Social Media Marketing: Pinning Copyright Issues on Pinterest, and Stories You May Have Missed

Mar 16 • Best Practices, Front Page, Google, Pinterest, Search Engine Optimization, Search Marketing, Social Media Marketing • 2027 Views

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It’s hasn’t been on the social media radar for very long, but Pinterest is already making some design changes: adding a”Repins From” box and an Activity feature, as well as tweaks to the Profile section and some navigation help.

However, those changes aren’t what pushed the rapidly-growing, image-centric social network to the top of recent blogosphere chatter.

Atlanta photographer (and practicing attorney) Kirsten Kowalski late last month wrote on her blog that she was deleting what she called her “Pinterest inspiration boards” – favorite pics from other photographers. Her reasoning? She didn’t want to be sued for copyright infringement. Kowalski combined research and her own legal knowledge and found she wasn’t convinced that Pinterest’s reliance on the Digital Millenium Copyright Act’s “safe harbor” exemption would trickle down to her repins of photos she found on the internet.

That blog post quickly made the rounds among social media and technology blogs, prompting a phone call to Kowalski from Pinterest founder Ben Silbermann. To his credit, Kowalski writes in a follow-up post that Silbermann was gracious and actually asked for her advice on how his company should clarify the copyright issue. Silbermann told Kowalski that his lawyers were examining the problem and changes could be coming soon.

So let’s say you’re a small/midsize business and you’ve just added Pinterest to your social media marketing strategy. Should you now be worried that a legal Seal Team Six will show up at your office, scattering flash-bang grenades while aiming rocket-propelled subpoenas at your head?

Not likely, although the issue does point to how difficult it can be for the law to keep up with changes wrought by new technologies. Whether it’s pinning photos to Pinterest and linking pics and stories on Twitter, some more legal clarity is necessary to find out whether the burden of responsibility in all this should be on the social networks themselves or on users. Aggregation/curation and linkage are big parts of the social media world, and they will naturally impact social media marketing.

That said, I don’t believe we’re heading towards a Napster-style showdown over links and pins. There’s too much traffic being sent back to original sources via social media links. Those doing the sharing on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest aren’t out to steal anything; their intent is to just pass along recommended content to friends.

So while we’re waiting for that legal clarity that protects both content creators and consumers, here are some things businesses should keep in mind:

* Original content, whether it’s photos or text, is always better. Search engines are zeroing in on fresh content for SEO reasons, and you should too. Pinterest discourages a lot of self-promotion, but it will seek to strike a balance between spam and legitimate marketing content because it wants brand/business attention.

* If you are wanting to highlight content that didn’t start with you, give credit where credit is due and always link back to the original source of that content. That’s just proper social media etiquette. Someone else wrote something about a development in your industry? Pass along the link and say nice things about the person who wrote it.

* Speaking of saying nice things…you always add value to any content you’re linking to by commenting on it; praise what someone else wrote or took a picture of, disagree with it, use it as a jumping-off point for your own story.

Splash Media will keep up with the latest on copyright issues and social media. And we would love to hear your take on whether copyright fears are keeping you off of Pinterest in our Comments section. In the meantime, check out these items from the week in social media marketing:

The New iPad Can Be A Business Owner’s Best Friend, Not Just Their Shiny New Toy

Okay, so it’s not a social media marketing item. But I’m guessing a lot of readers of this here blog are iPad users, and twenty bucks says many of them were either in line at their nearby Apple Store today or eagerly awaiting the UPS/Fed Ex truck. This American Express/Open Forum post by Mashable’s Lauren Hockenson offers ideas on how to optimize the new iPad for your business.

Yes, Use Social Media. No, Don’t Use It Without A Strategy

Fast Company blogger David Brier says it’s quality, not quantity for businesses and brands using social media. Forget about customers and conversation, and you take a chance on repeating some of the bad practices illustrated in the cartoons accompanying Brier’s post.

Blogging For Fun, Profit..And Search Engine Love

Six essential things to do to make sure a blog post ranks high in search results, according to Smedio founder Douglas Idugboe, writing at

That’s it for this week. Good luck on those early March Madness brackets; we’ll see you back here on Monday.




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  1. […] which prompted a call to Kowalski from Silbermann, who promised her a TOS update. Here’s Splash Media’s blog post about what Kowalski found out. Here are the new Pinterest […]

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