on Pinterest- are you playing with copyright laws?


It’s no secret that I was an early adopter of Pinterest. As I have written, I believe it’s the new way for companies to connect with their customers/consumers (32% of surveyed customers say sites like Pinterest  lead them to buy). However, recently I have been hearing and reading a lot of dissenting chatter from photographers who sell their images online that it’s hard to trace back the source of your photo that has been used to Pin, or indeed to post on Facebook, whether or not it has a watermark on it and copyright written near it. I generally suggest that if it’s your original picture, you either encrypt it or mention in the first text on Pinterest that it is yours by name and this will come up as the source each time it’s pinned. This is hardly foolproof however,as who has the time to check through the millions of images online to check if your photo is being used correctly?

Stock sites such as shutterstock, Fotolia,and Dreamstime who sell  what they call “royalty free images”  for photographers both professional and amateur online, may be adding to the confusion that exists as the public fails to understand that “royalty-free”doesn’t mean free to use. What does it mean? And what is a royalty free image?

Allow me to illustrate via Dreamstime.com who grew to a huge company with 14,5 million images to sell via their site in a few short years
Dreamstime stats source: worthofweb.com

Yearly Visits: 314,972,969
Yearly Pageviews: 1,448,875,659
Annual Earnings: $ 2,173,320 Estimated website worth: $ 20,632,303

At Dreamstime.com, you can find a large variety of Royalty-Free stock images. Thanks to the continual evolution and diversification of digital technologies, we are able to provide images of a very high quality at a completely convenient price. All the images are carefully scrutinized and selected, in order to make sure that only the best are included and that the range of subjects is extensive.

What Royalty-Free means is that you pay for the image only once and then you can use it as many times as you like, with just a few restrictions. In other words, there are no license fees except the initial fee and no other royalties to be paid except those included in the initial cost.

The high-resolution images that you download may be used to make fine art prints, on websites, TV-programmes, for educational projects, in magazines, newspapers, books or booklets, covers for books, flyers, or any other advertising and promotional materials, in either printed or electronic media, as long as the item in which the image appears does not contradict any of the restrictions below. The list is not exhaustive and if you have any uncertainty regarding the use of the images in a correct way please email support using the help form. For more details on usage please access the terms page.

Web templates, greeting cards or postcards especially designed for sale, similar print-on-demand services, canvas, t-shirts, mugs, mouse pads or any other items incorporating the image in an essential manner, intended to be sold or given for free, are considered redistribution (if the image is used in an essential manner) and may not be created using the Royalty Free license. Instead you will need to use one of our Extended Licenses that grant you extra rights. For Web use, you must not use the image at a width exceeding 800 pixels.

If you use the images for printed materials, the number of copies must not exceed 500,000. You may modify the images in any way required for reproduction, or include them in your own personal creations.

Buying the high-resolution image (purchasing the license) does not transfer the copyright. You may not claim that the image is your own and you may not sell, license for use, or in any way distribute the image for reuse. We recommend that you credit the agency and the photographer when you use an image. By this you benefit the community at Dreamstime.com, of which you are an integral part, and help increase your success as part of the community, which, by growing contributions, gains quantity and quality.

Please note that some images may require you to credit the authors (i.e. some architectural shots). If the description of the image specifies that you must display a copyright line, than you can use the image only if you can provide such credit.

The Royalty-Free license is granted ONLY for the high-resolution, non-watermarked image (the one that is bought using the download button); all the other versions (small watermarked and non-watermarked thumbnails which are visible on the public site) are entirely copyrighted and they can be used only for comp purposes.

Our regular Royalty Free license is a one-person license and can be used only by the account owner or his employee, for the company’s own projects or clients and cannot be transmitted to another party. If the image is to be used by more employees, then an Unlimited Extended License (U-EL) is required.

By browsing this site, buying, downloading, uploading an image at Dreamstime.com or using the credits to download the high-resolution image, you acknowledge that you have read and agree to our terms and conditions. Should you have any questions about the potential use of an image from our site, please email support using the contact form.

In order to download high-resolution, non-watermarked images from Dreamstime.com, you must become a Registered User and buy credits or subscribe.

Registration is free and you have the advantage of lower prices per image. Once you are a registered user, you need to order using the Buy Credits link. Each time an image is downloaded, a specific credit amount is automatically deducted from your account.

But back to Pinterest

Pinterest terms of agreement  that you agree to when you have an account.

You acknowledge and agree that you are solely responsible for all Member Content that you make available through the Site, Application and Services. Accordingly, you represent and warrant that: (i) you either are the sole and exclusive owner of all Member Content that you make available through the Site, Application and Services or you have all rights, licenses, consents and releases that are necessary to grant to Cold Brew Labs the rights in such Member Content, as contemplated under these Terms; and (ii) neither the Member Content nor your posting, uploading, publication, submission or transmittal of the Member Content or Cold Brew Labs’ use of the Member Content (or any portion thereof) on, through or by means of the Site, Application and the Services will infringe, misappropriate or violate a third party’s patent, copyright, trademark, trade secret, moral rights or other proprietary or intellectual property rights, or rights of publicity or privacy, or result in the violation of any applicable law or regulation.”  (From Pinterest’s Terms of Use).

Member Content is defined as anything you post, upload, publish, transmit, etc. on the site.  This includes pinning from the web and re-pinning right from Pinterest itself. I thought of the images I had  pinned from a website and, while I gave the other photographer credit, I neither owned those photos nor had a license, consent or release from the photographer who owned them.  But did I have a right to put them on Pinterest?  I should have that right, I concluded, after all, this is what Pinterest is about. It’s very fuzzy.

Federal copyright laws give the author of any copyrighted work (which includes photographs and copyright attaches automatically as soon as the work is created) the sole and exclusive right to publish and reproduce such work.  So, basically, when you see a photograph that you love, you do not have any right to publish or reproduce that photograph unless you took the photo or got consent from the photographer to use the photo.  The copyright statute does  say, that certain use of copyrighted work may constitute “fair use”, in which case you would have limited rights to use the copyrighted work.  Specifically, 17 U.S.C. §107 states that “the fair use of a copyrighted work … for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship or research, is not an infringement of copyright.”    Those fair use factors are:

1.the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;

2. the nature of the copyrighted work;

3. the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and

4. the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work. Still confused? Concerned?  How many of us pin photos or post  them  to facebook  daily without ever considering the actual original uploader of the image?

Let us have your opinions below in a comment or tweet me at @wisequeen

2 thoughts on “on Pinterest- are you playing with copyright laws?

  1. Eek, it’s quite a minefield. Hopefully one can steal and share quite freely if there’s no commercial intent…. but you’ve provided pause for thought – thanks!

  2. thanks for your comment Tracey copyright issues will become more and more relevant, non-commericial only covers editorial stock photos