Pinners Beware! (Read the fine print)

With fame comes…copyright issues? That seems to be the case for Pinterest, one of the fastest growing kids on the social media block, who is currently garnering attention due to what some consider questionable Terms of Service. In a nutshell: your Pinterest account could potentially get you sued.

Invitation only and driven by imagery, this website lets users “pin” favorite photos onto “pinboards” they’ve created under their accounts. Recipes, home décor, clothes – you name it – flood the pages of Pinterest, which millions of visitors browse weekly. Pinning images provides inspiration, excitement, and most of all, instant gratification.

But just as we’ve seen with Facebook and Twitter, as well as Google, controversy comes with the social networking territory. It’s no surprise that the majority of Pinterest users, myself included, don’t read the fine print before pinning their hearts away, but an attorney-slash-photographer from Georgia isn’t part of that crowd. After closely examining the site’s Terms of Service, Kristen Kowalski took to her personal blog to address her concerns.

The site explicitly states (in all caps, even) that users themselves are legally responsible for pinning images that do not belong to him or her without permission from the copyright owner. In contradiction, the site’s “Pin Etiquette” advises against users posting their own photos, otherwise known as self-promoting. So if users can’t post personal images, and might face legal action if they post someone else’s images, how will the site survive?

Since Kowalski’s blog went viral, Pinterest has re-written their Terms of Service that will take effect on April 6, 2012. While the language and description of user liability is more colloquial than before, the legal implications remain. Potentially, users are still infringing copyright if they pin an image without permission. While this controversy is a testament to the site’s growing popularity, Pinterest devotees might think twice before “pinning it.”