Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Pinterest and Copyright – A Work in Progress

Wednesday, August 29, 2012
Pinterest is one of the fastest growing websites on the internet with traffic monitoring service Alexa Internet, Inc. currently ranking it as the 41st most popular website globally. The social media service allows users to pin content (i.e., links to images, videos, websites, etc.) and manage theme-based collections.

One differentiating factor with Pinterest is, unlike Facebook or Twitter on which users post primarily personal information and content, Pinterest’s users post interesting content from third party websites.

Copyright Quandary

The contentious issue at play is in regard to users postingthird party copyrighted material. In the Terms of Use to which each user must comply, the user agrees that the liability is put on the user to ensure that no infringing content is put on Pinterest. Furthermore, the user indemnifies Pinterest of all legal liability arising from posting of third party copyrighted content.

This legal liability issue has been well publicized recently and many public figures are questioning the legitimacy of such contractual provisions. Upon doubts and pressure to clarify their stance on copyright, Pinterest released a statement in March on the very issue citing that:

“Pinterest is a platform for people to share their interests through collections of images, videos, commentary and links they can share with friends. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) provides safe harbors for exactly this type of platform. We are committed to efficiently responding to alleged copyright infringements…”

Pinterest has revisited their disclaimer of copyright to users to make it easier to understand by drafting provisions in plain English and less legalese, and also by providing embedded hyperlinks to resources which aim to educate users on copyright law.

Business - Driver of Change

Currently Pinterest is in the unencumbered stage of growing and acquiring its critical mass of users. However, it stands to reason that the major financial backers of the platform will demand a monetized model eventually to recover their investment once the critical mass is obtained.

At that point, the site will be a much bigger money generator than it is currently which will make it a much more publicized and juicier target for third parties whose intellectual property rights are being infringed.
The safe harbour provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) alluded to in the statement above stand to be tested and will be under much further scrutiny once the commercialization of the site takes full shape. From Pinterest’s perspective, hopefully they can pin the right balance between adhering to content creators’ rights while still providing a dynamic social sharing experience for their user base.

By Kamaldeep Singh Sembi 
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