Friday, April 13, 2012

Pinterest Woes

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What a week it has been, and my misery in continuing with no end in sight.

I'm stuck to my neck in the copyright quagmire that is Pinterest. Pinterest is essentially Napster-for-Images, but maybe quite a bit worse and insidious. The swathes of colorful bunny, cupcake and fantasy wedding images barely conceal the noise of the copyright infringement party that Pinterest is encouraging.

Instead of creating new content (I have tons of great ideas that are waiting to be put on paper ans scanned into a patterns), I find myself standing alone on a barge having to face the cannons of an unstoppable pirate ship.

Until this Pinterest issue is settled, I am creatively paralyzed.

If you post images on the internet, expect them to be :shared:!"
I hear this frequently. If you write a song, put it on a CD, and Lady Gaga does a cover and makes millions from it, aren't you getting what you asked for by recording your song and putting it on a share-able medium?

Embrace it! Isn't it great publicity to have your work getting exposure?
That's not true for everyone. Some webmasters may get extra traffic, but the nature of my images means that I get literally no significant traffic from Pinterest. I have over a thousand images there, and last month I got exactly three visitors. You can't, however, just look at it from an individual perspective. Think of the collective of small mom-&-pop content providers like myself, and a competing website where all their images are collated and centrally viewable. The viewership that was once enjoyed by small content providers is now occupied on Pinterest, who will make millions from content stolen from artists and photographers. Is it flattering to have popular images on Pinterest? Yes, but only for a fleeting moment, one's heart sinks quickly when realizing this does not translate in traffic, but goes against your own self-interest. YMMV.

Aren't thumbnails FAIR USE?
Absolutely. HOWEVER - Pinterest stores copies of FULL SIZE images on their servers, that is NOT fair use.

Shut up and use the "no-pin" metatag!
No, and for a few reasons.

(1) There are now a few hundred Pinterest clones and you can't have every single webmaster chase them all and update every page of their website to stop copyright infringement from all these clones.

(2) The no-pin metatag pops up a message that I have no control of, which says: "This site doesn't allow pinning to Pinterest. Please contact the owner with any questions. Thanks for visiting!" - what is this, are they encouraging visitors to pester webmasters for the right to "pin?" I'd rather pop up a message of my own composition that is going to be less than flattering.

(3) It creates a "default" setting that all graphical content on the internet OPTS IN to being infringed upon unless they actively OPT OUT. This is absurd beyond belief.

(4)People read the warning, but they still have the ability to pin!

File a DMCA take-down notice, that'll take care of things!
Normally it does except that Pinterest doesn't remove the re-pins and the re-pins of re-pins, and you have to dig them out yourself. They do have a form for multiple submissions, but they've arranged it to sneakily discourage webmasters. A single malformed URL submitted, and the whole list is wiped out and you have to start again. They are doing everything they can to carry on like thieves.

The take-down procedure humiliates the complaining artist/photographer. First, a empty spot is left without the image, but all the details of the website the taken-down image comes from remain left behind. Second, this is the letter they send to the offending pinners:
I'm Ben, the co-founder of Pinterest. I removed one (or more) of your pins today at the request of a copyright owner who preferred that their images do not appear on Pinterest. The photo is here for your own records:
This is a rare - we usually find that people are excited to have their photos shared with a larger audience because it can drive traffic back to their site. However, when we do get requests to remove these materials, we try to respect the wishes of the content owner efficiently. If you have any questions, please email our Community Manager, Enid (

I just wanted to give you a heads up. Thanks so much for using Pinterest. I hope you're enjoying the site! If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to get in touch. Pinterest DMCA #ID [...] - Ben and the Pinterest Team

"We usually find that people are excited to have their photos shared with a larger audience because it can drive traffic back to their site" WRONG WRONG WRONG I am not excited and I get not traffic. Is it my imagination, or is Ben Silberman himself giving infringing pinners the green light to infringe some more, because publishers are overwhelmingly thrilled by copyright violations? He's personally encouraging infringement. I'm not dreaming; though I wish I were.

Dummy, use the /SOURCE/ trick! Example: should have all your images listed.
Right now, my website has ONE image listed in this manner yet there are hundreds crawling in the vast Pinterest bowels.

The pinning and re-pinning process is tentacular and a veritable nightmare. If A pins a picture, and B repins it, A has 1 repin. If C repins from B, A still has 1 repin, not 2 from the "grandchild" repin, and B has 1 as well. Every time I find one image, I find 10 more that it links from, and that it links to, and then I have to hunt down the grandchildren pins, the great-grandchildren pins, parent pins, grandparent pins... ad infinitum.

Like this:

Except that it goes on forever and I would need about 22 dimensions to express the full horror that is Pinterest.

And that's not all; many images are mis-attributed to Google Images. The other side of the coin is that I am starting to see people linking images to Pinterest as if Pinterest was the original source of the image! It is truly infuriating.

Did you notice the EMBED button? What is it?
Eh. That EMBED button allows any webmaster to repost the images that Pinterest has scraped through its indefatigable users and is hosting on their servers, on their own websites to be further infringed upon by yet another party! And guess what? There is no way to track those down, at all.


Justin said...

It is an interesting one. My own personal view is that it is a bit similar to all publicity is good publicity. The people who are pinning your images are in theory spreading the word around about your site, and hence driving more traffic back to you from people who would never have seen it before.

I don't think Pinterest will be going anywhere soon, and so my guess is that I would suggest watermarking all your images with your domain name.

Anyway sorry you find the whole Pinterest affair so frustrating.

A Glass Artist said...

"The people who are pinning your images are in theory spreading the word"

In theory. I have found this, in practice, not to be the case!

As for watermarks I am not keen on defacing my own site to foil Pinterest, I am exploring other avenues.

AJ said...

I am not a photographer or an artist, but the effect of having images pinned is going to come back and bite a lot of people methinks.

Currently I have images on my pages that rank high in Google images. If those images are then pinned and repinned, then will all those links then see the pinned image rank higher than the original image on my page?

Some people are raving about the extra traffic they are getting. But to take a sales page as an example, then unless that extra traffic is converting to sales, that extra traffic could turn out worthless in the short term, while in the long term the pinned image could be doing lasting damage.

And as you say, the fact that OUR rights, that we have the right to say No to Pinterest, is not being respected.

I have been amazed at the number of people who are just blindly ignoring the huge fact - Pinterest is full of copyright violations and nothing, in my view, can justify that.

A Glass Artist said...

I read a post somewhere where someone complained about the no-pin directive.

Rampant copyright infringement is not something you should have to OPT OUT of. OPT IN if you want, but no one should be forced to have to opt out of Pinterest and eveyr single clone that is now starting to flood in the internet.

Anita Hovey said...


I don't understand why you object to watermarking your images? I learned years ago to watermark mine so it was harder to "steal" them and that was long before Pinterest came along. A Watermark hardly "defaces" your many cases they are so well integrated with the image you barely even notice them.

I realize that it's extra work for any artist, but why not show a smaller version, watermarked, and then allow visitors to your site to download the full size/res version? That forces people who find your image anywhere on the net to come to your site and get the original.

I am not an artist, so I admit that I am less sensitive to the issue of copyright because it isn't affecting my income etc. I do see why it is a problem for many artists, including you and I don't discount your view. The internet is always going to change and while Pinterest is the problem du jour, there will be something else later. We have to keep finding ways to adapt to the new world whether we like it or not, just as we've adapted to giving our life secrets away to Facebook & Google. I think watermarking is a small price to pay, personally, but I am always interested to hear the other side.

A Glass Artist said...

Thank you for your comment. I'm not selling hi-rez images and photographs, and the images are important decorations to my websites and it would make it quite un-workable if visitors needed to download an image to their computer when this image is decoration. Essential decoration, and part of the attraction to the website - that model would be counterproductive for me.

However I am currently devising tools to allow webmasters everywhere to better defend their Intellectual Property against Pinterest and their ilk, in ways that are totally legal.

A large part of the problem is that one person cannot keep up with the infringement detection, gathering the necessary information for the DMCA take down, and formatting it. It's very time-consuming.

I'm trying to automate this process so that webmasters can have their content removed as fast as it is pinned, with minimal effort.

If we can get this to work, it will help to even out the playing field between pin-sites and content providers.

Sometimes it takes a lot of mulling things over and seeing all the angles before coming up with a good solution.

Zuzu's Blog said...

I totally agree that its a disgusting violation.... and for those that say all publicity is good publicity.. you clearly dont make a living from art or photography. did you know that pinterest are looking to allow its users to make BOOKS out of their pinned content.. so an artists work is firstly stolen without permission... then loses traffic to the original image.. and then to put salt in an already painful wound, some random dude can go have some books printed up with maybe 10 or 20 of your best images and then distribute them.. (even sell them if they wish) and the original artist wont even know its happened. i hope someone rich and famous takes their thieving asses to court once and for all .. although its the users that will have to pay the fines.

Small Business Webdesign said...

Great post. I completely agree with you on most points. I really would like to know what your working on to stop image infringement.

My images are just photoshopped pics, so I put my website url at the bottom or watermark it somewhere on the image. But that doesnt work for everyone.