know that person is giving sound, legal advice? Who can you trust? A lot of people will refer you to guru types and others who are well-known in the industry, which can be a good thing. But, while you read and learn, you also need to use common sense, and trust your own instincts.
The Latest and Greatest Online Marketing Tool…but Is It Illegal?
A new marketing tactic is being promoted by several big names in the book- and Internet-marketing arenas. The main idea is to use Pinterest to bring more traffic and potential buyers to your site or sales pages by “using” (ahem…altering) other people’s Pinterest content – without permission or attribution – for your own gain.
On Pinterest, people post graphics and text for any other Pinterest users to see. This is called “Pinning.” When somebody shares somebody’s “Pin” with others on Pinterest, it’s called “Repinning.”
WHAT THE PINTEREST TERMS SAY:
Pinterest’s Terms of Service grant all users the right to essentially “repin” what they find on the site. According to their terms of service: “If you post your content on Pinterest, it still belongs to you but we can show it to people and others can re-pin it.”
WHAT THE TERMS DO **NOT** SAY:
Notice it does NOT say members can alter another user’s existing Pin for use elsewhere, nor use it as their own without attribution. Their site also specifically states, “You retain all rights in, and are solely responsible for, the User Content you post to Pinterest.” It does NOT say that, just because you repin a pin, you own the rights to any part of the content posted previously by other Pinterest users, and that you can use it anywhere, and in whatever way, you want.
Where Things Start to Get Dirty
This is where the new big idea comes in. Some (alleged) industry experts are teaching authors (and others) that you can use content found on Pinterest in any way you choose, without permission from the copyright holder. Want to create your own Infographic using a photo you see, and/or a quote you like? Go ahead, they say. Want to publish lists, or attribute someone else’s quote to yourself, and then Pin them as your own (or publish them on your own website or elsewhere)? You’re good to go, they say. They have obviously misinterpreted the Pinterest Terms of Service. And, just because Pinterest has confusing verbiage that may imply their content is free for the taking does NOT protect YOU from copyright violation allegations. Pinterest does NOT say you can use the content anywhere and everywhere you choose. If you get sued, good luck using Pinterest’s terms of service as an excuse for violating the law. Just because someone says or implies you can do something with someone else’s content doesn’t make it legal.
In addition, how do you know that Pinterest user didn’t pull that graphic or text from another source? In that scenario, they AND you would be committing copyright infringement. Just because it’s on Pinterest doesn’t mean it’s automatically free for the taking! You know what they say: Ignorantia juris non excusat (“Ignorance of the law excuses no one”)
Sharing or Copyright Issue?
One of the justifications given for this tactic is that it’s simply “sharing.” Another justification is that, if an image contains a URL in the link, the owner clearly wants it to be spread around. That may (or may not) be the case but they don’t necessarily want it altered, or attributed to someone else. Others have also taught that, if you simply give attribution to the originator when you use material without asking, you’re covered. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Again, we’re not attorneys so please seek your own counsel but, in general, attribution does not substitute for permission where copyright of images is concerned, as well as many other forms of creative content. Fair use of text is a gray area, and usually decided by individual courts in a variety of ways. (Do you really want your actions to result in a judge deciding if you violated copyright law or not?) Also, most people don’t just willingly hand over rights to their work, online or off.
In our opinion, the tactics being taught by some “industry experts” are pushing the limit, if not crossing the lines of those kinds of permissions. They’re resulting in potentially very expensive violations of U.S. and foreign copyright laws as well.
According to THIS ARTICLE:
“Statutory damages (for copyright infringement) begin at $750.00 and top out at $30,000.00 per work infringed. Proving that the infringer acted willfully, or knew his actions were violations of law, and continued after so learning, may result in a court raising the damages to as high as $150,000.00 per infringed work. Engaging in a willful infringement solely for commercial advantage or private financial gain, or that involves works with a value of more than $1,000.00, each carry criminal penalties to include fines and terms in prison. As a final measure, a court finding that an infringement has taken place can order the infringer to pay costs and attorney’s fees to the copyright owner, which can be quite substantial.”
Is “borrowing” that image, meme, or text really worth it?
What’s an Author To Do?
Applying the Golden Rule is a great place to start. It’s hard to go wrong with “if it’s not yours, ask.” You want people to respect your work, no matter what kind of art it is, and so does everyone else.
It doesn’t matter if seemingly shady advice like this comes from a so-called expert, guru, or otherwise. If your gut says, “just because you can doesn’t mean you should,” either get permission, or don’t do it at all.
If you want to share your own cool graphics on Pinterest, simply add them to your own website, and then create a “Pin” on Pinterest for that URL. Their system will ask if you want to include one of the graphics from that page, and will ask which one.
If you want to create your own memes for Pinterest, doing so is super easy with sites like THIS.
Cheryl Pickett started her writing career at the end of 1999 as a freelance writer, and started writing books several years later. She’s currently working hard to finish the third in a series of devotion books for kids and families called Creation Inspirations. Find her online at http://www.cherylpickett.com
About The Author
Angela Hoy is the publisher of WritersWeekly.com, and the co-owner of BookLocker.com (one of the original POD publishers that still gets books to market in less than a month), PubPreppers.com (print and ebook design for authors who truly want to self-publish), and Abuzz Press (the publishing co-op that charges no setup fees).
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