In my last post I wrote about some concerns that have been expressed by various individuals on the web regarding Pinterest’s user terms and the potential for copyright infringement. Is the concern warranted or is it, as some web authors suggest, mere hysteria?
At the level of the individual user, trying to determine what constitutes “fair use” with regard to copyright is difficult and complex. But let’s look at the Internet as a whole. There are those who would argue that reposting anyone’s content from anywhere without the express permission of the author or artist, even in the form of copying a direct link or posting with full credit, is a breach of copyright. The Internet is based on sharing information. If these standards were applied to all web posts the Internet would be far from a “net”, it would simply consist of millions of isolated websites all relying on individual users stumbling across their content. If the law were read to the last letter even search engines, the most fundamental tool for web searching, would not be able to function and merely forwarding an email could put you in legal hot water.
As artists, sharing what we do is vital to our ability to thrive. Community has always been essential for sharing ideas and techniques, for showcasing our work and for generating discussion and constructive criticism. We are fortunate to live in an era when our community is not limited to those immediately in our geographical area, but encompasses people the world over.
I recently participated in a Pinterest webinar hosted by Ariane Goodwin, creator of the smARTist telesummit and presented by Jess and Sammi of Badass Biz (The webinar was a taste of what they offer in their more in depth online Pinterest training course "Pinterruption". The webinar opened with some astounding statistics regarding Pinterest. For instance:
- Pinterest attracts 11 million unique visitors monthly making it the most visited social media site and the first website ever to receive over 10 million visitors per month
- Pinterest is the 3rd most popular social media site in the US
- 1/5 of Facebook users connect with Pinterest daily
- Shoppers referred by Pinterest are 10% more likely to buy
The advantages for artists are obvious. With so many visitors the potential for your artwork to reach a broad audience is astounding. Furthermore that exposure is more likely to turn into sales via Pinterest than any other social networking site. Sure, many people will just glance at your work for a few seconds and move on, but if even a small percentage go on to look at your website and blog you are going to massively increase your potential for sales. I, for one, would like a slice of the global art market pie.
Photographer Trey Ratcliffe has written an article on why he thinks photographers should be embracing Pinterest. He says that as artists we have a choice to let "what-can-be motivate you rather than the more poisonous fear-of-loss". He offers some astounding statistics: some of his images on Google + get as many as 5 million views and a whopping 15% of traffic to his own website comes via Pinterest. Some photographers argue that Ratcliffe is able to do this because he is already an established photographer with thriving sales. The fact that he is an incredible photographer and travels to the world's most spectacular locations to capture his images is the key to his success, however his generous attitude towards sharing has surely been extremely advantageous. I, myself, noticed a significant bump in visits to my blog after 2 of my Crop Circle embroideries were posted on Pinterest.
What about copyright? Here's my take on it: I am perfectly happy for anyone to post images of my work on any social media website. I would prefer that they link back to my own website or blog, or at least to another blog or website that has linked the images back to me. However, even if links to my own websites get lost in the "repinning" process I am still ok with it. Anyone who wants to trace the original source of an image can easily do so by using Google Image or Tin Eye. (I must say that I find Google Image to be better at finding images than Tin Eye). For those who choose to simply view my images and move on without knowing who the artist is, that's ok. Some time later they may come across more of my work that is linked or credited and think "I've seen her work before" and that very recognition may spur them to look further into what I do. Of course there are more serious copyright threats and if I discovered that someone was using my work as "wallpaper" for a website or claiming it as their own (or even implying so) I would be unhappy about it. In such a case I would contact the infringer and demand that they remove my content from their website. I would not automatically jump to instigating legal action against them. Such action would only be taken if they persisted in unlawfully using my material. If, however, someone was using my images for financial gain, for example by using my images on greeting cards or by selling prints or worse selling them as embroidery kits (shudder!) I would definitely get litigious. While all are technically copyright infringements I think there is something of a sliding scale of heinousness. I am all for people innocently sharing images of my work. It actually pleases me that they like my work enough to want to share it with others. I am also happy that Pinterest allows them to view my images in full resolution as I know they are seeing the work in a quality image that shows it to its full advantage. This is also the reason that I do not watermark my images. I find watermarks annoying and distracting and I always feel a little cheated when I can't view an image that I like without this blight.
Of course, if you don't want your images pinned Pinterest has provided a "no pin" meta tag. If you do not know html code this is not a problem. There are many sites that show you how to add the tag to your website. This article, for example, gives easy step-by-step instructions on how to include the tag on your Blogger site. You can also prevent people sharing your images by putting a statement near the top of your blog page stating that you do not wish your images to be reproduced or linked or whatever (Arlee Barr's blog has a great example of how to do this). I would venture that almost all people are respectful enough to comply.
If, like me, you are happy to have your work pinned, let your readership know about it so that they can "pin without fear". On the Behance Network more artists than not display the "pin it" button and I love that I can pin their work with a light heart. It is easy to add a "pin it" or "follow me on Pinterest" tag to your website. There are lots of online resources that will give you instructions for adding these to whatever platform(s) you are using.
The unofficial Pinterest code of conduct states that Pinterest is not to be used for self promotion. So, what is the point of having your own Pinterest page? For me it is a place where people who like my art can go and see what inspires me. Every day I trawl the internet looking at gorgeous artworks, design and photography. I love that I can share them and that I can go back to my Pinterest boards to look at those images again and again. While I see lots of lovely things on the web, I only pin those images that (to me) have the "wow" factor. I also like to think that I am helping to promote the work of artists that I admire. In the spirit of Pinterest I do not pin images of my own work, however, I have included the URLs of my website, blog and Facebook page in my personal description so that people who like what I pin can see what I do.
Whether you choose to start your own Pinterest boards or allow or disallow your work to be posted there, I would urge everyone to thoroughly research the issue. Read as many authoritative articles on the pros and cons and make your decision based on your own research. I worry that too many artists have read alarmist or misleading articles or heard second hand of the dangers and have jumped off the band wagon without really doing their own investigations and, as such, may be missing a wonderful opportunity.
I believe the benefits of Pinterest are immense both in terms of personal inspiration and in the promotion of my own artwork. I firmly believe there will be a time when serious art collectors will use Pinterest as a visual supermarket, scouring Art Boards to search out new talent. Could there be an easier way to sell your work?
What do you think? Will you be pinning and allowing your work to be pinned? I'm looking forward to a lively debate!
***I wish to stress that the opinions expressed in this article (except where referenced to the work of others) are entirely my own and are just that, opinions.***