Pinterest and Copyright Explained in Plain Talk – Part 3: How YOU should behave on Pinterest

by Angelique on March 18, 2012

original pinterest icon by angelique of afmarcom pinterest icon pinned with a pinIn part two of this series, we talked about the reasons Pinterest is legally allowed to display the images you pin and upload, and why it needs you to give it the perpetual right to do so. I also provided a plain-talk explanation of the Pinterest Terms of Service. (If you haven’t read part two, click here and it will open in a new window. To learn about the difference between “pinning” and “uploading,” read part one. )

Today, in part three of this series, we’ll talk about the way you should behave on Pinterest in order to respect other people’s copyrights. Last week I noted that Pinterest is not guilty of copyright violations if its users upload items without permission. However, YOU could be charged with copyright violations for uploading images to Pinterest from your hard drive, just as you could for uploading something you shouldn’t to your own website. Here are some important guidelines to keep you safe.


photo of a stern policeman1. Just because something appears on Pinterest, it doesn’t mean you have the right to download it and use it as you please. You have the right to repin it and…. that’s it. If you want to use an image elsewhere, you have to get in touch with the person who has the rights to the image and ask permission. If the image is something that someone created and uploaded to Pinterest, they gave permission to PINTEREST to display the image on the Pinterest website. They didn’t give YOU permission to put it on YOUR website.


original image by Angelique of AFMarCom Pintrest symbol covered by a gold banned symbol2. If a website has blocked pinning because the owner doesn’t want the images to be shared on Pinterest, don’t download or screenshot the image and pin it anyway, even if you intend to give the original company or artist credit. Going against the web owner’s wishes in this matter is not only discourteous, it’s illegal. The website owner obviously hasn’t given you permission to distribute images from the site, and the web owner can call for legal action against you.


examples of no-pin and no-download messages from flickr3. If a website says the equivalent of “You cannot use these images at all, ever, in any way,” or “you have to pay to use these images,” don’t download or screenshot them! And don’t pin them, either, because although the letter of the law says you can, you should respect the artist or subject and refrain from distributing those images in any way. It’s very likely that the artist or subject wants to block pinning, but hasn’t figured out how to do it yet. On the left are screenshots of Flickr’s “no-pin” and “no-download” messages. (Click to see a larger version in a new window.)


Three people with privacy bars over their eyes4. Don’t upload photos of people you’ve photographed without their permission!





custom wood and stained glass door by lance jordanFinally, please take a few extra moments give credit to artists, photographers and designers! There are thousands of artists and photographers, amateur and professional, who display their works on networks like Flickr for the very purpose of having them favorited and shared. There are even more artisans who sell their wares and accept commissions through their websites. While a “pin” does link back to their work, you really should include the artist’s name and title of the work in your description when you pin it. If you are about to repin something you like, please take an extra moment to click through, see if you can find the artist’s name, and add it when you repin. You can see an example of what I’m talking about on the right. (Click to see a larger version.)


screenshot of Angelique's ID the Artist pinboard on Pinterest


Above is a screenshot of my “ID the Artist” pinboard. Click it to see a larger version. When I love something and don’t know the identity of the artist, I pin it here. With help from other pinners, I’ve been able to identify several artists and move them to my Art pinboard. Please consider following this board, and creating one for yourself!

Lots of people love to have their images pinned and repinned; etailers are one example. It’s more advertising for them, and it boosts their search engine rankings. There are, however, people who are very worried about losing control of their images, and I’ll be addressing their concerns next week, when I discuss ways that artists can identify and protect their images.

UPDATE! Part 4 of this series is out! Click here to read it!

Due to heavy spam, I’ve had to close comments on this series for a while. No, it’s not from people who didn’t like the articles! Just spammers attracted by the word “Pinterest.” I think I’ll be able to open it back up again in a month or so. Email me at if you want to say something about the posts!


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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Alison Gilbert March 31, 2012 at 2:29 pm

Dear Angelique,
I want to thank you for the information that your third blog post on Pinterest provided. It was so helpful that I documented it as ‘Special Resource’ material on a post I published called,http://digitalbrandmarketing.c
I discuss some of the current concerns about copyright law infringement and sponsorship of popular pinners as well as those earning straight income from this platform. Your post helped to clarify for me what was a very confusing, legal jargon heavy Pinterest policy.I welcome you feedback, comments, discussion and suggestions.
Sincerely yours,Alison Gilbert . . . in hot pursuit of blogging self-pinterest!


Angelique April 28, 2012 at 5:04 pm

Alison — I don’t know why I didn’t see this comment until today! Disqus isn’t so good at notificaitons. I would love to see that post, but the link is broken. Can you repost it?


Megan Oteri April 28, 2012 at 12:04 pm

Your board for the artists unidentified is deleted and can’t be found??  I enjoyed your article and non legal jargon. It’s really hard for me as an artist to understand everything.  I have had so many images stolen and uploaded that I have issued take down notices but people still keep them up. It’s a nightmare.   I’d love to get your feedack on my post. I uploaded photos to a website, which I had to take down, because of blatant photo piracy.  It’s really depressing to see other people trying to sell my own photos. 


Angelique April 28, 2012 at 12:26 pm

Megan — I’ll have to read your post a little later, but I wanted you to know that my ID the Artist board is definitely up! You may have clicked on the link at a time when Pinterest was having problems. The link is


Angelique April 28, 2012 at 5:02 pm

Megan — Well, as you know now that you’ve read my articles, some of the things you feared about Pinterest aren’t true. For example, they don’t actually own your photos and they won’t be selling them. In fact, they removed the word “sell” from their Terms of Service because it was inaccurate.

On the other hand, it sounds like people really love to pass your pictures around, and even steal them. I know you read my suggestions for “framing” and marking your photos, which will keep your name and URL attached to them when people share them. However, framing won’t help if someone really wants to steal your photo and pass it off as their own. I don’t think this is as likely to happen on Pinterest as other places, but it can happen anytime, anywhere, so I would watermark them the way you did the photo of the three cowboys watching the horses in the pen. Is it a lot of watermarking? Yes, but it’s practically impossible to remove, and because it’s done in a nice script that matches the feel of the photo, it creates its own kind of artwork.

I would definitely follow Trey Ratcliff to get an idea of how he handles his photos. He puts his links and copyright info in the comments, but doesn’t mark. Despite the fact that he is suing no less than TIME magazine for using his photos without permission, he continues to share constantly on Google Plus, Facebook and, of course, Pinterest. He also uses his Pinterest account to share other photographers he likes.

Did you take action against the Deviant Art user who sold your photos as her own?


Jen February 10, 2013 at 5:56 pm

I was just wondering if anyone knew what legal issues exist for using the name Pinterest or Pin or P in your own business name? How do random people have Pinterest Parties and use that name?


Angelique February 11, 2013 at 10:47 am

Jen — Can you give me an example of a Pinterest Party event that you think might give the impression that the hostess works for Pinterest?


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