Don’t you love perusing Pinterest pictures?
So many beautiful images, so easy to search.
And all that lovely content, just waiting for you to “borrow” for your own purposes: blog, social media, etc.
No, nope, never, DON’T DO IT!
This is called copyright infringement, my friend, and it is illegal.
Isn’t Everything Online Free?
There seems to be a pervasive premise that anything you find online is free for the taking – because you can.
Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, anything published online is automatically considered copyrighted by the creator – photos, graphics, words, images, ALL of it. *NOTE: I am NOT an attorney. Please consult one to verify any of this info, or discuss your own content curation policy.
Here’s a simple explanation:
One of the biggest mistakes that people believe is that if a work has no copyright notice, it is not copyrighted. The correct form of a copyright notice is ‘Copyright or © (date) by (author/owner).’ Many people believe that if this notice is absent, they can post, use, or take any work on the Internet. In fact, everything from April 1, 1989 is copyrighted by the owner or author whether is has a notice or not. … All Internet users must assume that the work is copyrighted, unless otherwise specified by the author. source
Copyright rules may vary by country, and whether or not they’ve agreed to the Berne Convention. But face it, someone put in the hard work of creating something – a blog post, a photo, a book, an image. That’s their own intellectual property – they didn’t make it for you to swipe and use how you like.
So do the right thing.
What About Sharing Social Media Content?
Content published on social media is subject to the Terms of Service of that platform. The user has agreed to be bound by the platform’s terms (whether they’ve read them or not), which usually includes that the post may be shared by built-in sharing tools, or embedded on other websites. And these methods always link back to the original poster’s account, so it’s usually welcome promotion. (Once again, this is my interpretation; consult an actual attorney for legal advice).
Note that at this time, Instagram is one platform that doesn’t include a share function. There are third-party apps that help you do this, but on Instagram specifically, it’s not automatically OK to share others’ pictures. If you check some creatives’ accounts, you’ll see that they flat-out forbid it with verbiage in their bio.
And even if you don’t see a notice, be aware that Instagram users aren’t shy about calling you out on content theft. There’s even a hashtag (of course!): #photo_theives_busted
rant blog post about stolen content started when a friend of mine told me she learned in a blogging class that any image on Pinterest was available to use however you liked.
I was dumbfounded. How could anyone make such a sweeping generalization?! It’s not like Pinterest pictures are all released into the public domain.
But amazingly, that’s what this blogging teacher had said, my friend confirmed.
Here’s a purported expert telling blogging newbies a complete fabrication. Which to me doesn’t even make any sense – so if you pin my graphic to Pinterest, where did I even have any say in the process, let alone agree to allow anyone to use it in any way?
Dumbest thing I ever heard (from an “expert,” at least).
Here’s what Pinterest actually says:
If you post your content on Pinterest, it still belongs to you but we can show it to people and others can re-pin it. source
And from PC World:
Pinterest does have a stringent policy that the user is not to use third-party content for anything but a personal content collection on the site.
Again from Pinterest:
We respect copyrights. You should, too. source: Pinterest Terms of Service
So, please do. DO respect copyright, and others’ intellectual property.
Can I Share Others’ Content If I Link Back?
Sometimes. I mean, don’t ever share others’ content without a link back. But just because you link back doesn’t mean it’s OK.
From attorney Sara Hawkins:
Taking another person’s image or graphic and giving them a “shout out,” linkback, or any other type of attribution does not negate copyright infringement.
And from Roni Loren, who still got sued over an image that she removed immediately when notified:
It DOESN’T MATTER…
- if you link back to the source and list the photographer’s name
- if the picture is not full-sized (only thumbnail size is okay)
- if you did it innocently
- if your site is non-commercial and you made no money from the use of the photo
- if you didn’t claim the photo was yours
- if you’ve added commentary in addition to having the pic in the post
- if the picture is embedded and not saved on your server
- if you have a disclaimer on your site.
- if you immediately take down a pic if someone sends you a DMCA notice (you do have to take it down, but it doesn’t absolve you.)
Ask for permission where you found the image – making sure that you’ve found the original creator of the content (permission to repost content that’s already stolen is meaningless).
You can use Google image search to try to verify where the image originated.
The content creator may be thrilled that you want to share their content – or they may say no.
- Honor whatever requests they make – for links and credits, or for not sharing.
- If you don’t like their credit requirements, move on.
- If they say no, move on.
- If you can’t find the content creator, move on.
Can I Use Pinterest Images on My Website?
There is a way to embed a Pinterest pin in a widget. This links back to the pin on Pinterest, which eventually links back to the website where it originated (hopefully – and you should always check the link before embedding or even repinning).
It’s my understanding that this is legal – but it’s always better to ASK the image creator!
You may make a new friend in the process.
Or perhaps find out that they don’t want their images shared in any way.
Always better to know ahead of time. Why trust that the original “pinner” hasn’t infringed on someone’s copyright, and that they won’t delete the pin?
If you wish to embed a Pinterest pin:
- Click the pin.
- Click the 3 dots at upper right, then click Embed.
- Copy and paste the code to the “Text” side of your blog.
- Copy and paste the script once per page.
Before you embed a pin, I strongly suggest you click through to the website.
- Check that the pin actually appears there.
- Confirm it’s a site you’re OK with linking to.
- Make sure they have a PinIt button. If not, ask if it’s OK to pin.
- Repin to your own board to get some exposure for your Pinterest account.
- Embed the pin from your own board.
Here is an example of a blog post with embedded Pinterest pictures. I followed the steps above.
Note that these embedded pins link to someone else’s site and not my blog post! They also won’t appear if someone clicks their browser’s PinIt button.
That’s why it’s always better to create and include your own images. The first embedded pin currently has ~300 repins! It would be nice to have those pins pointing at my website. But still good for my Pinterest clout to have so many repins
Can I Use Images I Find on Google?
Almost always – NO.
You can filter your Google image search results – but even then, I wouldn’t trust that whoever posted the image knows the allowed usage.
“Because they said so” won’t be honored as a defense if you get sued.
Here’s what I had to say years ago about using Google images.
So DON’T Publish Anything on Your Blog or Social Media Unless:
- You created it.
- You bought the rights to use it (such as Dreamstime or Fotolia).
- You got it from a free photo site.
- You’re sharing within a social media platform, using their built-in tools.
- You have written permission (and have saved that permission).
Repetition for emphasis: I’m not an attorney, and this is my non-expert opinion. I can’t guarantee that you’ll be safe even if you follow these principles.
So, my friend had to have her entire website redone. She struggled to find legal images to replace those that she loved. ‘Cause let’s face it, when the world’s your oyster (or Pinterest is your personal playground for pilfering pictures) – you’ve got the best stuff available.
Except that it’s not available. It belongs to someone else.
Further Reading on Copyright Issues
Many have written about copyright issues and how to be safe. Here are some of the best articles:
What You Should Know About Pinterest and Copyright via PC World
Bloggers Beware: You CAN Get Sued For Using Pics on Your Blog by Roni Loren (she was!)
How to Use Pinterest and Still Respect Copyrights by Lori McNee
How Brands Can Use Pinterest Without Breaking the Law by advertising attorney Brian Heidelberger
Avoiding Copyright Infringement When Sharing Other People’s Work by attorney Sara Hawkins
What To Use Instead of Others’ Content
I have several useful articles on my own site. Learn where to find images you can legally use, and how to protect your own imagery from copyright infringement.
Finding images you have rights to use:
Protecting yourself and your intellectual property:
More Questions? Consult an Attorney
I’ve tried to help you protect yourself from committing, as well as being the victim of, copyright infringement. But I’m not qualified to provide legal advice. The forgoing is simply my understanding as a creative and a blogger who has researched this topic for years.
I hope my post has helped you learn why not to, and what to do instead of, using Pinterest pictures!