Pinterest…and the end of Everything

Aurora Borealis, NW Territories, Canada

With staggering regularity, someone comes along with a new idea, a new website, and a new way to channel social media in bold, new directions. One of the latest of these is Pinterest – which allows users to showcase and share things they like. Simple enough- and enormously powerful. Suddenly anything cool can go global with speeds that may even outpace Facebook.  Great stuff, right?

Well, not necessarily so great for a photographer, unless all you care about is having your pictures go viral and in front of as many eyeballs as possible. If you are willing to lose complete control of your images – and no longer even have your name attached to them – Pinterest is the place for you.  If, however, you would like your name to stay attached to your images, and – God forbid – try and make a living from the licensing of your pictures, Pinterest is just another nail in the coffin.

I did a search today on Pinterest for subjects that I have covered and quickly came up with the aurora image above. Someone had pinned it from someone else’s website, and it had been repinned over 20 times since then. Not exactly viral, but nowhere is my name attached to the image, no one asked me for permission to post it, and never can I expect that image to generate any income. It is just out there now, traveling freely across the internet, adding to the expectation – becoming very real – that all pictures should be free.

Pinterest has recently amended their policy to require that users pinning a piece of creative work – a drawing, photograph, sculpture, whatever – must have the permission of the creator. But of course, no one does that, right?  Pinterest puts the onus of acknowledging the source on the initial “pinner” but that is quickly lost in the viral propagation built in to the system. For unlike sites like Google Images, which links you to the original source, Pinterest stores the pictures on their servers in full-size, with or without credit.

No, this may not herald the end of Everything, but it may just mark the last breath of effective copyright protection.  If this subject interests – or worries – you, read more here.