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The Pinning Rules


In addition to “friending,” “liking,” “tweeting,” and “checking in,” the social-media savvy have added “pinning” to their repertoire as Pinterest.com has taken off more than 1 billion page views per month.

As with other social networks or sites that have significantly increased traffic over a very short time, the rules of engagement, particularly for brands, are not yet entirely clear. However, we know that social media marketers have a continuing desire to drive traffic and monetize the ever-growing word-of-mouth engagement power of social networking.

They want to make sure their brand is not late to the pinning party.

Below are some of the key legal issues that brands will need to consider when joining the legions of pinners.

What is Pinterest? Pinterest is an online digital bulletin board that allows users to post and share images they find on the Internet or upload from their personal files. Users can create themed pinboards to categorize the images they share, each of which functions as a link back to the Web site on which the image was originally located.

What Should Brands Be Aware Of?  

Violation of terms of use: First, the current Pinterest terms of use prohibit commercial use, however, over 250 brands have already created branded profiles. It is unlikely Pinterest will start removing brand pages and will instead likely encourage brand presence on the site.

Copyright concerns: In the Pinterest terms of use, users agree when they use the site, they own or have permission to use all images they post, yet users are pinning third-party content without the content owners’ consent. While there typically is a link to the original site and the content owner may be happy with the increased traffic, many content owners, including stock photography houses, may not be pleased.  

Pinterest has responded to some of these complaints by introducing codes to allow sites to prevent pinning. Pinterest may be alleviating some of its own liability with this new technology and may be relying on legal protections, such as the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Since users are not typically pinning for commercial gain, brands should treat pinboards as they would any other advertising platform.

This means that brands should associate their branded profile and pinboards with only images that have been fully cleared for potential intellectual property issues. Brands can also control their pinboards by not allowing other users to contribute by pinning to them.

Rights of publicity and privacy: Another area of potential risk for brands is using Pinterest’s capacity to violate individuals’ rights of publicity and privacy. First, any celebrity images, or even photographs of ordinary people, posted by users or brands that do not have permission to use those individuals’ images, would risk the right of privacy or publicity claims.

Less obviously, if brands use Pinterest users’ names in connection with their branded content, those users may have right of publicity claims. This has become a reality for Facebook, which is facing a class-action suit over the use of people’s names in connection with “likes” that were re-published as advertisements.

As the popularity of Pinterest unfolds, brands should tread carefully and consider these “Pinning Rules” as a guide.  

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