Why I Just Deleted All My Pinboards From Pinterest – Hint…It’s Their Terms Of Use

The pinterest terms of use are concerning in the fact that the appropriate any content uploaded to the site and absolve themselves of any copyright liability

If you are a blogger or content creator, you REALLY should read the Pinterest terms of use

I know I’m going to be in the minority, here, but I’m not thrilled about Pinterest right now.

If you have been living under a rock and don’t know what Pinterest is, check out my article on why Pinterest might be able to beat Google+ as the next “big” social network. Pay close attention, though, to the caveat at the bottom of the article about the potential copyright issues that Pinterest is facing.

Following up on that article, I decided to get cozy with Pinterest’s Terms of Use. You know…all that legal mumbo jumbo that is presented when you join a site, that no one usually reads, yet everyone checks the box that they agree to.

I’m guilty of zombie-checking the box, too, which is pretty unacceptable, considering that my area of focus in law school was intellectual property. So…I’m as guilty as the next guy.


If you’re creating new content and uploading it to you Pinterest, you need to understand a few things from their TOU.

1) This section of the TOU describes what is considered to be content on the site:

“Content” means text, graphics, images, music, software, audio, video, information or other materials.

“Pinterest Content” means all Content that Cold Brew Labs makes available through the Site, Application or Service, including any Content licensed from a third party, but excluding Member Content.

“Member” means a person that completes Cold Brew Labs’ account registration process, as described under “Account Registration” below.

“Member Content” means all Content that a Member posts, uploads, publishes, submits or transmits to be made available through the Site, Application or Services.

“Site Content” means Member Content and Pinterest Content.

Pay attention to that last definition. “Site Content” means any content that Pinterest creates, as well as content created by members.

2) Read this section:

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.

What, what, what?!?

By uploading my original content to your site, I grant you an irrevocable, perpetual license to use my work in any way you see fit?!? So…you could use my original social media cartoons to promote Pinterest without every asking my permissions or paying me a dime?

If I uploaded photos of my family, you could use them for your marketing purposes without my permission? I don’t think so….I’m not interested in contributing content to Pinterest if you’re not respectful of any copyright law at all.

And yes…shame on me for not reading the Terms of Use closely, but I’m betting you haven’t read them either.

“So what?” you might ask….”I just repin things, I don’t really upload new or original content.” Right! But by uploading someone’s content to Pinterest without their express permission (aka “pinning”), you’re potentially violating that persons’ copyright and putting yourself in a situation to be sued for copyright violation.

And guess what….Pinterest will be no where to be found when you’re standing in court.

Are you violating the copyrights held by others with your Pinterest pinboards?

3) You see, by agreeing to the Pinterest TOU, you are absolving them of any legal liability, placing the blame squarely on your shoulders:

You acknowledge and agree that you are solely responsible for all Member Content that you make available through the Site, Application and Services. Accordingly, you represent and warrant that: (i) you either are the sole and exclusive owner of all Member Content that you make available through the Site, Application and Services or you have all rights, licenses, consents and releases that are necessary to grant to Cold Brew Labs the rights in such Member Content, as contemplated under these Terms; and (ii) neither the Member Content nor your posting, uploading, publication, submission or transmittal of the Member Content or Cold Brew Labs’ use of the Member Content (or any portion thereof) on, through or by means of the Site, Application and the Services will infringe, misappropriate or violate a third party’s patent, copyright, trademark, trade secret, moral rights or other proprietary or intellectual property rights, or rights of publicity or privacy, or result in the violation of any applicable law or regulation.

Yep, what that says is that you’re on the hook if anyone sues.

Not cool, Pinterest. I like your concept, I like your site, but I don’t like your willy-nilly approach to violating intellectual property rights or absolving yourself of any blame when you create a platform that not only allows people to violate the law, but encourages them to do it.

Again, I know I’m in the minority, here….so for now, I have deleted my Pinboards and choose not to play until Pinterest addresses the issues. I have also removed the “Pin It” button from my Sharebar, so as not to encourage others to violate intellectual property rights.

As always, I’m open to thoughts and discussions in the comments.





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Comments And Reactions

  1. Debbie Stanley says

    Sigh. I found your previous post (“Thumper’s Rule”), noted your references to your background in intellectual property law and Pinterest, and wondered if you would second the opinion I recently read of another attorney who also deleted her Pinterest boards so as not to be sued for copyright infringement. Sure enough. Well, twice warned should be plenty, right? Will be deleting my Pinterest too. Thanks for the caution.

    • Sean R. Nicholson says

      It’s sad that their TOU basically steals the intellectual property of their users and then absolves them of any liability. Hopefully, they’ll listen to the voices out there crying fouls and will reconsider. Like I said, I like the concept of Pinterest, I just don’t like the fact that they encourage copyright violation.


  2. Pinterest is getting a lot of bad press these days – for good reason. I certainly hope they’ll step up and fix what’s wrong so that they can preserve what is otherwise a great site. Wise up, Pinterest!

  3. Wow! That’s crazy. Shared.

  4. bill lazdowski says

    I still haven’t delved to far into the whole P thing just yet so I am finding a lot of the writings about it very interesting. And will utilize them when I strike forward.

  5. I haven’t been all that excited about Pintrest, and now I’m glad I haven’t done a stinking thing yet on their site. Other than set up an account. My boards will remain empty


  6. Alex Zmushka says

    Very thoughtful post, Sean. I do use Pinterest and really like the service. Your post has made me thinking about how I use it. I have most of the pictures posted which I don’t worry about but some are most likely will be deleted. Thanks.

  7. Catherine White says

    Pinterest oh Pinterest, where for art thou Pinterest? Everyone on social media is banging on about how popular Pinterest is, and I roll my eyes thinking, ‘Of course it’s popular you ninnys, it’s a knock off site.’

    Good on you.

  8. Thank you for this very interesting article. I am on pinterest but don’t use it active . Now I know how good it was. 🙂

  9. Sally K Witt, Social Media and Ministry says

    Thanks for the info. I hope that because it is so popular, that things work out.

  10. Gaye Crispin says

    I find the Pinterest TOS to be quite strange indeed.

  11. Rhia Roberts says

    Something felt wrong to me about Pinterest. I had nothing backing my feeling but it was deep in my gut so despite invites, I did nothing about it. Thank goodness. Thank you for sharing this information…I’m going to pass it along.

  12. Yes, your photos can be used by interest. But you retain ownership. Their license is non-exclusive. If your brand will be diminished by wide sharing of your image don’t share. If you are that private, don’t share. But most of the end of this post is scare mongering. Copyright Law is so untested on these kinds of questions that the draconian solution of someone with the resources to sue me for using Pinterest is really unlikely. What will probably happen is Pinterest will be asked to take the picture done, and they will. I’m not making available a .mp3 file that wouldn’t otherwise be available a la Napster. The analogy is much more YouTube.

    • Sean R. Nicholson says


      I think we’ll have to agree to disagree on this one. Take this scenario, for example.

      I create unique social media comic strips. If I pin them to Pintrest, I have granted Pinterest the right to use my works as they see fit. So if they take my cartoons, turn them into a book, and publish them, I have granted them a license to make money from my creations. They don’t have to pay me a dime in licensing fees.

      Take that one step further. Suppose you pin all my comics to Pinterest and Pinterest takes them, creates a book, and makes a million dollars. I’m going to be angry…right? I’m going to sue, right? I’ll go after Pinterest and Pinterest will say “not our problem. Trevor should have gotten your permission before posting them, just like it says in our Terms of Use.” So who am I going to go after now? You. And Pinterest has absolved themselves of any liability in the matter.

      I don’t have a problem with Pinterest protecting themselves with a TOU….I just think it needs to be a reasonable one.

      Just my $.02…


  13. Tony Patti (@TonyPatti) says

    “only on, through or by means of the Site, Application or Services.”

    Doesn’t this restrict their infringements to their site only? Or maybe that was what they were trying to say? We can take your copyrighted greeting card image and use the heck out of it but only on our site – we can’t take it and publish a hard copy greeting card with it that’s sold in stores.

  14. Hmm, I’m not an expert in law by any means but I’m not convinced pInterest would be able to absolve themselves as easily based on the T.O.C’s, didn’t this same tactic fail for sites like megaupload and napster etc in the older days? I thought a site had a requirement to ensure it was actively stopping the illegal trade of copyright infringing material?

    Also in the first part of the toc there is this clause on pinterests rights with content ‘…only on, through or by means of the Site, Application or Services.. If I read this correctly that would limit their rights somewhat, i.e. I would think this would stop them creating a book from comic strips as given as an example.

    Having said that, I agree with the author in that I would be wary of uploading to the site based on this.

  15. i wouldn’t worry about it. this is going to go nowhere. the fact of the matter is if you are only one of ten of thousands that could also be automatically “guilty” of the exact same infraction you are pretty safe. if there are any legal issues that come up pinterest will simply delete the content in question.

    rest assured you will never get sued over something like this.

  16. Alex Zmushka says

    Hey Sean, I wrote in my previous comment that the post made me thinking.. That’s so true.. I’ve been thinking about the possible issues Pinterest users might face since I hit “submit” button.
    To make it short.
    As far as I can see there are 3 main categories of images which are being pinned: 1. Pictures originally created and downloaded/linked by users; 2. Pictures pinned on the boards by providing URL to the source (those which are not created by users); 3. Pictures which are re-pinned from Pinterest itself or via “Pin It” button.
    I am purposely do not mention videos (a bit different thing with videos).
    The only category of pictures displayed on Pinterest I would somehow be worried about is #2.
    Your examples of family pictures and cartoons are not really viable just because since I’ve started using Pinterest I haven’t seen a single board being described as a family or something like that. Just double checked my followers and those whom I follow: no family-related pictures there. Why would anybody want to pin their family or quite private pictures on Pinterest – it is like a “picture craiglist” :). I can assume that there might be some examples of that but it would be out of this discussion.
    As for the cartoons – again, if I would be really concerned about protecting my work, I would triple check where I’m gonna submit it. Wouldn’t you think so? There are tons of other resources with very supportive and protective TOU.
    Saying all this, by any means I am not trying to stand for Pinterest – most likely they have things which definitely should be addressed. But realistically, how many users they have by now (including businesses). They are all strong sue cases. Is that what you are saying?
    Anyways, thanks again for thought provoking post but I will keep using Pinterest because I think it is a brilliantly executed social media project for quick, easy and fun multimedia sharing.

  17. Stephanie Taylor Christensen says

    While its important to understand the terms of use on any social media site (and I’d argue that few even take the time to read the terms before they get started), the reality is, Pinterest is free and your participation is optional. Particularly if you are using it boost your own exposure as a hobbyist or business, they have offered you a captive, free marketing opportunity. Certainly, we cannot expect that they do not have a business model and financial interest to fulfill.

  18. Terri Davies says

    Fortunately Pinterest has now modified their terms of service. They are saying that they will only use your content for the purposes of providing the Pinterest service, and have removed anything about selling your content. I think that it’s a lot less scary sounding than it was!!

    I will continue to use Pinterest.

  19. Shelly Hardage-Wilkerson says

    Yet you have a “Pin it” link on the side of your article. Oh, the irony. 🙂 ha!

    • Sean R. Nicholson says

      I do, Shelly, because Pinterest changed their terms of use after this article was published. Be sure to check out the later article at:


      I am using Pinterest, but only to pin original works created by me.


      • Shelly Hardage-Wilkerson says

        I see, well I will read your newest one as well. I find it comical though that no one has dared “pinned” your article. What would you do if someone did? Would you be flattered that your work was “pinned” for others to read, or would you be angry?

        That’s the issue with Pinterest I find. Lots of people are actually glad their work is put out there for readers, I doubt a lawsuit even crosses anyone’s mind unless their work was stolen and then “pinned.” I am always flattered when my articles or work are “repinned” on Pinterest, but maybe some don’t share that flattery?

  20. i don’t pin my own photos, art, ideas to pinterest. I got another problem im mad about.
    Pinterest deleted the “about me” section. I am told Pinterest has a new message service so people who are like minded can social network with me. it was long, but what the hell, i want to meet like minded people. you got any suggestions besides facebook, twitter, etc. i try local craigslist to look for a new circle of friends, don’t worry i intend not to meet them at my house but at public places. i am semi disabled but can walk a bit. i put these conditions on craigslist and all i ever get is jerks and people looking for kinky sex even in the platonic section(means just friends). to be quite frank i want to get the hell out of the US forever, maybe go to Great Britain. in essence i am looking for a circle of close caring friends and when i get better i will reciprocate. my rust belt town is just a microcosm of the what the US has become: a fascist, nasty, enourmous wealth gap empire who spills blood all over the world for the corporations. I wish i knew spanish i would move to ecuador…yeah yeah enough from me for now. and these new cdc rules on pain mgmt. i am going through hell, its not my doctors fault. if she kept giveing me pain meds she lose her license or worse. fuck the cruel fdc and dea

    • Wow . That’s a little rough . Sending you my thoughts and good on ya for actually , getting out there to have adventures and meet people ! I do love Spanish . Mexico is beautiful with the murals . Have fun , John and enjoyed your comment.

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