If Emily Posted: Terms of Endearment

I’m not the first, and certainly not the last, to have referred to the web as the Wild West. The analogy works. But here’s the thing, the Wild West is not so wild anymore. It hasn’t been for a long time.

History has shown us that civilization can’t sustain itself if it isn’t, well, civilized.

The last few weeks haven’t been the most uplifting for those who respect online content. People have asked if I think this is all a Blade Runner dystopian nightmare to come. (OK, no one put it exactly like that, but movies are my work and my metaphors of choice.)

I said no. I’m not leaving Pinterest. I’m not shutting down my websites. I’m going to keep doing what is right, trying to make it better and look out for others, too.


Where should you start with your site? Start with Terms of Use, Rules, Legalese, call it what you want… explain what readers can do with your content, where and how. Place a © or Creative Commons badge on your website, but people still don’t know what they mean. Spell it out.

I love what Sarah at NOTE TO SELF did with her Legal Things sidebar. She asks that she be properly credited in a way that makes perfect sense. (Please do not copy and paste Sarah’s TOU and make them your own. Consider them food for thought.)

I used to spell out my Terms. Then I simplified, worried I seemed fussy. As of this weekend, it’s back up. It’s still simple, but it’s clear.

RULE: Creating Terms of Use for your site explains to readers that web content isn’t a free for all. By creating boundaries, even lax ones, people recognize that content needs to be respected in the way you choose.


Last week I wrote about concerns over the Pin It! button embedded by a lot of 3rd parties.

Wanna hear something cool? Flickr removed it from their system because someone asked. The same happened with SNAPwidget when my friend Kal (the artist behind the LINKwithlove logo) approached them to say that it wasn’t right.

When companies have knee jerk responses to stop something out of concern for their clients they deserve to be commended. I love Flickr more than before. I don’t use SNAPwidget because I’m not self-hosted, but if I were I’d have it on this blog in a second.

RULE: If you embed the Pin It! button in your blog posts, only do so if the content on your site is 100% original. Otherwise, you are breaking Pinterest Terms and misleading your readers.

Instead, spell out in your Terms that readers can pin original content from your site – skip the button. Better safe than sorry.


Lastly, add a LINKwithlove badge to your site. It’s like a neighborhood watch sign that lets visitors know you’re part of a community that is looking out for one another. Kind of like that scene in Meet The Parents and the whole Circle of Trust thing. Only nicer. And with lots of colors to choose from.

I have this theory. Let’s say that tomorrow Pinterest announced they were going to start over. That they screwed up but they wanted to make it better. That they were going to make pinning an opt-in app. If you wanted your website to be pinnable, you had to sign up. Or if they changed the way they copy content and opted for something that didn’t infringe on copyright. People would be happy. People would flock to Pinterest. Maybe even more than before. (Isn’t that what happened to Facebook? They made mistakes, changed policies and they got bigger?) I think Pinterest can work if they make it work.

For now, let’s just keep the conversation about respecting content alive. And we can thank Pinterest for opening up a lot of eyes.

(I’m creating a TERMS of ENDEARMENT Resource page which includes links to sites with info about Creative Commons, copyright, legal disclosures, and more. I’m about netiquette not legal advice, but  think these sites are tools all bloggers should know about.)


3 thoughts on “If Emily Posted: Terms of Endearment

  1. Pingback: five great things someone else said, vol. 37 | alexandrawrote

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