Pinterest Excitement Tempered by Copyright Concerns

The latest shiny, new social media object of desire, Pinterest, has been getting lots of press recently. Some of it concerns the platform's exploding growth—from 10.3 million monthly active users, up from 6.6 million in January 2012—and some of it the ballooning copyright controversy.

One problem with Pinterest is that its basic premise—the user makes copies of images on the Internet and posts them on the Pinterest site (without the content originator's expressed permission to do so)—goes against what every communicator has learned about copyrighting violations. Which is, mainly, try to avoid them.

Granted, Pinterest is fun and cool, says Allison Fitzpatrick, advertising, marketing & promotions partner at law firm Davis & Gilbert LLP, but the copyright issue is "complicated," she says. And it's troubling to stock photo houses, independent photographers, bloggers and other content creators who are complaining about the pinning and re-pinning of their content across the Pinterest platform.

Pinterest, responding to the complaints, just released a code that lets sites block their content from Pinterest activity. And, the company says it follows the Digital Millenium Copyright Act's takedown process in response to complaints. But is this enough?

Some in the social media sphere think it is enough, and pooh-pooh the copyright concerns. After all, pinned content is often linked back to the original site. Besides, what individual or brand wouldn't want to have their content widely distributed online, as it increases Web traffic and, possibly, sales?

Fitzpatrick says that down the line, there could be issues not just involving copyrights, but trademark infringement and defamation—thanks to the ability to comment on pins.

These issues probably won't slow the rise of Pinterest much, but they may give pause to some PR pros currently pining away for the platform.

Follow Scott Van Camp: @svancamp01

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About Scott Van Camp

Scott Van Camp is editor of PR News, an executive-level, reader-supported publication that helps enhance the business impact of PR. Scott has a rich background in both journalism and PR/marketing. He has more than 15 years of experience as a writer/editor at various consumer and trade publications. Scott was with VNU Business Publications for five years, including stints as managing editor at IQ News and Technology Marketing magazines and senior editor at Brandweek. In the PR/marketing sphere, he has served as corporate communications manager at MarketBridge, a marketing and sales consultancy, and as editorial director for the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council. While at the Council, Scott led several high-profile marketing research projects. He has also operated his own communications and media consulting firm, SVC Communications.

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