The Unemployed Librarian

Michael Rogowski, MLIS, HBA,

Pinterest”ing” thoughts!


  I genuinely love Pinterest for its user-friendly, aesthetic interface and simple concept. When I first joined, I eagerly pinned and repined images in the standard categories of personal style, travel, humorous/funny pictures and cartoons, etc. Recently, I attended a library conference at which I learned of the great idea to set up boards featuring pictures of our school library book displays, recommended book titles for young readers, books recently added to the collection, etc. What a great way to promote the library! Moreover, school libraries could connect and share boards to compare collections and share display ideas. I think that there are great ideas floating around the Pinterest-verse for both personal and professional interests.

However, there’s one important issue about which I can’t believe I didn’t think: copyright. I first read about the consideration of copyright in Josh Davis’ article “Is Pinterest the new Napster?” and followed up with Sean Locke’s article “More Thoughts on Pinterest,” , which discusses whether or not Pinterest activity is covered by “fair use.” The beauty of Pinterest is that you can pin what you discover the moment you discover it using the “Pin it” button on your toolbar. However, Josh Davis points out that this technically violates Pinterest’s terms of service.

When it comes down to it, we Pinterest users are freely sharing photos and images every which way across the web. Many would argue that this sharing, similar to the activity on Facebook, Tumblr, etc., is harmless to individuals involved in the creation of the work because it’s not [directly] commercial. If anything, it promotes awareness of the work (and its artist). I agree, yet at the same time I’m uncertain as to the differences, if any, between sharing photos and sharing other media types (music, books, videos, etc.) and when that “sharing” infringes upon the creator/artist’s rights.

So, what do we do with our pins? I don’t know; I’m not well versed when it comes to the application of copyright to works made available online (and the reality is that I really like pinning!). I think that there are advantages for businesses and organizations to using Pinterest as a friendly and efficient way of collaborating and sharing ideas. It definitely generates more traffic to the source of the image, whatever that might be. At the same time, I think that Pinners need to be aware of the fact that copyright restrictions may apply. In my opinion, what would really help users better understand pinning responsibility is if Pinterest were to more clearly reflect its terms of service in the usability of its “Pin it” button. 

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