Tag Archives: pinteresting

Pinterest info on the web generally falls into two camps: the how-to’s that encourage pinning with abandon and the anti-Pinterest campaigns that encourage people to boycott the site completely.

I don’t like those extremes. They lack opportunity for dialogue. Opportunity for education. Opportunity for change.

This time last weekend, I was looking over my notes for my BlogHer session and trying to condense everything I wanted to share into about 15 minutes. Inconceivable. Hopefully, I was able to lay a foundation for bloggers as to how they can use Pinterest and use it well.

What I aim for is a reasonable and well-informed middle ground: educating people as to how to use Pinterest well so that they can pin with un-reckless abandon, creating boards that respect online content.

Pinterest, like Tumblr or Facebook, or any other social sharing site, plays by the same rules. You can’t post what you don’t have the rights to.

In March, as I debated whether to continue using Pinterest, my concern was whether to keep using a platform that was hurting a lot of people by misattribution and IP theft. Here was the crux of the post:

If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse, and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality. – Desmond Tutu

Rather than walk away, and say this is unfixable, I’d love the chance to try fixing it. I’m not good at quitting things when I know they could get better.

Looking away when someone is hurt and saying you don’t want to get involved is getting involved.

I decided to keep my boards. To believe that we, the users, the mighty mice, could make Pinterest better.

I think we can, and we are.

Once upon a time, I had almost a thousand pins. I hadn’t read the fine print. Many weren’t mine to pin in the first place. Others had old and broken links.

The value of your boards isn’t in the number of pins. Broken links aren’t valuable.

As I said at BlogHer, the great thing about Pinterest is that your ability to drive traffic isn’t inherently based on the number of followers you have. More followers mean more exposure, but the quality of a pin will lead to repins, which leads to more repins and more repins. Quality has the potential to create quantity.

Safety pinning: When is it pinnable?

Pinterest controversy surrounds the issue of copyright – users agree in the TOS to only use images they own the copyright to or have permission to use.

As a writer and photographer, and in my editing work, I take this very seriously. As bloggers we should, too. No, not just as bloggers. Everyone should do it because it’s exactly what they agree to when they join Pinterest. And also, karma.

On a serious note, I know people who’ve had their livelihoods negatively impacted via improper pins. So pin with care because people need to put food on the table. That’s reason enough, isn’t it?


The best part? It’s really easy.

Pin your ORIGINAL site content. If you drew it, wrote it, photographed it – pin it.

Pin from sites, from blogs to brand sites, with a visible Pin It button – be it embedded or via a Safety Pin. If they don’t clearly state “pin me” you can always email and ask someone. It’s fast and easy and people are generally awesome with a quick response. (Please offer the same respect to someone who says, “Please, pin away,” as someone who says, “Thanks, but not thanks.” One is no better than the other.)

Before you repin, always be sure the link goes to the original source and it has the OK to be pinned in the first place (ex. curated content sites can include images that go to another site, or perhaps the right site but not the permalink for the post.)

Pinning from a brand board? Only repin the content coming from their own sites. For example, a Martha Stewart board pin is safe IF the pin came from the Martha Stewart site. Always check URLs. Always.

Let’s respect copyright while making fabulous pin boards. Let’s make Pinterest a dialogue where we contribute original content, comment and like others content, and repin when we know it’s kosher.

As Jen, whose boards are an organizational work of art, says, “Don’t pin the ugly.” Both aesthetically and ethically, I couldn’t agree more with that statement.

For more info on copyright and intellectual property, here’s my all-ages primer.

Help make this place fabulous. One pin at a time.

I’m going to follow up this post with another on Monday about some questions about pins that sit in murky territory. If you have any questions, I’d love to try and answer them. Feel free to email me (contact info top right of site) or leave a comment and I’ll do my best to include answers that can help you!

Also, if you couldn’t make the conference or stayed out too late at Sparklecorn to make the first sessions of the morning, the VirtualCon from BlogHer ’12 should be up shortly, and I’ll be sure to add the link here.

Also, also…my fabulous co-panelist, photographer Heather Durdil, will be doing a series of Instagram posts on her site in the weeks ahead. Stay tuned.


IEP third party apps ©alexashersears

We’re responsible for reading the fine print on the social sharing sites and apps that we use. We’re responsible for being mindful as to how we share content, respect copyrights and gain necessary permissions. Isn’t it up to third party apps to do the same?

Recently, I’ve discovered how many developers are gaining access to APIs to build their programs without following the Terms of Use (TOS) that come with them. Internet, we have a problem.

This really wasn’t on my radar until several months ago. My friend tweeted an Instagram of her daughter, and the link took me to an third party app, one of many that make Instagrams viewable from a desktop computer. What caught my eye immediately was a Pin It button next to her photo. The photo of her toddler is hers by copyright, as all Instagrams are by default to their owners.

You can’t pin anything unless you own the copyright or have permission to pin, so why was the embedded Pin It button on an Instagram?

I wasn’t OK with it and began doing what I believe this cyber village should be doing – kindly asking sites to do the right thing. Take down any button that encouraged pinning of Instagrams, embedded or not (some access the Pin bookmarklet in your browser instead of embedding it). A pin icon implies you have permission to pin something.

Upon realizing they were breaking the TOS, a few quickly removed the button. Very quickly. Like, fifteen-minutes-and-it-vanished-quickly. Others have made no changes whatsoever. Most have made no changes.

I’ve emailed, chatted and tweeted with a number of developers, and the conversations have been enlightening. From desktop interfaces to mobile apps to other services, a pattern emerged that leaves me uneasy:

In every case, regardless of whether an app was willing to make adjustments, they wanted the TOS explained to them. They wanted to understand what they were doing that violated user’s rights.

The TOS for developers using the Instagram API is quite straightforward:

“Although the Instagram APIs can be used to provide you with access to Instagram user photos, neither Instagram’s provision of the Instagram APIs to you nor your use of the Instagram APIs override the photo owners’ requirements and restrictions, which may include “all rights reserved” notices (attached to each photo by default when uploaded to Instagram)…”

And this:

“You shall not: Use Instagram APIs in any manner or for any purpose that violates any law or regulation, any right of any person, including but not limited to intellectual property rights, rights of privacy, or rights of personality.

And this, too:

“Instagram users own their images. It’s your responsibility to make sure that you respect that right.

FACT: Many developers agree to TOS specifically for use of an API, but build their apps without following them. They’re making what they want, not what is allowed.

Every single developer I’ve spoken with has suggested I am in the minority and that Instagram users want their content shared to bring them more exposure. Even if in the minority, I ask what gives them the right to disregard the TOS they agreed to?

I can only speak for the many who I’ve asked via twitter, Facebook, email and in-person conversation these last months, but not one has said they want their Instagrams distributed this way. If someone retweeted the Instagram they posted to twitter or Facebook, fine. They know that they’ve made it available that way. They control how that content leaves Instagram. But nothing outside of the TOS.

If Emily Posted Instagram IP Respect ©alexashersears
Every developer has also suggested that I make my Instagram feed private, as though this solves the problem. I respond the same way each time.

I have every right to share my Instagram feed while having the right to decide how my images are distributed beyond Instagram’s TOS. As does any Instagram user.

I don’t believe we can control how all of our content is used online, it’s the nature of the beast, but we can tell sites misusing it that it’s not OK. We shouldn’t have to ask to be respected, and yet we have to.

There is wonderful opportunity for exposure via Instagram. It’s a great social media tool when people use it the way it was intended.

And now for a troubling twist: third parties profiting from unethical apps.

There are apps that allow you to order prints and stickers and mini books and canvases of your Instagrams beyond your feed. They use the API so that they can access your images and give you the ability to order products. Except some go beyond and allow you to print not just your images but those of anyone you follow.

These sites are making money selling copyrighted images that might not belong to the person ordering them, which could potentially be turned around and be sold by the customer as art on Etsy, and that product image could be pinned to Pinterest. This is where it really begins to spiral out of control.

That’s not the only concern I have. I read so many posts and how-to’s that encourage people to add original content to their Facebook Pages to increase traffic. These tutorials rarely remind people that the content they upload they must have the rights to use.

FACT: Just because some apps make it possible for you to post someone else’s Instagrams to your site does not make it legal.

If you wonder how they justify this, numerous developers have told me that if what they’re doing isn’t permissible, then the sites that provide the APIs should do something about it. If they read the TOS, they’d see the limit of liability provided by Instagram to developers. The developer s responsible for using the API responsibly. Are they reading what they agree to?

When a developer has use of an API for their app, it’s like having keys to a car. The API comes with TOS specifically for the developer to follow. They have the privilege of using the API, just like using someone else’s car. If they drive recklessly and disregard the rules of the road, they can’t blame the car or it’s owners. They took the wheel. They chose to disobey the rules.
third party apps must respect IP ©alexashersears
That said, in some instances sites could take more responsibility once made aware of problems. When Pinterest became aware of a site prepped to launch that prints user’s Pinterest boards as posters, they made a note of it on their Facebook page. They’re aware it exits, and yet, they choose to simply say they don’t endorse it. Nothing more.

They aren’t supporting the site, but they’re not shutting it down either. It brings me back to this Desmond Tutu quote I’ve used in the past:

“If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse, and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.

Taking no action is an action, as the mouse would surely tell you. And it is our responsibility to take action, too.

I’m seeing more apps misusing APIs to generate content for people to use on social sharing sites. The only way I think this will stop is if we, the users and content creators, let the sites we use know that we will not continue using them if they don’t respect us.

The Field of Dreams notion that “If you build it, they will come,” must be an exciting one for developers. But just because you can build an app doesn’t mean you should. And just because you have doesn’t mean you can’t change it and make it a better one.

Disclaimer: I write about social media ethics and netiquette. None of this is to be considered legal advice.
This post can also be found as part of the If Emily Posted series on BlogHer.