Pinterest, Inspiration, Copying and the Whole Ethics Thing

29 Sep 2011

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Here's another big debate brewing in the community, and this time, it's about Pinterest. I caught wind of it when Rachel sent me a link to an interesting discussion on Salt City Spice. The premise of that discussion is:

"Here's the thing that's been bothering me though - after a few months of pinning and in speaking with a variety of Etsy sellers, the same issue continues to come up: Artists, designers, & crafters are continually finding their original works tagged or categorized as "DIY" - is this wrong?"

The comment discussion is really interesting, and I can agree with elements of all sides. So I shared the link over on Google +, and even more interesting comments emerged there. (I do believe you'll need a G+ account, and to be logged in, and be in one of my circles, to see that discussion.) Then Kim blogged about how creatives need to get over trying to control what happens to their creations. And then Katrina (the original author of the Salt City Spice post) had a second post on Oh, My Handmade.

All of these discussions bring up many of our community's most recurring themes: original ideas, copying and protection. There are no universal answers (as usual), but the conversation brought up a few thoughts about Pinterest for me, and I thought I'd share them here.

Confidential
Image by MichaelMKenny, via Flickr

Private Inspiration vs. Public Inspiration

Pinterest is an interesting (and sometimes messy) hybrid of public and private. By that I mean, it's a tool we use to publicly do something we've been accustomed to doing privately.

We crafters have always saved examples of interesting projects and pictures – whether they were torn from magazines, earmarked in books, or bookmarked on the web. These archives are like bank accounts for creatives: stuff we plan to make, stuff that sparked an idea for making something different, stuff that just makes us happy to look at. When this archive is private, it can take any form that's useful to us – a shoebox of paper clippings, a bulletin board, a series of bookmark folders. And in a purely-private archive, it's less important to note who created what, because it's all a kind of personal creative soup we draw from.

But when our inspiration archives are made public, as on Pinterest, we have a bigger responsibility: we need to make an effort to maintain a clean, well-attributed archive that respects original creators. (That's a big idea; keep it in the back of your head for a moment.)

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A Dangerous Sort of Boiling-Down

I should say at this point, I adore Pinterest. But the thing that I love most about it is also the thing I find troubling about it. Pinterest, as we know, boils a website page down to a single picture. When you "pin" a great blog post or tutorial or roundup or anything, you choose one image from the page to represent it. These pictures, then, can be "repinned" by other Pinterest users. And thus, the pictures change hands and change hands. If the original pinner hasn't properly credited the original creator, then the pins have a way of becoming just pretty pictures – their original context is lost.

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Throughout the summer, I would often find interesting images on Pinterest and want to share the accompanying posts on CRAFT (like the one above). But unfortunately, so many times (like, one in about five), I would follow an image through one repin after another, only to finally land on the original pin and discover that someone had pinned only the image itself without its accompanying post, or they'd pinned the homepage of the site where the image appeared on a single day six months ago. In other words, bad attribution practices on Pinterest rendered it impossible for me to find and share the original creator's work with a larger audience.

This loss of context also contributes to what Salt City Spice pointed out: Etsy sellers are regularly seeing their products-for-sale pinned, not as reminders to buy the product but as reminders to make a DIY version. The images come to represent ideas rather than products. (For the record, I also see this happening constantly with mainstream manufactured products, but I don't see as many people up in arms over that.)

Pinterest has recently added a Pin Etiquette page to address bad attribution. And for a really thorough step-by-step take on how to attribute, read Rachel's post.

Inspiration Board~some of my goodies from other artists! (see notes)
Image by artjunkgirl, via Flickr

The Nature of the Crafty Beast

All of that said, I still agree with Kim's point: once we post something on the internet, we cannot control its destiny, even if everyone in the community is using stellar attribution practices (or practicing ethical pinning).

The thing is, we creatives have grown accustomed to having access to thousands of pretty images 24-7. We now expect to look at unlimited crafty goodness, and then draw on those visual ideas as we make our own things. Some of us want to then sell what we make. And some of those who sell what they make seem to want to wall off those specific images, making them off-limits in a sea of visual inspiration.

Obviously, copying is bad. Stealing is bad. But every single one of us draws on other peoples' work for inspiration. It's our nature, and frankly, our privilege to have access to this rich and constantly-renewing treasure trove. Once you put an original design out there, you simply have to be prepared for others to draw upon it. I think Jessica said it best in her excellent comment on the Google Plus discussion:

"At the end of the day there's always going to be the people who make and the ones that buy."

This brings me to…

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"Online" is Not Always "Marketing"

Crafters have been asking me whether Pinterest is a good marketing tool for their businesses almost since its first day. I see plenty of Pinterest accounts with Etsy shop names, where the users pin only pictures of their stuff for sale. If you ask me, that practice is more or less like sending engraved invitations to the people who make instead of buy.

One important way craft businesses can minimize the copying of their work is to get a lot smarter about their online marketing. At the end of the day, you have to ask yourself whether any website is a place where your actual customers are hanging out (not your online buddies, and yes, there is a difference). In an environment like Pinterest, where everyone's throwing pictures around like they're candy, how does throwing your own pictures into the melee communicate the ways your product is unique and special?

(Interestingly, Pinterest's Pin Etiquette page addresses self-promotion, too.)

Feathered birds
Image by blackbiscuits, via Flickr

Of course, people other than sellers pin images from Etsy, and equally sadly, no Etsy seller can control where images from his or her shop will end up. But I do see an awful lot of Etsy sellers voluntarily putting their images in front of other crafters in the name of "marketing." I've said this before, but I don't think other crafters are necessarily the best customers for many handmade products. We're good re-interpreters and reverse engineers. And Pinterest is an environment where we like to feed those skills.

What are your thoughts on Pinterest? What steps do you take when you pin (or repin) things to make sure the original maker is credited? Do you pin as a reminder to buy, or a reminder to make?

Comments

hmmmm, I pin just for me and I would love it if there was a 'private' option! For me, I still prefer to save images I find on my computer because I spend alot of time searching for whatever it is I'm looking for at the time.
I use pinterest as a quick visual guide for pre-design boards (I'm an interior designer and when I'm working on a clients room, I create a board for them and as I'm researching, pin things to their board - be it inspiration or pieces to buy).
I am guilty of not putting decent descriptions on (usually just a love it or /) because I tag the correct source and as I said, I would love for pintrest to have a private option.


Thank you for this excellent post. I probably spend 5 times as much time at Pinterest than I would need to if just repinned everything I found interesting. The badly/non-attributed issue and badly linked pins really irk me so I try and track down the original source. It takes a lot of time, but I like to know who the creator is and the context of the photos.

Google images search is a great resource. It doesn't always work but I can often locate a photo's original source with a bit of research there.

As for the #DIY issue, I actually have a DIY/crafts/handmade board so a non-tutorial-linked photo may end up with a DIY tag. I have also tagged other photos as DIY in different categories - I see these as inspiration for things I could make, just as I would a photo I see in a book or a magazine. Is that considered a rip off? Maybe. But it's very rare to see a totally original craft idea these days, (no?) thanks to the Internet. But that's another discussion completely...


Well-said, Grace, and thank you for commenting! That extra time you're putting into Pinterest is surely appreciated by all the creators you pin.


I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand- I do a ton of tutorials on my blog. The purpose of my tutorials isn't to recreate something I've seen before, it's to share an idea that I've come up with. I love to teach people how to make things and share my ideas. It's nice that some people have liked my projects enough to pin them. Their motivation in pinning doesn't concern me because I'm mostly doing tutorials and not selling anything on my website. I've also had new people become followers of my blog because they found me through someone's pin, which is a bonus.

However, I think credit where credit is due is important. I don't like the idea that any picture can just be lifted with the attribution/url specific to that post lost. But maybe it's not a problem with pinners... maybe it's a problem with the functionality of pinterest. It shouldn't matter that I'm sharing my ideas for free- if someone is taking my picture the credit and the link to my tutorial should stay with me, it's still my intellectual property.

I also think there is a huge difference between flat out copying someone else's idea and coming up with an idea on your own, then finding out that someone else (or often lots of someone else's) have also had their own version of the same idea.

I personally (and I'm going to stress the word personally here because I know lots of people might not agree with me) don't like the saying that "there are no new ideas". To me that puts a limit on something that I believe is unlimited- imagination and devalues creativity.


That's nicely-said, Meg, and I like your take on "there are no new ideas." I think my agreement with that idea comes mostly from the fact that I think no idea can really STAY original in perpetuity. Unique craft concepts pop up all the time (especially on your blog!), but once they end up online, they immediately take root in countless minds, where they begin to be riffed on and altered and hybridized. Innovation breeds more innovation.


As a crafter and DIYer, if I see something I like that is in my realm of craft knowledge, I'm going to make it myself. And I do pin these ideas, but never to my DIY board. I also will also pin my own work. I know other rabid crocheters like me will just make it themselves, and that's why I don't look to see where they've repinned my pics to:) And whether they see it on Etsy or Pinterest it's the same end. There are plenty of people using Pinterest that don't crochet.

I have been guilty of not attributing though. I was under the impression that if the link was there it was all good. I went back and checked some of my re-pins and they do go to the original link. I pledge to be better about that going forward. I also need to check my pins to see if they are going to the original post or the home page.

I know a bunch of people that need to read this.


Thanks for adding your perspective, Corey! Evernote is a great suggestion for building a personal inspiration archive.


I don't use Pinterest, but the discussion here has been thought-provoking. It hearkens back to a previous conversation about when "inspired by" crosses the line to "copied from." Which begs the next question-- why do we care so much?


Some good points so far. I love Pinterest, being a visual person it is much easier for me to keep a virtual scrapbook rather than folders full of bookmarks.

There seem to be a lot of double standards going on in the crafty world, it seems to be OK to rip off a big company design, I have seen loads of blog posts on 'how to make it yourself Anthopology xxx' but if it was how to make your own version of MissEtsy's xxx then there would be hell to pay, why it is OK to rip off one design and not another is beyond me. There is a big difference between drawing inspiration and blatant copying. I do pin items because there is something that draws me to the image whether it be the fabric used or the style of clasp used on a bag, maybe the colour combo but never so I can make a direct copy of the item.

There are always going to be those who have original ideas drawing their inspiration from what is around them and those who lack inspiration but like to make and copy, those who design the patterns those who buy them. In this day in age I feel that if you put an image out there on the net then you should accept the fact that it maybe copied or find it's way to a site like Pinterest/tumblr etc. If you are so worried about the image then put a watermark on it, not everyone has the same ethical values and we will never change that, maybe pinterest could change their way to pin images but then there will always be people who find a way around it.

As for it being a marketing tool, Pinterest certainly sends traffic to my blog, more traffic to the blog means more traffic to the shop, it might not be direct sales but extra traffic certainly helps. Just pinning your own items is as annoying as just tweeting your shop listings and I stop following anyone who does that, in that respect i can't see it working as a marketing tool.


It took me a very long time to finally create a Pinterest account, because of the "is-it-really-nice-to-post-someone's-picture-somewhere-without-asking-first" aspect. I finally took the plunge after talking about it with an artist friend whose copyright is infringed all the time but who loves Pinterest, as long as people give credit.

About the posting something for sale with a DIY title: I hesitated to do it in the beginning. Of course, *I* know that I would *never* copy something exactly, but how would the others know, especially the author of the pictures I pin. My board is called "DIY inspiration", and that's really it, perhaps I'll post an image of a stuffed animal, but what inspire me is just how a certain detail is sewn. I guess I started this board because I was between 2 organization systems: I used to use an app called Circus Ponies Notebook, that had a system to clip web contents in private notebook-looking files, automatically saving the source. I loved it, until some features were broken in Snow Leopard and they never fixed the bug.

About the attribution: that's my biggest pet peeve with Pinterest right now. Sometimes the problem is simply that the link is not a permalink (badely done, especially in tumblr blogs with hundreds of pages). I guess in the beginning, I was satisfied when there was a link, but now, I check very carefully not only if it's a direct link, but also if there's a way to trace the original author of the content (like, the name of the photographer who took the picture, the blog where the image appeared for the first time, elements that can give informations about what the picture really is, etc.).

Now if I see something I really want to keep a trace of, but it's not possible to find a decent attribution (as it's the case most of the times with tumblr contents, wow, that may be even worst than Pinterest), I no longer pin it, I do like Corey in a previous comment, I store it in Evernote (still have to organize it properly rather than putting everything in my inbox, though :).

In short, I'm still unsure of how my boards will evolve, perhaps I'll cancel some of them, or pin only a certain kind of contents. For recipes, it's still the best way I've found! ;)

I'm glad those discussions merged, since I was already asking myself questions about those issues.

PS
As a former History student obsessed with footnotes and taught to always, always give the the source, I even try to keep the source in my personal files, like magazine pages - but with images, most of the times it's too boring to do, so I don't, and I regret it if I want to use the image as an inspiration in a project :). If I keep a paper article, though, I always ad the date and name of the journal / magazine, or the content would loose a lot of its interest.

Sorry to have made such a looooong comment!


In fact, it may be useful if Pinterest wrote something like "nice image! is there a link that will allow people to find the original author of it? then pin it!" and perhaps a link to a page explaining how to provide a relevant link in the pop up.

Or something like that. Many people wouldn't care, but I'm sure some would be grateful to realize they can do better.


I'd love to see that as part of Pinterest's user interface too! A commenter over on Kim's post mentioned that Tumblr had recently tightened up its attribution requirements, and I was glad to hear it - the messy attribution over there has always been the main reason I've avoided Tumblogs. So maybe there's hope that Pinterest will do the same at some point.


It sounds like there are lots of issues all wrapped up into one here... The controversy of how Pinterest labels things, the copying of another's work, marketing policies... I'm not sure there is a way to sort all them out. But can I offer an alternative to Pinterest that may help with one or two of these?

I have boards of my own on Pinterest--it is indeed a quick and convenient way to collect what I feel are inspirational images. I have strong feelings about using other people's work--in a nutshell, copying is a cop out that no true artist really wants to do. I feel it's a crutch that makes us feel like we've accomplished something without needing to apply as much of our own thoughts to the process of making something. I think the trick to being a successful creative artist in today's world is to make something in a way or style that simply can't be easily replicated by others--to create in a way that requires your unique, singular stamp of involvement, or it's just not the same. That's the challenge. Simply copying something and selling as one's own work isn't enough anymore.

But this raises the ante on what we do--if you're making something that can easily be done by someone else, perhaps the trick is to figure out how to make it singular and individual. Jewelry is (it would seem) a great example--successful jewelry crafters are discovering that if it's too easy to copy, it won't sell. And even if it isn't easy to copy, it will get copied eventually anyway. So, in my opinion, the trick is to make something that can only come from your own vision, your way of seeing the world, and through your hands. The method of construction--the crafting itself--becomes secondary to what it expresses, and the style in which it is executed. If you're relying upon a process, technique, or specific application of materials to be unique, eventually it's going to not be unique anymore... Style is much harder to copy. Part of what made the great Masters of art who they were was their vision, not just their ability to manipulate their materials.

It seems that my crafty friends buy craft items for two reasons: 1) because they're impressed with the DIY aspects, and hope to use them so they can make something themselves, and 2) they can't do it themselves and are impressed with the artist's vision and skill. Pinterest, it would seem, is an extension of these two ideas.

I'm now using a program called Evernote to organize my inspirational images without needing to share them with others. It's not as fast as Pinterest, but if I'm not interested in sharing my research and using it only as a "filing solution", then Pinterest is really kind of pointless... I highly urge you to check out that program--it's available for different browsers and mobile devices, and up to a certain storage level per month it's free.

Just my 2¢. : )


This is a big discussion in itself, Erica. From a purely technical standpoint, I believe you're right about copyright ownership and usage permission, and that you have every right to state your terms on your own website. But a whole different set of memes seems to be emerging online, with the complicity of a whole lot of internet users and website owners. Sadly, not every internet user thinks to check for image-use permissions before using images from the web. These are very messy, complicated times. I'd recommend reading the Pinterest Terms of Use: http://pinterest.com/about/terms/ . They also provide a pretty clear-cut process for reporting a Pinterest user you feel is infringing on a copyright: http://pinterest.com/about/copyright/


I wish I was at the salon! :)


Surely taking a photo from one website and posting it on another (Pinterest) WITHOUT THE PERMISSION OF THE OWNER, even with attribution,is wrong? I own the copyright to my photos and have the right to determine where those photos are shown. This is my objection to Pinterest.


Interesting topic, Diane. Having been on Pinterest for a while, as well as a crafter, I would say that using Pinterest as a marketing tool is not such a good idea. As some of the others have pointed out, there seem to be many more makers there than buyers. And as attribution is stripped through pinning and re-pinning, a potential buyer would have to go to so much effort to find out where to buy the product, or even *if* it's a product available for purchase at all, it's probably not worth it.
As for people who say, "I could just make that myself" - how rude to say it right in front of a seller! I often think that, I have to admit, but then I can't be bothered and end up buying it anyway, so don't be disheartened when you hear people saying that.
xx


Sorry about all the typos! I'm reading this at the salon on my iPhone!


Amen! And I'll quote something you and Kim were discussing in the comments on her post:

"...Crafters read crafts blogs! If you don't want crafters to riff off your ideas, don't write a crafts blog to promote your work! Write a home-decor blog if you make blankets! A style blog if you make clothes!"


I'm talking about people who say "I can just make that" with Attitude. I've actually walked people through making a yoyo at shows because they're awesome, easy and why not.

And yes, I totally agree about tutorials. They can be slippery slope.

Most of my "love to look at" pins aren't even crafty. Or they're a craft that isn't actually my own. I just like looking at the extraordinary things people make. I just always try to remember that behind those "pins" is a person with feelings and probably a great deal of hard work.

And yea, the thispiration boards make me crazy.


So I actually have both a craft blog with tutorials, a pretty active Etsy shop AND I'm a somewhat active user of Pinterest (I used to be much more active but now my full time job plus Etsy is taking all my time!)

And as an Etsy seller I just wanted to pipe up for a second with a few thoughts. First, I love when I see my lights being pinned on Pinterest, whether they came from my blog or my shop, I get excited about the idea that more people are seeing my projects.

Second, and I'm trying to say this in a way that won't get anyone mad at me, but I'm not really sure what is so different about someone seeing an image on Pinterest as opposed to in your Etsy shop. When I see an image of something, whether its through Pinterest or through Etsy or through a random blog, I always look at it with the eye of "Could I make that?" Once an image of your product is out there in the world, anyone could try to make their own. Is seeing the photo through a 'shop' setting really going to deter a Maker-personality from trying to make their own? And true, if a Buyer sees your product on Pinterest without the proper ping back they might not know it is for sale, but if its really the perfect item they've always needed, isn't it likely they've already searched for it on Etsy and found your product? And if it is just something fun that caught their eye, maybe they'll see it pinned again somewhere else and this time it will include a ping back. Or maybe they'll try to track it down by googling key words. Either way if someone really wanted to buy your product, can't we trust them to try and find it themselves?

Basically, when I make a light to sell in my Etsy store, I'm not super secretive about my process because honestly if someone wants to make their own, they are going to make their own no matter what, even if they can't copy your process exactly. And if someone wants to buy it, it probably doesn't matter how it is made, they just care about the final product.

Honestly, isn't all publicity somewhat good publicity? I choose to view Pinterest that way, because hey, every single image of my lights that are out there are another chance for someone to see them and think wow, that's cool, and come purchase one from my shop.

Hopefully no one finds offense, since these are just my opinions, but I'd say get mad at sloppy pinners who don't give your Etsy shop credit, but don't get mad at all pinners because one of them could end up getting you your next sale.

Allison


Totally agree Allison. It never occurred to me that there was that kind of problem with Pinterest, first time I hear that.


I was just about to post a short post on some re-use items I'd pinned on Pinterest today when I saw this post. I'm still planning to post but I appreciate this discussion. I can't stand it when I can't find the original image attribution. I think part of the problem with Pinterest may lie in the fact that they have the CRAFT & DIY category in one!
I think if people put their ideas out there they need to be willing to handle the consequences. I don't endorse copying ideas outright but there are so may ideas out there that are very similar and ideas come in clusters. I also think if someone creates something and it's not "for sale" than it really shouldn't matter if someone else wants to re-create the concept. This being said I believe there is a difference between taking an idea and re-making it for personal use versus profit. Thanks for another engaging conversation!


Interesting that you should mention this pin--I know exactly which one you mean because I've got it on my button board. This is a great example of the points being made here: I pinned that purely for inspiration. I don't like orange and blue together and no one in my family has a name starting with K. So, I was never a buyer and it didn't matter how the item was tagged; if I was going to do anything related to that it was going to be a DIY project inspired by the item. And yet, a sale was still made to someone who did want that exact item. Hope you enjoy it! :-)


I agree that Pinterest isn't best environment to market products, but, with best linking practices, it's the perfect place for spreading the word about a great idea. I pin images from all over the crafty internet, but I've noticed that nothing gets a good tutorial in front of the right eyes better/faster than a well-labeled, properly identified pin. So, while it certainly is distressing that some crafters are ripping off the ideas and designs of others, I think that the visual and viral nature of Pinterest also affords the crafting community an even larger opportunity to teach, learn, and share techniques, and that makes me very, very excited.


I agree, Sarah - watermarks really help keep an image credited to your blog if it "travels" to other websites. Since it's so easy to copy digital images, watermarks are perhaps one of the only "real" protections you can give your images once they're online. I do wish Picasa, iPhoto and Photoshop had built-in watermarking capabilities.


I'm so glad you brought this up, Amy: "...I would like to add that while I would love to make everything I have stored in there the reality is a very small percentage of it will aver get done. "

I think you're right - many of us have way, way more ideas/tutorials saved than we'll ever get around to realistically making. So a pin labeled "DIY" is no indication that the idea will actually ever be made into anything finished. It's just another piece of visual inspiration.


As a Pinterest user and someone who admittedly has a DIY board I pin to, I would like to add that while I would love to make everything I have stored in there the reality is a very small percentage of it will aver get done. I view Pinterest as a place to visually flex your imagination and creativity muscle. Most artist and crafty people are visual people and the entire Internet feeds this need to see what others see and I think Pinterest has simply added a level of organization and community to a practice that is already there. I don't necessarily think it is right and I firmly believe attrition is a necessity, but as I person it is much less stressful to control the things you can and accept that inherently not everything falls into that category.


Oh, and there is no point in pinning something without the original idea/product/website linked...I am pinning to remind myself where to find the item.


I didn't read all the comments so I may be repeating others. I love pinterest. I've been inspired and I've even posted some of my original creations. I don't mind if people repin things I've made. I don't mind if they run out and "make it". Fine. The thing I love about making things or decorating a room, sewing, and painting is that it's original. If I happen to be inspired by someone else, it doesn't make my creation less...what I made is still original to me and I put my own "twist" on it. So steal my idea. Hopefully you will make something great but no matter how great it is, it isn't what exactly what I made. :D


I'm visiting from CentsationalGirl. I'm an occasional pinner and I love to read blogs, but I am not a blogger nor a crafter. This is such an interesting discussion about an issue I was not aware of.

My question is... if bloggers or etsy sellers are concerned about their images not being credited back to them, why aren't they using watermarks on their photos? As a reader and buyer I'm not bothered by the watermarks at all. I would think that the watermark would help curb these problems.


This is a huge pet peeve of mine. I don't understand why people are complaining about their ideas being stolen. Most of us get our ideas from a variety of sources including books, magazines, store merchandise and catalogs, etc. Does that mean we are all stealing ideas (and have been for generations)? I have been a sewer, knitter, and crafter for a very long time and there are things I made ten, twenty, thirty and more years ago that bloggers are making today and writing tutorials for their blogs . . . and then they get upset because someone took "their" idea! Really? In the handmade world, there are very few "new" ideas. As for etsy, I sell on etsy and if someone wants to make their own item using my shop as their inspiration that's fine. It has been my experience that there are people who like to make things and people who don't want to or can't make things and would prefer to buy them so there will always be a market for your product if you execute it well and provide a great customer experience.

I don't think this topic is going to go away any time soon because I see it cropping up all over. I wish people would stop whining and just realize that this is the name of the game and it isn't going to change. Ethics and integrity, people.


Um, also, that sounded angrier than I feel. But I still have no compunction posting something under DIY if I think there's a snowball's chance in heck I could make it. Not that I ever will ;)


Hmmmm.... this intrigues me. I am fairly scrupulous about going back as far as possible to find the original source and jotting a note at least on the pin I'm touching that it's mis-attributed.

That said, I'm quite offended that people think their images should not be posted under DIY. Seriously? You've made one, so now nobody else can? If that's your attitude (not YOU, the global YOU) then I hope the idea came to you in a dream, because if you've ever looked at anybody's work or a painting or heard a snippet of an idea, you're just as guilty.

What a weird world we live in. What's yours is mine, but what's mine is mine. Sheesh... that's a pretty sucky system. :(


You know, Becca, this is a tough question to answer. Technically speaking, I believe that U.S. Copyright law states that you can't republish anyone's original work without his or permission. That said, the internet creates a whole lot of stated and unstated exceptions to that rule, and I would venture to say that there is currently no universally-accepted practice. Ideally, it's always a nice practice to ask before using any image, unless a blogger has a statement on the blog that gives you permission. However, I don't see many people using this practice. I think it's a reasonably-common meme that if you're linking to another blog, you can use an image without permission (again, if you check first for a statement on the blog that prohibits this expressly). I see large blogs with huge audiences doing this every single day, and since the people who are being linked generally see a spike in traffic as a result, the image use is almost never questioned.

Since Pinterest is considered an "inspiration board" site, I don't see too many bloggers following a policy of asking before pinning. I also see nothing about asking permission on Pinterest's "Pinning Etiquette" page. I think that if you were to do ask permission every time you pin, it would render pinning pretty time-consuming, and therefore not too useful. Would anyone else like to chime in with their take on this question?


that's the whole point EVERY website i went to vera bradley homegoods ONLY gives permission to print out a copy(one) for personal use only. It says tho if you DISPLAY any images post yada yada on their blog you have violated their policies. So you really shouldn't be taking photos and repinning them without permission. The problem NO one is going to take the time to check because its consuming AND to check EVERY BLOG or WEBSITE to pin an images takes the 'fun' out of it. That is why it is so popular, to do things the PROPER way would be time consuming. The issue is if you are NOT interested in your products and BRAND being used in a MANNER that would damage your company you want ppl to ASK first. Pinterest makes it very easy to post and even EMBED a photo that YOU took on their blog to promote whatever they are selling. You as a seller have no control. its fun for YOU, but not for a company if the person abuses or ignores the terms of service on the web, which is what happens everyday.


Kimberly, if you pinned from the actual post page, then you are fine. It's when people pin from homepages, or pin from images, that the attribution becomes a problem.


Just to add another layer into this discussion . . . can we agree as a community that we are not going to post images that we found on Pinterest on our blogs and give the image credit to Pinterest??? This drives me absolutely bananas. If you want to post an image you found up on your blog, I really believe you must do your duty and click through until you can determine where it came from and then credit the photo properly (assuming the person who posted it is ok with that!)

This is the same issue I had with WeHeartIt.


btw, saw this post via centsational girl!


This is so interesting! I have recently started adding the name of where things I pin from to their description for this reason. Even as a blogger, this makes me consider watermarking all of my pictures for this reason, which I really don't want to take the time to do. I do try to promote some of my etsy sponsors via pinterest, but I have a separate Etsy board I do this on. But this is a great reminder to add their Etsy name.


Well I thoroughly enjoyed that read! I am one who often makes a comment like "see how to DIY", or "try it this way and include XXX" to images that I see. Having said that, while I may not give attribution in the Pinterest note itself, I do always try to make sure and lead to original source if I feature anything on my blog (which showcases recycled and repurposed design and decor).

This was definitely worth my time to read and consider further.
Michael


I completely see the gray areas here. But if you're blogger/crafter/etsy seller etc. who doesn't want their images re-posed without due credit to you (I personally don't care about my own pictures/ideas being pinned without credit), the solution seems simple to me: watermark your photos. It simple, and can be done in almost any basic photo editing program. This seems like the safest bet to me. And this is just my opinion, but being pinned is flattering, even if I don't see 100% credit for my work =)


Very interesting discussions going on here. I admit I had heard of pinterest before but hadn't really checked it out till now. I agree with many when they talk about the converging issues in this one discussions. Another issue is the fact that DIY and Craft are lumped together. Pinterest isn't the only one to do this many other sites also lump craft in with something else, an example being zino the online magazine subscription app/website only they put craft in the art category. My point is this: isn't it time Craft became it's own category? It's a big enough industry on it's own that it shouldn't be added to some thing else. Craft deserves respect, as does DIY as does art or fashion. I will probably continue to use pintrest as it's an interesting concept but I will be careful in how I use it.


I think that can be a nice service for your readers, Michelle. From reading your blog, I get the sense that you have a pretty open attitude about your creations anyway - so if your photos were used by others as inspiration for their own projects, that wouldn't bother you, right?


Hi, Diane - well, just finished reading through this massive and fascinating discussion! So much good advice, strong opinion and thoughtful commentary. I wasn't really aware of the fact that a photo could be pinned without the source - so thanks for getting me up to speed on the questions surrounding Pinterest. I was loving it because I made a big pinboard with all my tutorials for people to browse directly from my blog. Hmm, maybe now I'm wondering if that was not such a smart idea. Digesting...thanks so much!


I'm going to say the same thing I said on Kim' post because it bears repeating. Being creative and making feels special and fun, but at the end of the day, as crafty business is still just a business. We are not special and we shouldn't whine about competition. Or act like we're the first people to make whatever we've made.

I have run into the same attribution issues as you and it has changed the way I blog. I'm more likely to post a couple stellar images on a subject and point people to a Pinterest board than I am to do a round up post on my own site. It's a lot less hassle and time, esp when you can't find the original source and don't want to step on toes.

We all did this before anyway in our bookmarks, but it's public now, so people sometimes get a little weirded out. I think it's part of the larger change social media is making in the way we communicate and how open/closed we decide to be in the world.

I'm far more bothered by the prolific and horrifying "thinspiration" stuff I see on there anyway....


You sent me right to Pinterest to search "thinspiration." ...Wow.


Girl, sorry!! I've unfollowed most people's thinspiration/"fitness" boards, but when I first got on there I felt like I was looking at eating disorder central. It's really sad and some of it made me angry, so I just cut it out so I wouldn't get ranty on people.


i'm always bothered by that. i've seen things i make pinned by others onto "DIY" boards and it always leaves me feeling a little itchy. that being said, i love pinterest and i have a board of "things to make" - it is filled with tutorials and links to patterns. because i'm sensitive to the issue, i'm really careful. i know how crappy it feels to have someone standing in my booth at a craft show, looking at things i've spent hours making, only to say "i could just make that." i don't want to make anyone else feel that way.

i do also have a "things i've made" board and while i don't pin to it often sometimes i'm so excited about something i've made that i just can't resist.

otherwise, my boards are just reminders to buy or things i just like to look at again and again.


The things we look at again and again seep into us and end up coming out creatively anyway, I think.

Also, the people who write the tutorials we pin at some point said, "I could make that & I'll show everyone else how" after looking at something they saw online or at a fair.

I think we should soften up & be as generous to newer people saying "I could make that" as others were to us. And we should toughen up when it comes to business competition.


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