Twitterers are all a flutter with Pinterest this week and debate rages between creators and pinners about whether items pinned on Pinterest are copyright.

Two debates I’ve joined are on ‘Lateral Action’  (see and Rackspace (

The main debate falls into three categories. The first group (largely made up of creative), see the benefit of social media forums for visual artists and welcome Pinterest broadly as a marketing tool irrespective of any infringement of creative rights. The second group is the outraged minority who view pinning with suspicion and who see every pin as a potential copyright infringement which undermines the fabric of legal protection for creative works. The third group are the pinners who just pin and don’t really seem to care either way whether the image or work is copyright, who it belongs to and whether any of this really matters.

So, does it matter whether the post is copyright and who it belong to?

From an English Copyright Law perspective any image pinned which was not taken, made or created by the person pinning could infringe the creators copyright.  That means the creator has a claim against the person pinning, and possibly against Pinterest too.

Nothing in law is ever simple though. If however you take a photo of an original work, image, installation or design and pin it, it is arguable that you have copyright in your photographic interpretation of the work and can pin it freely without worrying about the artists rights in the original.

Matters are more complicated if you pin images of branded products, where even if you created the image you might infringe trade mark law and the trade mark owners might seek removal of the image and compensation for its unauthorised use.

Pinterest is keen to point out in its Ts & Cs that it has a notify and take down policy so if you as a visual artist, creative individual or TM owners whose work appears without a credit or permission you can try to have it removed.

But again, does this actually matter?

The law is complex and it is changing through Court decisions and legislative initiatives. Copyright law in England is three hundred years old and was originally designed to create a monopoly right for the creator of a work who could dictate how it was reproduced. In the digital age, this seems quaint, but there is a valid argument that revenues from copyright exploitation encourage and fund the continuance of creative work (don’t get me started on this pet subject) and in my mind it does matter. So, the question is how should copyright be respected? The rule of thumb for posting images to Pinterest should be to check who owns the work/brand before pinning, but who does that? A better practice might be to mark work clearly, allowing the creator/brand owner the opportunity to be credited. In doing this the creators right to be recognised and remunerated is acknowledged,  marketing can be freely undertaken and the pinning public can show the world what has caught their eye and imagination like never before – which must be good for copyright and creativity in the long run. 

For advice on copyright, contact Joanne Frears 0207 339 7119


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