Pinterest is now the third most popular social network on the web, behind Facebook and Twitter. It's widely popular among female users and has identified itself as a niche social network. But with great popularity comes great responsibility. It has to ensure that copyrighted content doesn't show up on its site.
Pinterest differs to other social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook which encourage users to share personal experiences and photos rather than content created by someone else. Facebook asks you each time you upload a photo if you have permission to use it. The legal burden lies with the original user who posted the image rather than those who share links to it.
Pinterest doesn't ask its users to consider permission before each 'pin' aiming to make the user experience seamless. While having your content shared arguably helps popularize it, many artists and photographers may want to be asked or paid first.
Pinterest's terms of service states:
"Pinterest allows you to post content, including photos, comments, and other materials. Anything that you post or otherwise make available on our Products is referred to as "User Content." You retain all rights in, and are solely responsible for, the User Content you post to Pinterest."
Pinterest puts the burden on the user, rather than itself, asking Pinners to retain all responsibility for copyrighted content.
Further, it emphasizes that Pinterest is not responsible for all the theft the site encourages. That sounds like a foolproof way to keep Pinterest out of legal trouble, and to get users into it. Not only is this a good way to scare away followers, but it's a bad way to not get in trouble.
To its credit Pinterest has developed a code to be placed for websites whom would like to disable pinning. Flickr welcomed this offer and blocked the social network for content that falls outside of the creative commons domain. Pinterest has yet to adopt a further strategy to go further like Flickr whom asked users to record the rights of images. Critics say this would make the function of pinning less seamless and damage the 'frictionless mechanism for sharing'. Pinterest has adopted and implemented a Copyright Policy in accordance with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act stating it 'respects the intellectual property rights of others and expects its users to do the same'
Pinterest runs the risk of scaring users away in fear of getting sued it encourages sites to block the social network, making the whole system a lot less useful since, without content to Pin, what's the point of Pinterest?
All of these fears, however, depend on the copyright holder caring. Individual photographers, might care, but so far retailers have yet to complain. In fact, many of them are working with Pinterest, integrating pin widgets on their sites. For now, they apparently see no reason to complain about copyright when all those pins are bringing exposure to their products and services which are driving so many sales.
Pinterest has yet to open its doors to third party social media management tools, we are hopeful that they will soon as this will enable Pinterest to help drive businesses successes further.