Pinterest Updates Terms Of Service... And People Are Still Overreacting

from the but-of-course dept

I have to admit that I'm still at a loss over people freaking out over Pinterest. It's pretty much a non-issue, but it refuses to go away. I think I've finally figured out what's going on, however. Some copyright extremists are using Pinterest to try to whip people into a frenzy about nothing, such that they can use that against other sites later as well -- and, once they got going, Pinterest became a "proxy" for all other internet services and (by extension) computing itself.

Last Friday, for example, Pinterest updated its terms of service to clarify the parts where some people were very confused and freaking out. While they certainly didn't go to the lengths that Tumblr went to to make its terms of service "human" readable, the updates do clarify things. The key change, for example, was removing the word "sell" from the list of things that you grant a license to Pinterest over, as the company notes it never intended to sell anyone's content. I can pretty much guarantee how this happened. The lawyers who drafted the terms pulled the boilerplate list of rights you grant, and "sell" is always on that list. As we noted in the Tumblr TOS post, it's really just to give the company legal protection in case it sells something that has a tidbit of something someone uploaded. It's not that hard to come up with a scenario where that might happen. But overly paranoid folks turned this into some nefarious plan by Pinterest to get people to violate copyrights so it could sell the results.

But, as mentioned above, this isn't calming down the maximlaist extremists. The folks over at the "Artists' Bill of Rights" (which is not what it sounds like -- it's a front for copyright extremists, paying almost no attention to how artists actually create) are still very upset about Pinterest's terms of service and are interpreting everything in the most nefarious of ways.
The philosophy of their site is still to encourage members to copy content from other people or organisations' websites to the Pinterest website, then place the entire legal responsibility on their members for such copying.

Why? Because the PInterest business model has to start making money at some point. How can it do this? By monetising the content belonging to other people copied to it's website, possibly via advertising or affilliate programs, or in some other way. It may not be monetising that content overtly at present, but it must do so at some stage because it is gobbling up a lot of investors money to keep it afloat. As soon as it starts monetising the content the cat will be out of the bag and legal actions will commence. They are still in a period of grace - but for how long?
Horror of horrors. Pinterest is a service provider who would like to make money at same point -- just as the copyright maximalist artists would like to make money. Why is it evil when a service provider does it, but not when an artist does it? And, the fact is that Pinterest doesn't make any money at all if it's not useful. So, as you can expect, the folks at the Artist Bill of Rights want to guarantee Pinterest is not at all useful. For example, they attack the fact that Pinterest is now pointing people to ChillingEffects claiming that it's a site that is all about "protect[ing] the economic interests of the tech business model". Say what?! A site that highlights how copyright law is abused to stifle free speech and creativity is about protecting free speech and creativity. Anyone aiming to protects artists' rights should celebrate Chilling Effects.

The other complaint? That Pinterest isn't "pro-active" in monitoring the site for infringement:
We will continue to complain that Pinterest are NOT being pro-active in ensuring that copyright infringements are minimised.
And it's that line that highlights the reality. The folks hating on Pinterest aren't really worried about the law. Pinterest already goes well above and beyond what the law says they have to do. What they're complaining about is that the world isn't the way they want it to be. They're complaining that the world doesn't magically block copying. In other words, they're luddites who can't fathom why a world in which computers actually work is a good thing, and prefer to go back to a past where there were no computers. Computers copy. It's what they do. Tons of services have popped up over the years to let people do useful stuff, but much of that stuff only works because computers make copies. Making collections of photos -- all with links back to the original content, which has already been shown to drive significant traffic -- seems like it should be a good thing. Unless you hate computers and the fact that they copy.

The anger here isn't about Pinterest. It's about computers. They'd have as much luck telling the tide which way to go.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 27th, 2012 @ 4:43am

    Pinterest is just joining the list of companies that the entertainment industries think should be doing it's work but at Pinterests expense. nothing new here. simply another attempt by a totally selfish industry that wants everything done for it, at someone elses expense.

     

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  2.  
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    Matt W, Mar 27th, 2012 @ 5:08am

    Good article, but could you please clarify what you are referring to when you say "Pinterest already goes well above and beyond what the law says they have to do"?

    Thanks - Matt.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
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    fogbugzd (profile), Mar 27th, 2012 @ 5:23am

    It all comes down to the simple mindedness of believing that everything is a zero-sum game. They think that if Pinterest is making money, they must be loosing money somehow. The idea that Pinterest might make money and make the rights holders more money at the same time is a concept that eludes small minds.

    So you find photographers adding tags to their work to block Pinterest when they should be putting their efforts into Pinterest SEO. Apparently they have bought into the idea that obscurity is the best thing that can happen to an artist.

     

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  4.  
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    fogbugzd (profile), Mar 27th, 2012 @ 5:30am

    Re:

    For one thing, they have created a set of tags that lets photographers and others announce that they don't want free advertising on Pinterest.

     

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  5.  
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    Jay (profile), Mar 27th, 2012 @ 5:58am

    Don Quixote

    Yah know...

    It's about time for commenting on how large those windmills the copyright maximalists fight truly are.

    How anyone can be so against making copies or burning images into your head is beyond me.

    It's like you have thoughtcrimes if you ever benefit from watching a movie.

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 27th, 2012 @ 6:32am

    Wasn't it the lawyers job to create a document (TOS) that would not cause problems for the company? It sounds like lazy lawyering to me but I bet they still get paid pretty well. If their defense is "well its standard boilerplate" then there are other issues that will likely get them into trouble.

     

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  7.  
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    Suja (profile), Mar 27th, 2012 @ 6:56am

    Re:

    Apparently they have bought into the idea that obscurity is the best thing that can happen to an artist.

    It's not that exactly, but close.

    They have bought into the idea that anything and everything they do needs to be able to be controlled by them 100% of the time.

    Doesn't matter if it is crippling them to death, they will gladly cut off their own foot for one tiny little illusion of control.

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 27th, 2012 @ 7:05am

    FIFY

    Why? Because the SCRAPBOOK MAKERS business model has to start making money at some point. How can it do this? By monetising the content belonging to other people copied to it's SCRAPBOOKS, possibly via advertising or affilliate programs, or in some other way. It may not be monetising that content overtly at present, but it must do so at some stage because it is gobbling up a lot of investors money to keep it afloat. As soon as it starts monetising the content the cat will be out of the bag and legal actions will commence. They are still in a period of grace - but for how long?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 27th, 2012 @ 7:27am

    Re:

    How would you run the business then?

     

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  10.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 27th, 2012 @ 7:28am

    Why is it evil when a service provider does it, but not when an artist does it?

    I think you're right about their chicken-little'ing, but I also think you're misreading them. The crime isn't that they want to make money. The crime is that they're foisting all of the legal liability on to their users, so that they can rake in the cash and let "the little guy" take the fall when upset artist come calling about copyright infringement.

    As a prolific pinner I think that's a fair concern, but I don't think it's the problem everyone is making it out to be.

     

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  11.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 27th, 2012 @ 7:34am

    I know what the problem is.....

    We had this discussion on Google+ the other day....

    They don't understand what makes Pinterest so popular, therefor, it must be illegal.

    "Can someone maybe explain Pinterest to me? I seem to be doing this wrong.

    So, I'm seeing a lot of pictures without desciptions. Lot's of meaningless comments below them, like 'LOL' and 'Cool', etc.

    I've tried searching for something interesting, "Ice Cream Sandwich", in the hope of bringing up some content on Android 4.0. No luck, it's all just the desert kind.
    So, maybe that wasn't such a great choice for a search term. Next attempt: "Hydrogeology", brings up one picture of some people sitting around a camp fire, no desciption, no comments, no content.

    What am I doing wrong? Where's the content? This thing seems to be gaining users quite quickly, but I can't seem to figure out why."

    If even normal male tech geeks can't figure out what the deal is, the content industry doesn't have a chance. They are used to telling people what to like, and Pinterest allows us girls to share what we like.

    They don't get that it's the world largest source of everything female. Better than Hobby Lobby. Better than Daycare. Better than PTO meetings.

    Both sides of you guys aka males (tech and content) are still fighting over the money part. It's not about the money......

    Us girls just want to see all the pretty!

    If you make your pretty affordable enough, the money will follow....AND you don't have to waste a DIME on advertising....

    I think they are just scared cause they don't get it, and never figured out how to really tap the female brain market.

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 27th, 2012 @ 7:45am

    Re:

    But that's how liability...works.

    If you commit copyright infringement, you're liable when/if the "upset artist comes calling.". It doesn't matter if you're committing the infringement on Pinterest or YouTube or Facebook or Twitter or in an email or with a photocopier.

     

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  13.  
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    Suja (profile), Mar 27th, 2012 @ 7:50am

    Re: I know what the problem is.....

    Pinterest allows us girls to share what we like

    uh oh

    They don't get that it's the world largest source of everything female.


    no no no nonononono...

    Us girls just want to see all the pretty!

    NO NONOO NONO MAKE IT STOP IT BURNSSSSS

    I think they are just scared cause they don't get it, and never figured out how to really tap the female brain market.

    Hobby Lobby.
    Daycare.
    PTO meetings.

    DBSHDKJDKJDKJDFSJDNDKJFUUUUUUUUUUUUDJDSJFDSJFDSJDSJLDSJLDSJKFDJDSJ




















    I'm gonna go tap into the female brain market of Unreal fragfests and heavy RPG grinding to purge the horrors from my soul.

     

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  14.  
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    Cowardly Anonymous, Mar 27th, 2012 @ 9:37am

    Re:

    You really can't blame the lawyers for doing something that has, and continues to, work for every other site out there. It would be nice if lawyers took the message from this that things needed to be explained better.

    "It is like this, but slightly more complicated because of:
    -case ruling
    -case ruling
    -case ruling
    -law
    -law"

    The above would probably give them exemption from small differences in the meaning of the simple part and the complicated part.

     

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  15.  
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    Cowardly Anonymous, Mar 27th, 2012 @ 9:41am

    Re:

    All other DMCA compliant sites operate in exactly the same way.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
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    Cowardly Anonymous, Mar 27th, 2012 @ 9:50am

    Re: I know what the problem is.....

    Pretty sure this isn't about the differences between the sexes. I'm not the best example (photo-phobic) but I can certainly see why those interested in pictures (like my Dad or the man who introduced him to high-quality photography or my girlfriend) would enjoy these sites.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 27th, 2012 @ 10:38am

    This is stupid. The only thing they need to complain about is Pinterest making it as easy as possible for the original author to get credit. Since they already made it public, I'm sure the vast majority of authors will be happy to get the extra attention and traffic.

    That's it - they shouldn't worry about "copyright infringement". Are they serious? Are they part of MPAA/RIAA now? Do they really want to fight that futile "anti-piracy" war?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 28th, 2012 @ 7:24am

    Re: I know what the problem is.....

    Us girls just want to see all the pretty!

    As a male pinner, and a tech geek, I find your post generally offensive. There's a lot more on Pinterest than "the pretty," even if that's what the community originally grew out of.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 28th, 2012 @ 7:29am

    Re: Re:

    I'm not arguing otherwise, I'm just noting that this is another place where copyright law encounters regular people, and that's why they're freaking out and "tearfully deleting" their accounts.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 28th, 2012 @ 7:32am

    Re: Re:

    I'm not arguing otherwise, I'm just pointing out that it probably isn't the case that users are upset that Pinterest wants to make money, they're just afraid of getting sued. A lot of the utility of Pinterest is not unlike passing around links to content, but now those links are content, and how's a regular person going to know what content online is OK to pin and what isn't?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
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    Gordon C Harrison, Mar 30th, 2012 @ 2:52pm

    Research & Think before writing

    Hi Mike, a friend brought your website to our notice to point out that you appear, on the basis of the above article, to have a incomplete understanding of Artists Rights.

    Having read your article I would say it has some merit in writing style but I can only agree with my friend on its substance. I would refer you to this paper written by a US attorney which shows that Artists Rights are Human Rights and therefore are transcendent over Intellectual Property Laws - http://bit.ly/GYgooX The attorney's paper gives you chapter and verse on this.

    In addition, a UK court just last year ruled in a major case that Artists Rights are indeed Human Rights and transcend IP Laws - http://bit.ly/GJS6gF That article has a link to the complete court judgement on this issue which you may find helpful.

    A full understanding of Artists Rights will help you argue any future points that you wish to make on a sound basis, always better to have a sound understanding before putting finger to keyboard as one says nowadays!

    I hope this helps you with future articles on Artists Rights.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 30th, 2012 @ 4:05pm

    Some Areas of Law you need to read before getting upset about people wanting to retain their own property rights.

    The UN Convention on Human Rights - Intellectual Copyright belongs to the creator.

    The European Convention on Human Rights - Intellectual Copyright belongs to the creator.

    The UK Design, Copyright & Patents Act - Intellectual Copyright belongs to the Creator.

    Now, if we do not protect a creators copyright, how will they earn a living and create even more for us. Without Copyright, the galleries of the world would be empty, the technologies we all enjoy today would never have been created.... we would live in a very bland and boring world.

    If people want to share my work with others, let them send a link to my website, don't take the content and post it elsewhere, that is a Breach of my Intellectual Copyright, which is why every website I know posts the fact that the content of the website is copyright to the owners..

    If I want a piece of software, I don't steal a copy or get a pirated copy, I buy a licence for it and others should do the same for the images I create, they are mine to do with as I please and unless you buy one, or I grant the right to use one, then hands off please, go take your own.

    People seem to think that because we now live in a Digital Age and have the internet, the Laws that protected copyright in the past no longer apply - wrong, if you let them pass by the wayside, then eventually nothing will be created because no one could earn a living at it.

    In relation to Pinterest, if they want content, then let them do what everyone else does - create their own instead of a business model that encourages people to steal content from somewhere else whilst their Terms and Conditions protects their arse and leaves their users in the shit...!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
    identicon
    Kerry Wilson, Mar 30th, 2012 @ 7:33pm

    If pinterest themselves thought it was ok to take the content then they wouldn't be covering their arses in the small print.
    They knows it's wrong, so they drop the liability on the uses.

    ps.
    I really liked your techdirt logo so i copied it and sold it to a guy with a mining company.
    I'm sure you're ok with that.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
    identicon
    DonS, Mar 31st, 2012 @ 6:41am

    Free electricity

    Hey, Mike! Totally, dude. Why should I have to pay for electricity when Tom Edison was already paid? How about those TV reruns? Them actors was already paid once! Actually, why should I have to pay for an intangible like money!!! Counterfeiting should not be a crime! I'm with ya! Right on, baby!

    I can see you don't want to be an artist. Most of them would die poor if they didn't have second jobs. It's the publishers like Pinterest, who "repurpose" other people's stuff, that make the real money. When was the last time you heard of an artist getting $47 million in VC money for their "non-moneymaking" project?

    PInterest is a free advertising mall for the internet marketing crowd who use it for their own commercial success. And why not make money off it! Culture's free!

    BTW, copyright isn't only about making sure someone doesn't profit freely at the creator's expense, its about having control over who does and doesn't use your work. TechDirt's got a cool logo. I heard the American Nazi Party will be using it. It's free, part of the culture, right?

    Ever listen to Bill O'Reilly, sweetie? You'd love him.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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