Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Pinterest: The Arguments For Pinning

This is a continuation of my previous post Pinterest and Copyright:  Should you be afraid?

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?

As I wrote in my previous article, the terms of use for Pinterest are in essence the same as those for other social media sites such as Facebook, Google + and Tumblr.  Potentially anyone using any of these platforms could be subject to a variety of contract breaches just for using the sites as they were intended.  Why aren’t people constantly being sued by such online companies for breach of contract?  Perhaps because suing their own users would make other users close their accounts in droves. thereby destroying their entire business model.

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.***

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arlee said...

Quite frankly, i've given up. People pin and repin with no idea what the actual photo is for, they ignore "no pin" policies and they don't give credit. And most of the time, the pins do NOT lead back to your site--or if they do, more content is taken without permission. I know nothing is sacred, having found uploads of my work with no credit at all, from screenshots they have taken. That's what really pisses me off, the laissez faire attitude that if it's on the "net", it's easy and acceptable to steal. In the beginning days of blogging, you ASKED before you put someone else's content on your blog---with this loss of courtesy it's a wholesale plundering of intellectual property.

As i said though, i give up. Steal if you want. It's a specious argument that it leads to sales UNLESS it is from a site like Etsy--and even then i'm sure the percentages are pretty damn low. And it's not "promotion" either, another dumb waffling i've heard.

Anonymous said...

I would never pinning anything but my own work, or images from the Creative Commons. In other words, I won't be pinning anything.

I won't pin my own work because Pinterest has an embed feature that allows any website to hotlink my images from Pinterest's servers, and display them on their websites. I won't agree to that.

I won't bother posting images from Creative Commons because I can use Google Images to find them. I don't need a virtual pinboard to replace Google Images' advanced search.

I do not allow pinning from my websites. I experimented and decided that the trickle of traffic from Pinterest was not worth the surrendering of my whole website content to a corporate entity that will eventually monetize it. I've toiled every day for a decade to create this content. I'm not giving Ben Silbermann a gift of 10 years of my life. He hasn't done anything for me lately ;-)

Traffic from Pinterest is vastly over-rated. And I'm in crafts that are of interest to the ladies. I'd go as far as to say that traffic from Pinterest sucks eggs.

Pinterest links are nofollow links, which means that they don't help my search engine rankings at all.

I have a lot to lose letting pinners give my content away to Ben Silbermann - and nothing to gain.

It's not the right of pinners to decide how I want to enforce my copyright, and which parts of my copyright I care to enforce. I resent to two months I had to spend filing DMCA noticed from dusk to dawn. I resent that colossal waste of my time.

Pinterest is nothing more than a user-based content scraper.

Marta Brysha said...

Great, some strong opinions here.

Arlee, I know you don't want your work pinned and that is why I have included a link to your blog as an example of what people should look for before going ahead and using someone's images. I don't feel that people posting your images is "stealing" unless they are using it for personal gain eg using it to decorate their own blog or website or actually selling your work. But, as you say, the work is yours and it's your decision how, when and where it is displayed.

Anonymous - the statistics say that overall pinterest vastly increases web site traffic even if that has not been true for your website. As for Ben Silberman profiting from your images - well, of course he is going to want to make money out of his site eventually, that just makes sense. The most likely way this will happen is via advertising as per facebook and other social media sites. I agree that it is not up to others to decide how you enforce your copyright, however under the Fair Use act you will find that pinning of a small number of images would come under that umbrella.

As I said in my article, you as an individual have the right to add the no pin tag and to emphatically protect the use of your work. From my stand point, I would rather have lots of people viewing my work than languishing in obscurity.

magicmoonmusings said...

Really good points both 'for' and 'against', these were two great posts.

"...I think there is something of a sliding scale of heinousness." Yep, I'm inclined to agree - but I do respect the strong 'against' opinions of artists such as Arlee.

Putting at least a small watermark is probably a good idea because the original source website is usually lost.

I think it was Pinterest's original Terms of Service that included the word "sell" that made people very worried and rightly angry.

Thank you for being so in-depth, I learned a lot from these two posts.

PS - the new background of your blog is lovely, and very easy to read.

arlee said...

My stats do not confirm that people come to my site–but the photos get pinned repinned and re repinned with the intent lost–HOW does one confuse embroidery with knitting for example, or crochet? Because people pin and don’t look. I have just given up, PERIOD. One of my photos has been pinned over 400 times–but how many hits did i get from it? SEVENTEEN so far. It inspires no one to do anything for or with the actual artist/site owner. It's a fricking popularity contest within the site--"how many pins can you post and how many followers have you got?" You may decide you will allow pinning princesses to reap from your work, because ultimately that *is* your copyright right---mine is the same, but I GET TO DECIDE.
If you want your work to be noticed, then join communities, advertise, comment, add to legitimate sites that are respectful. If no one sees your work but on here as you "languish" in obscurity", then you need to do some homework.

No more 2 cents after this, i promise.

Marta Brysha said...

Arlee, I love getting your 2 cents worth. I have done my homework and I have numerous on line platforms including LinkedIn, Facebook, my own website and my blog. I think they all serve different purposes and all contribute to my exposure in different ways. I also comment widely where I think I have something to say. I love my pinterest boards and I think it's a lovely way to share what inspires me with others. I try to pin from primary sources as much as I can or via sources that link back to the primary source. When I am pinning an art image I always follow back to the artists page to see if they have blocked pinning or have emphatic copyright claims which I would never contravene.

Marie, I'm glad you learned something and I did try to do my research and present a balanced view. And thanks for the feedback on the new blog layout.