Cut. Quilt. Love.

Why You Can’t Pin My Stuff to Pinterest

Posted at March 4th, 2012
Posted by Ebony
Categories: Behind the Scenes

I’ve been sitting on the fence about this for a while, debating back and forth about the right thing to do.  The conclusion I’ve come to? No, you can’t pin my stuff to Pinterest, and here’s why.

I understand that Pinterest is sort of a visual bookmark, and it seems like a really cool concept.  I was itching to get my invite to join, but once I did, I couldn’t figure out how to use it, or what was the point.  Something just seemed “off” to me.

It wasn’t until I researched the issue a bit more, and started reading about Pinterest, that I realized what made me so uncomfortable.  I ended up signing onto this petition, because from what I understand, there’s nothing stopping someone from taking the text content of my posts, along with my photos, and passing them off as their own.  That goes a bit far.

I’ve also heard all the arguments from people, both pro and con, but it wasn’t until I read this post that I realized fundamentally why I didn’t like what has been happening on Pinterest:  their assertion that they own everything on the internet, unless I explicitly tell them that they don’t.

Now, as an artist, and as a designer, and a quilter, I understand that there is an element of sharing that needs to happen in order to keep the communities thriving. But I also want people to understand that, just because it is on the ‘net, DOES NOT mean it is free for the taking.  I share things because it is my choice, my right, as the creator to share it.   And I do it happily, because I want people to learn from me, to share in my successes and laugh with me at my colossal oopsies. To make the projects where I share instructions.  To even make the projects where I don’t share instructions, because who knows if I’ll ever get around to writing them?

When I do share it though, that does not give everybody and their grandmother the same rights.  It’s like, if I choose to park my car on a public street, that does not give someone the permission or right to take it on a joyride.  If they hotwire it, that’s called stealing, but you know even if I leave the keys in the car with the motor running – it is still GRAND THEFT if you hop in and drive away!

Of course, people would say, “Well that’s just dumb… if you don’t want your car stolen, you should protect yourself, and not leave your keys in the car.”  Well… I don’t want my text or images stolen either, and the way I protect myself is right there in my footer, on the bottom right, where it says, “Copyright Ebony Love.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.”  That’s what the law says I need to do to defend my rights in court.

Pinterest, however, does not think that is enough.  They require that I code my website to specifically block their application.  That’s what I take issue with – the very idea that they can do what they want, hide behind their Terms & Conditions, and lay claim to everything on the planet unless I assert myself accordingly.  And I have asserted myself, by serving them with a DMCA Violation Notice.

My objections though are not limited to my own interests… it’s the idea that every photographer…EVERY artist, EVERY person who puts anything out on the web is subject to having their work taken and used by Pinterest and other types of sites however they want… even if they want to sell it… without permission, attribution, or even payment.

I liken that to the thief who stole my car and took it to a dealership, and gave it to them to sell, without even needing to prove ownership or title, and that same dealership turning around and selling MY car, without even needing to notify me of the sale.  Don’t believe this can happen?  Check this out.

I also object to Pinterest “pinning” all the responsibility on YOU, the user, to follow the T&C’s…in general, I find it distasteful to go after Jane Crafter, who is just making something & selling locally, when it’s really the big corporations that are the problem.  I don’t care if Jane Crafter makes my quilt from a photo, but I do care if Walmart does it.  But guess what?  If there’s a copyright violation on Pinterest, I don’t sue them.  I have to sue you, the person who uploaded the photo. And when Pinterest gets pulled into the lawsuit, guess who gets to pay for their lawyer?  YOU DO!

I hope you guys remember the last time this happened, with Napster and the record companies.  Who got sued?  The people doing the file sharing… NOT the company providing the mechanism to enable the sharing.

It’s ridiculously simple how they could solve all this from a copyright perspective, in really three key areas:

  1. Remove the section in the T&C’s that gives them the right to sell anything that anyone posts on their site. (They need to come up with a different revenue model.)
  2. Disable the ability of people to “upload” images to their site.  Also prohibit the ability of a user to edit the source of the image. (This will insure that the original artist is credited.)
  3. Upload only thumbnail images to their servers, so that the original image isn’t accessible without going to the original site. (That’s what makes Google Images OK, and Pinterest NOT OK.)


I know this seems rambling, and like I am yelling at you, but I am just really irritated at the gall of some companies to think they can do what they want until somebody complains.  I am asserting my rights now, because if I don’t speak up, and join other people who are speaking out, then I can’t expect it to change.

So, how does this affect you?  It’s really no different than what you should already be doing – and not just on my site, but on any blog or website you encounter:

  1. If you want to download an image or copy text for your own personal, private use… go ahead.  That means you can print pages from my blog, wallpaper your office with my photos, or copy/paste text into a file for you to reference later.
  2. If you want to create a link to any blog post, you may do so.  Text links are fine.
  3. If you want to use images or text in any other way – reposting to your own blog, sticking it up on another website, or making copies for your friends, you need to ASK FOR PERMISSION. That means, if you’re writing a blog post, and you’re trying to link up an image so that it shows up on your own site (i.e. the reference is like <img src=” etc.”>) –  you need to ASK FOR PERMISSION.  (That’s also bandwidth theft by the way, because it means you get all the benefit of displaying that person’s images, without any of the consequences that comes from accessing them. In other words, you get to show it, and I get to pay for it from all the extra hits on my server without having consented to it.)


You might be thinking to yourself, “Geez, why is she being such a meanie, and yelling at me, accusing me of stealing, and then lecturing me about bandwidth?”  If you’ve been reading this blog for any period of time, you probably recognize that I have no qualms about sharing freely, and there have been very, very few occasions where I have denied permission to share when someone has asked.  It’s the NOT asking that is the bugger, and it’s become rampant… and the very existence of Pinterest in its current incarnation that reinforces the belief that no one needs to bother. That if you see it on Pinterest, it must be OK. Well, it’s not.

I’m not trying to be mean, I’m not trying to be overly protective or prevent you from interacting with me, or loving my work, or sharing it with your friends.  I just feel the need to draw the line in the sand somewhere, and stop the constant attack on copyright from companies trying to monetize content that is owned by others, and using me & my friends as accomplices in that endeavor.  It’s capitalism at its finest, and at its worst.  It’s the primary reason that I moved my blog from Blogger to a self-hosted WordPress installation – so that Google, in their quest for world domination, could not take my thousands and thousands of hours of writing effort and turn it into a revenue stream for themselves.

You might also be thinking that it takes a lot of ego to believe that my writing is so stellar that a giant billion-dollar company would seek to profit from it… but it’s not the idea that they will, but the fact that they COULD. At the end of the day, as the creator, I get to decide whether something can be shared and when it can’t; as a business owner, it is also my responsibility to make sure that I am fairly compensated for my work, and that I be the one who determines when something is free or paid, for how long, and where it can be obtained.  In a virtual economy, the only thing we have is our intellectual property.

If you are an artist, or designer, or photographer, or crafter… you’ll have to do your own research and come to your own conclusions.  You might think I’ve gone off the deep end and taken this to the very extreme by blocking Pinterest and serving them legal notice to remove all my images from their site… but if I don’t seek to protect my own work… who will?  It’s that hard line approach that I hope they will take notice of, because their T&C’s need to change.  Their revenue model needs to change.  They need to educate themselves on what is and is not OK, and make that abundantly clear to their users, instead of hiding behind the T&C’s.  And… I think that all the people need to educate themselves, and not be afraid to ask questions or to speak up when something doesn’t seem quite right.

Which reminds me… I may need to close down my Etsy shops too, because apparently whatever photos I upload there belong to them, which gives them the right to allow my photos to go up onto Pinterest without my knowledge or consent.  *sigh*.  Maybe I should switch to decaf.  :)

16 Responses to “Why You Can’t Pin My Stuff to Pinterest”

  • Tracy

    If anyone feels negatively toward Pinterest they should not use it. They should find another venue where they can share instead of blocking people who enjoy the website. It defeats the purpose.

    • Ebony

      The point is, I wasn’t using it. And by me not using it, that means that I get to also decide whether I want MY content on there or not. In the case of blocking, I was simply preventing people from taking the stuff that belongs to ME for their own purposes. This doesn’t prevent others from using Pinterest at all. It doesn’t defeat the purpose; too many people think that whatever gets posted on the internet is free for them to use however they want, and that’s not the case. My point was that Pinterest, and everyone else on the internet, needs to respect and honor the copyright laws. I didn’t appreciate Pinterest abdicating their responsibility to be good net citizens.

      Pinterest has since made changes to their terms of use, which prompted me to remove the code which prevented people from pinning my photos. My point still stands though; no matter who is pinning, the images still belong to me, and I get to decide how they are ultimately used.

  • Kirstin

    I can understand your frustration. I personally use pinterest as simply a bookmarking system. I have had 2 computer crashes and have lost my “favorites” files…not that the same thing can’t happen. I don’t blog or create my own things so I can imagine if someone “steals” ur ideas and posts them as their own that u would be mad.

  • Facebook changed its TOS when thousands of people complained. Pinterest’s audience is 95 percent women, and it’s easy to ignore women. Until we speak with one voice. It’s time to stand up to Pinterest and get our rights back. On copyright: it’s not enough to just mark your piece with a circle C and “All rights reserved.” That allow you to sue only for violation–the cost of the space they used to publish your material. If you want to sue for damages, you have to register your work with the U.S. copyright office and pay a fee. It’s worth it.

  • Great and informative post! How do you block Pinterest from pinning your things? I signed up on Pinterest but never could really figure it out. I am now heading over to remove myself.

  • Donna Chizewsky

    Hi Ebony, thank you so much for explaining this so clearly. I’ve been a fan of pinterest for a while, thinking that I was promoting other crafter’s work, alway attempting to attribute the work to the crafter/artist. I’m going to delete all of my inspiration boards. Don’t know how to save the links for myself, but hey, I’ll just have to go hunting them again. Thank you again. Donna

  • I agree! I’ve quit using Pinterest. May I repost from this article onto my blog?

  • Thanks for keeping this conversation going. I’ve been reading on the topic voraciously and here’s what I’ve decided.
    1) I will not be pinning anything without permission. I’ll stick to my own photos, photos from sites that encourage pinning and photos on Flickr that have a creative commons license. I will be careful about attribution in my pin captions.
    2) I will make my own photos available for pinning and in fact will encourage it by putting Pinterest buttons throughout my new site (about to launch). I will also post a pinterest and image usage policy on the site.

    These informed decisions are only made possible by the fact that people like you are poking around in the Pinterest TOS and asking the hard questions. I appreciate it.

  • Thanks so much for this post and the info it contains. I also got an invite but just could not figure out the “why” of Pinterest, and the point. Didnt even consider the concepts that you brought up…I appreciate the time and energy it took to produce.

  • Thank you for this thought provoking post. I have read other things in the same vein and have been wondering about all of the issues you recommend. I would like to share this on Facebook for others to see. It would be a link to this post. I feel, in the spirit of this blog post, that I should ask permission, however. Please let me know if it is okay.

    • Ebony

      Lisa feel free to post to FB. Links are always OK and you don’t need permission to share a link with someone. :)

  • I agree with you, I’ve come to the same decision, and I like how you’ve explained it and put it out on your site. Great example for other artists to follow.

  • Charon

    Thanks Ebony for this post. I felt the same uneasiness about the site. I also had a hard time navigating it so I didn’t follow through on my invitation and now I am glad. Glad you took the time to research this and let all of us know.

  • Julie Baird

    Excellent article, Ebony. Great minds must think alike as I’ve been writing along these very same lines with my Mastermind group this weekend.

    Pinterest encourages copying and pasting other people’s work, but with the more acceptable term ‘pinning’. Many will rely on the fact that if Pinterest says it’s OK, it must be, not realizing that all the liability of pinning has been transferred to the pinner by the company.

    Timely post. Good job!

  • JanyceR

    I think you stated this very well Ebony. It is indeed a very difficult balance these days with the ability to share, but not open yourself up to theft. Thank you so much for the links as well, I need to read and study these.

    Thanks for the post, I think we all need to think about this.

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