Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Pinterest Dodges Copyright Infringement Charges

It seems that as soon as you become marginally successful on the Internet, you are accused of copyright infringement. So too with Pinterest.

Pinterest has become all the rage
If you don't know, Pinterest is the clever little service that allows you to freely surf the Internet, and if you come across an interesting picture or image, you can "pin it" to your Pinterest board. What this means is that a thumbnail of that image is created on a virtual Pinterest bulletin board with a link back to the original image. This gives you a tidy little place where you can keep track of all those pictures and images that you like so you can easily go back to them. You know how frustrating it is to try and go back to find that one cool picture or clever saying that you remember seeing last week? Pinterest solves that.
And that's not all it does. If you associate your Pinterest account with your Facebook account, all your Facebook friends can see your boards and follow the things you pin. This creates a really interesting way for each other to share cool pictures and ideas. Lots of folks pin exercise motivational pictures and cute quotes.
I'll go out on a limb here and say there really wasn't anything quite like Pinterest before, and there really should have been. Pinterest is the perfect use of the Web to share thoughts and ideas. And I think that's the secret of Pinterest's success. And as with all things that are Internet-successful, Pinterest is being accused of copyright infringement.
Why copyright infringement? The cynical side of me says just because they are successful. The objective side of me says it's because Pinterest allows users to make little thumbnail copies of copyrighted works. To their credit, Pinterest is taking active steps to avoid actual claims of copyright infringement rather than allegations. For instance, Pinterest has an active DMCA takedown policy available to copyright owners. Pinterest are also trying to roll out a Pinterest meta tag that Web sites can use to prevent pinning the site's content. These are good things. Pinterest's CEO says they don't have a copyright problem yet, just an issue.
For my part, I think it's inevitable that Pinterest will be charged with copyright infringement if for no other reason because they are successful. But to me, the flip side is Pinterest's success will undoubtedly spawn a host of copycats. I have said it numerous times, as soon as a company stumbles on the magic formula for software success, others try to steal that magic formula. So just as Pinterest should keep building walls to ward off those copyright infringement claims, so too it should be loading its quiver with some ammunition against the inevitable infringement of its own copyrights. Copyright protection is a two-way street.