Over the past few days, I've been involved in multiple discussions about Pinterest. Although I was aware of the site before, I intentionally ignored it. However, when +Neil R
brought it to my attention again, I went back to take another look. As explained below, I didn't like what I saw. To give it an honest look, I did sign up for an experimental account, associated with the Video Liberty project: http://pinterest.com/VideoLiberty
Shortly after that, a couple posts here on G+ from +Trey Ratcliff
caught my attention, and I commented on those posts. There seems to be some "confusion" about Pinterest, which is very evident in the comments on Trey's posts. To avoid further confusion, I will try to stick with just the facts
If you look at the attached image, you can get a quick take on the main problem I have with Pinterest. That image uses screen captures from the Pinterest site, so the factual nature of the quoted text can't be logically questioned. I've marked up the text to highlight the inconsistency between their statement on respecting copyrights and their statement of what the site is all about. I don't think there's much to question, on a factual basis, about my markups.
Trey, and many people who commented on Trey's posts, talk about how great Pinterest is for sharing your work freely. "Information wants to be free" and "freedom and art go hand-in-hand" and all that. Whether such views have merit or not (and I'd recommend you check out my Video Liberty project to see where I stand), this has nothing to do with Pinterest
because it clearly ignores the fact -- as stated by Pinterest -- that Pinterest is not for sharing your own work
. They allow it, but discourage that from being your primary use of the site.
As described on the Pinterest site, they want you to "curate" content that you find online. Putting a fancy word on it doesn't change the fact that when you "curate" content you're copying that content to Pinterest. If the owner of that content has not given you permission to copy their work, you're violating their copyright (i.e., breaking the law). Copyright is just that -- the right to copy, which includes the right to allow, limit, or prevent copying.
Whether you choose to give away your own work has no bearing on whether you have the right to take work away from those who have not made that choice. Pinterest encourages you to do just that -- to take whatever you can get your hands on. Sure, they say that they respect intellectual property (e.g., copyrights), and they do provide a mechanism to link "pinned" content back to wherever you found it (which might be the real origin, or might be another copyright-infringing source), but none of that changes the fact that they're encouraging you to copy content to their site from wherever you find it. None of that changes the fact that you're making unauthorized copies (with some exceptions, e.g., pre-licensed works released under a Creative Commons license, or public domain works) and that, by discouraging sharing your own work and encouraging copying from others, they're encouraging copyright infringement.
Over the years I've distributed photos, writings, videos, and software under a variety of "open" and "copyleft" licenses, and I've been subject to public attacks for advocating that others do the same. Look into the history of the Open Music Registry, or go look at my current project (Video Liberty). It should be obvious that I believe there is value in choosing to freely share your intellectual property. However, my choice, or your choice, to give things away for free does not magically provide a license to take things for free as well if they are not freely given by their owner.