Are Pinterest’s terms of use really that bad?

I have read a number of articles about Pinterest and its terms of use lately.  Someone actually sent me a message on Facebook asking if I knew about the terms and wondering whether it is wise to use Pinterest.  That question is what leads me to write this post.

I won’t comment on the wisdom of using Pinterest generally, but I will caution people to be careful what they share on any social media network. You don’t ever want to violate anyone else’s copyright, but you want to be especially careful on Pinterest.

As a side note, some people think copyright doesn’t exist on the web, or content must have a copyright notice to be protected. Those people are very wrong.

Essentially, Pinterest’s terms state that if you post something you are entirely responsible for it, and that if you violate someone else’s copyright and Pinterest gets sued, you are the one who has to pay the related costs; both your own and Pinterest’s. Feel free to read the terms for yourself.

While all wise sites require users to take responsibility for what they post, it is quite different to expect those users to pay the site’s costs or any verdict if it gets sued. Most sites simply have a method for copyright owners to get in touch with a take-down notice and then respond to those notices quickly. YouTube does this. Facebook does this. Even Google does this.  This is how the web works, and it is pretty much how providers such as Pinterest are supposed to operate under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

In fact, I am not certain Pinterest will be able to escape liability simply because it writes that it doesn’t have any responsibility. Courts will not be amused if Pinterest becomes a bastion of copyright violation and disclaims all responsibility for taking down violating content once it is notified. Ask other providers how well that has worked out for them. Oh right, you can’t, they don’t exist anymore or paid a fortune and changed the way they dealt with violations.

The most useful post I read on the subject is by a lawyer and photographer named Kirsten. I recommend her article to you. Kirsten deleted her account and explains why. Incidentally I haven’t deleted my account. One, I don’t post anything that worries me. Two, it is my job to be up on social media, and I cannot do that if I am not on the site. But do the terms of service give me pause? Yes, they do. I am not a heavy Pinterest user, nor will I become one under the current terms of service.

If Pinterest wants to be ready for prime time, it needs to step up and deal with the reality of the successful online world it has created and fit it within a legal platform that makes sense for the company, its users, and copyright owners. Pinterest needs to rewrite its terms of use, and quickly.

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