Why Pinterest Critics have it Wrong

Right now, Pinterest is under fire because the platform makes it easy for users to share pictures. Many photographers and artists are up in arms because this is done without permission, so they feel it’s copyright infringement. But the more I use the platform, the more I think Pinterest critics have it wrong.

Why do you have an online presence?

First, I want you to answer that question. As an artist, whether you’re a photographer, cartoonist, etc., why are you online? Forget social media and email and such – why do you upload your work online? Correct me if I’m wrong, but typically, artists upload their work for one of three reasons:

1. To share their work with others
2. To show potential clients what they can do when hired (i.e., they have an online portfolio)
3. To sell the work itself

People who upload their work ONLY to share it with others for the sheer joy of it seem to be embracing Pinterest. So let’s focus on the last two reasons – the pictures are part of an online portfolio or the pictures are showing artwork for sale.

In both cases, the more people who come to your website, the more likely you are to make money. More traffic means you’re either reaching potential clients or potential buyers. And Pinterest definitely leads to more traffic.

Yes, there are people who use Pinterest incorrectly, stealing your pictures and uploading them as their own. That happens with EVERY social media platform, though. People are jerks. Pinterest is not at fault for the assholes of the world. The vast majority of Pinterest users pin pictures correctly so they link back to the owner’s site.

“But they’re using my work without permission…”

Not really. I’m not talking from a legal standpoint here, but rather a practical one. Legally, I don’t know how all this crap with Pinterest will go down. But logically, no one is using your work.

When someone pins something, they aren’t adding it to their own website or making money from it (at least, if they’re using Pinterest correctly). They’re promoting your work. It’s like using a quote from a piece of written work. Pinterest users are curating, creating lists (“boards”) of things they like and – more importantly – recommend.

Would you be mad is people shared a link to your website? Of course not. That’s all Pinterest is – sharing links. It’s just done in a visual way instead of using text. People aren’t using your work. They’re promoting it. They’re telling people buy your stuff or hire you because you do good work. I don’t understand why critics are fighting against this.

It comes down to silly needs to control everything, even if letting go a little can help the cause. I get it. It’s your work. I’m a writer, so I understand the connection a person has to something they create. But if you want to have complete control over your work, get off the Internet. In fact, get out of galleries, get out of museums, get out of shops and stores. Keep your work in a dark, hidden room where you have complete control over who sees it.

Pinterest has Problems

Pinterest is not without its problems. Just like every platform, it has users who are uploading and pinning things incorrectly, and in my opinion, Pinterest can make a few changes to make things at least a little better. Here are the changes I’d like to see:

1. No pinning from Google Image search or other search engines. This does not allow the original artist to get credit or traffic from the pin.

2. When pinning an image, Pinterest should only show/use a thumbnail. This would require more users to click through to the original source. It’s how Google images work.

3. A “report” button where you can alert a user who has pinned something incorrectly. All the time, I see people mistakenly pin something from a homepage instead of a permalink, so when I click through, I go to the homepage which has since been changed. I’d like a button I could click to tell the pinner so they can fix the mistake. If pinners are getting a lot of reports on different pins, this would also alert Pinterest when a user is constantly using the platform incorrectly.

4. When you upload a pin (rather than pinning from another website or repinning), there should be a box you have to check that says you own the picture or have permission to post it. I know it’s in the TOS and it won’t stop everyone, but it will be one more safeguard, reminding people that they can’t claim credit for work they don’t own.

Pinterest already has given users a way to block Pinterest, and while I think this is a bad idea for most bloggers, it is an option – and that’s a start. But regardless, I don’t think artists should be blaming Pinterest – they should be embracing it. Yes,  you have to protest your work, but you also have to take a step back and really ask, “is this hurting or helping me?” Don’t cut off your nose to spite your face.

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Head zombie wrangler here at Blog Zombies. Obsessed with all things social media. Lover of shenanigans and pancakes. Definitely not a ninja.

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