There’s been a lot of hoopla over the last few weeks about Pinterest and copyright issues.  A lot of the interest in the topic stemmed from a mom blogger/photographer/lawyer who wrote a post about why she deleted her pinboards in fear of copyright violation.  I know I’ve heard from many mompreneurs that this issue is just way too scary for them and they’ve stepped away from their boards.  While I do agree that this isn’t the last we’ve heard about Pinterest and copyright violations, I do think there are ways that we can safely enjoy the site, use it to promote our businesses and cover our behinds all at the same time.

Copyright Law and Pinterest Terms of Use

Before I get into how I think we can do that, a few notes on the issue at hand.  Copyright is protection offered to the creator of an image giving them the ultimate authority on how their image will be used.  Often times, people will give a link back, thinking this protects them, but in actuality, the creator hasn’t given actual permission, so it is still copyright infringement.  So are we all asking the owner of every image we repin on Pinterest if we can pin it?  Probably not. In their Terms of Use, Pinterest specifically states that you’re only allowed to post images that you have the rights to post, but, obviously, that’s not really how it all goes down.  People pin images left and right that aren’t theirs and Pinterest makes it to grab images off of the web with their handy, dandy Pin It tool for your browser.  So is Pinterest giving us a platform to steal other people’s work?  Perhaps.  And what’s worse, they’re leaving us out in the cold at the same time.  Another unknown little fact is that when you agree to Pinterest’s Terms of Use, you’re agreeing that YOU will assume all liability if someone tries to come after you for pinning their image.  Not only that, YOU will pay Pinterest’s legal bills if someone decides to come after them if you pin an unauthorized image.  Oh boy.  This just keeps getting scarier and scarier, huh?  Don’t run off and delete your Pinterest account just yet.

Fair Use

Many argue that Pinterest actually falls into protection under something called Fair Use.  Fair Use allows for copyrighted work to be used in a variety of situations without permission from the owner of the work.  Many also argue that it doesn’t.  The fact is no one knows.  While there are some deciding factors in determining if something falls under Fair use, they are not exclusive.  Until an actual case is brought to court against Pinterest, no one will know how that judge will interpret the law and the actions of Pinterest.  If you Google “Pinterest and Fair Use,” you’ll come up with hundreds of articles from people with varying opinions on the subject.  It only makes it that much more difficult for us mompreneurs to know what to do, right?

Where To Go From Here

First, let me say that I’m not a lawyer, so everything I tell you here is my personal opinion based on research I’ve done.  These are the things that I plan to do with my boards and am sharing my thoughts with you if you don’t have the time to research for yourself and come to your own conclusions.

Now that that’s out of the way, my personal opinion is that the odds of all of us, all 7 million of us, being sued are slim to none.  Based on the research I’ve done, it seems Pinterest is working with it’s lawyers to come up with Terms of Use that maintain the vision of the site while protecting all involved, image owners and site users.  I do think that it will be figured out before it becomes an issue for many people.

That said, I do think it is prudent to take some precautions with your boards to not only make sure you’re protected, but to make sure you’re being fair as well.  Here are my recommendations for using Pinterest as a personal and business tool as safely as possible while their mess is getting sorted out.

1.  Have 2 accounts, a personal account for the pinning of the things you love and a business account for the pinning of your own business related photos.

2.  For your personal account, only allow followers you actually know.  Keep your circle as small as possible.  

3.  Only pin items in your personal account that you feel safe pinning.  My advice is when you see an image that you’d like to pin, head over to the original site and see if it seems like it’s Pinterest friendly.  Many bloggers and websites these days have a “pin me” button.  If they do, you know they’re ok with you pinning their images on Pinterest.  Likewise, if they have a “share this” button anywhere on their site, they’re probably also ok with their images being pinned.  If you don’t see any of these on their site, perhaps they’re not interested in the image being shared.  

4.  If an image doesn’t seem to be “share friendly,” then perhaps consider bookmarking the site in your web browser to return to another time.  That still gives you access to the inspiration without sharing it to be redistributed.

5.  Always make sure that the image links back to the original site it came from.  There are many instances of things getting pinned and repinned so many times that the original source got lost. Give credit where credit is due.

If you plan to use Pinterest to promote your business, here are a few steps to take to stay safe on Pinterest.

1.  Have an account dedicated to your business that is separate from your personal account.  This is the account you’ll promote for your business and where you’ll pin all of your business related pins.

2.  If you pin your own images, consider placing a watermark or your website address somewhere on the photo.  That way, when it makes it’s way around Pinterest, there will be no mistaking where it came from.

3.  Make it easy for people to share your images.  If you have a blog, add a “pin it” plugin to allow people to easily share your image, like the one we have people.  If you’re on Etsy, there’s now a “pin it” feature there as well.  Be sure to let your visitors know, wherever your images are, that it’s ok with you that they’re posted.  

4.  Don’t repin other people’s images on your business board.  Keep that strictly for your business images.  You’re not going to sue yourself for copyright infringement!


So, no need to run away from Pinterest.  You can still enjoy it as a user and still use it to grow your business.  If you want to learn more about growing your business with Pinterest, stay with us.  A tutorial and webinar will be coming later this month!


And for the record, feel free to pin this post and any of our posts using the handy “pin this” button below!

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  1. Do you happen to know (or what is your opinion) on using your web address on images that have no URL destination? Is it OK to edit this when you repin? Thanks for your insights!

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