Pinterest Revises Their Terms Of Use…But Are The Changes Enough?

I have had a LOT of feedback about my article about why I deleted by pinboards because of Pinterest’s Terms of Use. Everything from fear to curiosity to anger. In case you haven’t read my earlier articles, I’m actually very impressed with Pinterest and their approach to social sharing. I even took a stance that Pinterest may be the next raging social network and edge Google+ further to the back-burner. So I don’t want anyone to get the idea that I’m a Pinterest-hater. I’m not.

Honestly, I hope to back on Pinterest soon. As a social media geek, the site absolutely fascinates me!

However,  I did delete all my pinboards because I was uncomfortable with the way Pinterest was handling their approach to licensing of my original content and placing all the liability of any copyright infringement suits. Their original terms of use gave them an unrestricted, irrevocable license to use my materials in any way they chose…including commercially. I just don’t abide by that. I took the time to create my social media cartoons, Pinterest and other Pinterest users shouldn’t have the right to use/sell them without my permission, even if I do share them on a pinboard.

Pinterest announced an update to their terms of use, including a change in their use of material under copyright protection in a commercial manner.

Click the image above to read the full email from Pinterest about changes to their Terms of Use.

And apparently Pinterest has heard the voices ranting against their Terms of Use.

In an email to Pinterest users this morning, CEO Ben Silbermann announced that the company is updating their Terms of Use to redefine how the company can use material protected by copyright in a commercial manner.

But is this enough to draw me back to Pinterest? It does resolve the issue relating to how Pinterest can use my original materials. If you recall, I had an issue with the original Terms of Use, which stated:

Member Content

We may, in our sole discretion, permit Members to post, upload, publish, submit or transmit Member Content. By making available any Member Content through the Site, Application or Services, you hereby grant to Cold Brew Labs a worldwide, irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, royalty-free license, with the right to sublicense, to use, copy, adapt, modify, distribute, license, sell, transfer, publicly display, publicly perform, transmit, stream, broadcast, access, view, and otherwise exploit such Member Content only on, through or by means of the Site, Application or Services. Cold Brew Labs does not claim any ownership rights in any such Member Content and nothing in these Terms will be deemed to restrict any rights that you may have to use and exploit any such Member Content.

Under the new Terms of Use, Pinterest removed the language allowing them to commercially use any content submitted to the site. HOWEVER, the following licensing language still exists in the new Terms of Use, scheduled to take effect on April 06, 2012:

How Pinterest and other users can use your content. Subject to any applicable account settings you select, you grant us a non-exclusive, royalty-free, transferable, sublicensable, worldwide license to use, display, reproduce, re-pin, modify (e.g., re-format), re-arrange, and distribute your User Content on Pinterest for the purposes of operating and providing the Service(s) to you and to our other Users. Nothing in these Terms shall restrict Pinterest’s rights under separate licenses to User Content. Please remember that the Pinterest Service is a public platform, and that other Users may search for, see, use, and/or re-pin any User Content that you make publicly available through the Service.

Non-exclusive….royalty-free…transferable..worldwide. Yeesh! That’s quite a commitment! But keep in mind that a subtle, but very major change to the new language is that this licenses is restricted to use On Pinterest. So, while other users could create a beautiful pinboard of your original photos, they could not take them and sell them, nor could Pinterest.

Whew! Good change!

But, that wasn’t the only issue I had with Pinterest’s Terms of Use. I also didn’t like the fact that Pinterest absolved themselves of any legal liability by effective saying “if you upload it, you better have permission, otherwise the lawsuit is ALL on you!” Most Netizens aren’t up-to-speed on Copyright law, so I think there is a responsibility for social networks to do everything they can to discourage Copyright infringement.

While Pinterest has not adjusted the Terms of Use placing the liability on the user, they are rolling out tools to help report infringement and, hopefully, this will make it easier to get content removed. The onus, however, is still on the Copyright holder to locate their shared content on Pinterest and report it.  The indemnification clause in the Terms of Use states:

You agree to indemnify and hold harmless Pinterest and its officers, directors, employees and agents, from and against any claims, suits, proceedings, disputes, demands, liabilities, damages, losses, costs and expenses, including, without limitation, reasonable legal and accounting fees (including costs of defense of claims, suits or proceedings brought by third parties), arising out of or in any way related to (i) your access to or use of the Services or Pinterest Content, (ii) your User Content, or (iii) your breach of any of these Terms.

Basically, “if you get sued for something you posted and didn’t have the permission to post…you’re on your own.” And remember, Copyright infringement is evaluated unders a standard of  Strict Liability so it doesn’t matter if “you didn’t know it was protected by Copyright law” or “didn’t mean to share something protected”. If you violate Copyright law…you’re on the hook, whether you meant to or not.

The interesting thing, here, is that Pinterest appears to be taking the approach that if they add an indemnity clause to their Terms of Use and they treat themselves as just the platform where the activity takes place, they’ll be able to claim the “safe-harbor” defense under the Digital Millenium Copyright Act. Not sure that worked out so well for Napster, so it’ll be interesting to see how Pinterest behaves when the first big copyright infringement lawsuit arises.

So, the good news is that our voices have been heard and Pinterest has made some changes. Now, you have to decided whether the benefits of Pinterest outweigh the risks. Personally, I’m going to go back to the site, but will only be sharing content that I have personally created. It’s not as fun as going whole-hog and pinning everything out there that I see, but until I”m comfortable that I won’t be held personally liable because I re-pinned something that was uploaded without author permission…I’m just not willing to risk it.

As always, this is just my $.02. It’s not legal advice and I’m not trying to tell you whether you should or shouldn’t use Pinterest. I just want to help folks understand the potential risks. I’m up for any comments/feedback/criticism.

Cheers!

–Sean

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