Pinterest – Beware what you pin and who’s pinning you!

Thursday 5th July 2012

What is Pinterest?

In the past year, Pinterest has become one of the most visited social networking sites, rivalling Twitter and Facebook in popularity. It enables the creation of online pinboards whereby you can “pin” images, including images from other websites.

Intellectual Property Issues

Pinterest has proved popular to both personal and business users. However, the copying of images and brands on Pinterest can in many cases constitute trade mark and copyright infringement.
This is a serious issue for both intellectual property owners and Pinterest users. It could also have serious consequences for Pinterest itself, with some commentators saying that it is just another website facilitating intellectual property infringement and likening it to Napster.

Tips for Copyright and Trade Mark Owners

The following are steps you can take to protect your trade marks and website content against unauthorised copying or ‘pinning’.

Copyright Protection

  • Include copyright statements on your website (e.g. © 2012 ABC Limited).
  • Include script in your website that prevents ‘right click’ copying
  • If you believe a Pinterest user has infringed your copyright, you can file a complaint with Pinterest.
  • Pinterest has created a ”nopin” metatag for website owners advising would be copiers that pinning isn’t permitted.
  • If you are a Pinterest user, other users are permitted to ‘re-pin’ content on your pinboard. Users are encouraged to credit sources. However, as this doesn’t always occur, you can consider including a watermark on your images.

Trade Mark Protection

  • Register your trade mark - A trade mark registration is proof of ownership and provides you with a 10 year national monopoly in that mark.
  • Use the ™ on unregistered marks and the ® on registered marks on your website.
  • If you believe that someone has infringed your trade mark on Pinterest, you can file a complaint with Pinterest.
  • Consider registering the Pinterest vanity url (e.g. pinterest/your brand) before someone else does.

Warnings for Pinterest Users

If you are a Pinterest user, you are contractually bound by their Terms of Service and agree to the following:
  • not to infringe IP rights
  • indemnify and defend Pinterest in legal claims
  • submit to the laws of California
  • be bound by changes to the Terms

If you breach the Terms, Pinterest can terminate your account. However, if you ‘pin’ or copy an image containing someone else’s brand or copyright work without their permission, you could face a law suit.
A rule of thumb to avoid potential liability is to either pin your own content or content you have permission to use. Some websites include a ‘Pin me’ tab permitting Pinterest users to pin from that site. 

Looking Ahead

Due to the intellectual property infringement risks, the future of Pinterest is unclear. Its terms of service and IP policies may change and an IP infringement test case could arise before long so watch this space. In the meantime, if you don’t want to be a party to the first test case, be careful what you pin and watch who’s pinning you!

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