Pinterest Founder to Blogger: Copyright Lawyers Are Rethinking Terms of Use, Founder Is “On It”

The blogger who fueled the flames surrounding Pinterest and copyright fears now reports that the startup’s founder told her “he is on it” and has Pinterest copyright lawyers reviewing the copyright scandal and terms of use … our Chris Miller is on top of this story … read the Pinterest founder’s comments here …

Screenshot credit: Jonathan Hoffberg for

Enthused new users of the white hot new virtual pinboard site Pinterest probably don’t realize that they are under the exact same legal liabilities and limitations as those who post to YouTube or Facebook — or any other public site.

Namely: Posting copyrighted material is illegal. As the terms of service on the Pinterest site spell out. Nevertheless, there’s been a lot of flap surrounding copyright questions regarding the site lately. According to one blogger who quite publicly posted her fears in a post that went viral last week — she is an Alpharetta, GA photographer and lawyer, Pinterest founder Ben Silbermann is on it.

Social copyright issues are old news to experienced Internet users — but maybe not to the enthusiasts of this brand new social media site that’s spiking in popularity. It is, according to our John C. Dvorak who tracks such things, among the fastest growing sites in history. Last week, a whole kerfuffle sprung up around Pinterest, one of the fastest growing social sites in history, regarding its copyright issues as the company spells them out in its Terms of Service.

The controversy exploded big time on February 26 when a Georgia woman — she is a photographer and a lawyer — wrote a blog post titled Why I Am Tearfully Deleting My Twitter Account. She pointed out her copyright fears in a post that immediately went viral. Much to her surprise, but not to ours, Pinterest founder Ben Silbermann got right back to her. We’re awaiting comment from Silbermann also.

The blogger reported the following in a follow-up post on February 29, excerpted below. She says founder Ben Silbermann told her, according to the post, that Pinterest is in fact “on it,” Pinterest’s copyright lawyers are examining its terms of use and changes will come quickly if and when lawyers identify problems.

Our reporters are digging into this, seeking legal analysis and confirmation on the update from Pinterest execs and founder Silbermann. Here is what the blogger posted this week as an update to the original post that fueled the Pinterest unrest.

I didn’t really expect that Pinterest would actually call me.  But it did.  Or, rather, its founder, Ben Silbermann, did.  Now to be fair, I did reach out to Pinterest first by sending an email saying “Hey, it’s little old me with a blog post that kind of went out of control and I’d love to give you a chance to respond.”  Well, respond (it) did with an email from … Silbermann himself within just a few hours.  He said “Can I call you?” And I said, “Well, I’m kinda busy but I guess so.”  ;)

So he called and we chatted.  For over an hour … it was a phone date to discuss Pinterest and the concerns I raised in my last blog post.  And it went well.  He didn’t yell at me.  He didn’t accuse me of being a hater.  He didn’t tell me I was a “loser” or to “suck it (up)” …  What he …  said was that he is a guy with a computer who had a vision to create this site where everyone can share stuff.  He is not a lawyer and (he) doesn’t pretend to be an expert in copyright law … I assured him that I (am) not, either.

(Silbermann) said he knows there are issues with Pinterest and (he knows about) the fear of claims of copyright infringement …  he wants to figure out a way to make “his little web page”  … work within the confines of the law and in a way where photographers and (all) users feel comfortable.

So we … brainstormed.  For an hour.  We talked about ways his lawyers can can re-draft Pinterest’s Terms of Use to clear up any current confusion regarding how to use the site.  We discussed concerns that many photographers have with their work being shared in such a manner.  I assured him that most photographers I know want to use Pinterest to help promote their business as well as to find inspiration.  He said he wanted that, too.

We hashed out some of the pros and cons of using the site in its current format and talked about ideas he has to improve it and make it safer to use — but still as fun.  All in all, it was a great conversation and he assured me that some changes are on the way in the very near future.  He told me some of them but I don’t want to bind him to anything so all I can say is “wait and see. He’s on it.”

Stand by for legal commentary and more on this story. And keep an eye on TheSocialGeeks with Chris Miller, which runs regularly here at


  • When I first came across Pinterest my first thought was “It’s all about scraping and what if you’re scraping things you shouldn’t be but you are not aware of.”…then I started pinning…and its so easy and fun that I forgot about my concerns about whether I have permission or not. This issue is a huge concern for me and everyone “pinning” especially as Chris points out, “Pinterest assigns full responsibility for obtaining appropriate permissions to the user!”

  • So true. And isn’t that your Pinterest page up there, JulieB? Not a whit of scraped material : ) LOVE it. It’s

    Chris, can’t wait for the next TheSocialGeeks — this will be a great topic for you guys on that podcast!

  • I am still on hold about pinning simply due to the fact that I do not think Pinterest can solve the issue themselves unless they only allow you to pin your own work. Which means they become an upload site like Flickr

  • Uh, photographers need to get over themselves. Let the world share their images. They do no one any good locked up in a drawer in a darkroom. It’s called Fair Use. If it’s not fair use and you expect to be paid for the “use” of your images, how much do you think anyone is willing to pay to put it up on Pinterest or Twitter? Zilch.

    The average photographer actually does very little aside from composing a shot in a viewfinder. And then they want the world to bow down to them because they clicked the shutter. BFD. Every human being on the planet has a camera and is a photographer now. Get it? And most of the time the photographer is shooting a person, or a building or a product or something created by nature – in other words, the photographer did not create what they are taking a photograph of. So why should they get to claim ownership just because they clicked a shutter? It’s absurd.

    If you don’t want your photo copied, don’t release it. Keep it to yourself in your own private collection.

    • You bring up a good point but remember one thing that Pinterest does is copy the entire image over and not make a thumbnail to the original site at time of writing. So while the work is shared there is no credit or link in many instances

      Some out their pictures online as creative commons. Some cc with credit. Others have no restrictions. But I agree everyone has a camera. But a few take pictures to the extreme in terms of settings, location and patience to capture moments no one would ever see. I think giving them credit is fair.

      • I don’t disagree. But unfortunately, credit is not what the photographers want. They want total control. Hollywood’s lawyers look like a downloader’s best friend compared to what these image jockeys are expecting.

  • Pinterest is a virtual pinboard where you can collect and share things you love and that inspire you. Businesses and yes, lawyers – are joining Pinterest to display products, services, create brand awareness, build communities and, in some cases,grow profits by leaps and bounds.Pinterest is a complete visual entity, so you must be creative in finding ways to use it for legal marketing.