Taking a Look at Pinterest

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Pinterest1This week I was asked to take a closer look at a social media platform and the “Terms and Conditions” and I chose Pinterest. I chose Pinterest mainly because I think it is a growing platform and one that I truly enjoy using. When I started to research the Terms of Service, I found out that in 2012 Pinterest had changed their Terms due to major backlash after people realized what they had agreed to.

A particularly good post about what was wrong with the site was one written by the Shrimp Salad Circus. She described why she had deleted all of her pins after carefully curating content. As it turns out, Pinterest had decided to not allow people to use Pinterest for self promotion, but expected people to own the content that they were posting. I was very confused by this and had to read the legal jargon a few times before I actually began to understand why this was such a conundrum. The fact is, most people use this site to create boards of wonderful things that they want to look at and keep for use at a later date. However, 99% of the time, they do not own that content. Which means that people should not be pinning anything except for the 1% that they own. What?

So many people were upset, that Pinterest did something great. They listened to their audience and changed their Terms. I found an article by the Huffington Post about the changes. It talks about how people were upset and how they changed the Terms to make them more palatable for people.

Screen Shot 2014-05-18 at 10.10.23 PM

Above is a screen shot of the current Terms of Service when it comes to “Your Content”. The terms have changed to accommodate the requests by users, which I think shows how they were willing to deal with the ethical problems that their original Terms contained. Another point of ethics that I think Pinterest shows is how they have the “More simply put” boxes next to every paragraph explaining what it means for the user in simple terms. It shows how they are trying to make their terms simpler so that people actually know what they are getting into when they sign up. I think this is a great way to make sure that ethically they are making users happy as well as avoiding all unethical implications by confusing their users.

However, when it comes to the Copyright policy, I noticed that they didn’t put their “More simply put” boxes to make things less complex. On that page they used a lot of jargon and I think there was a reason for that. Since the copyright laws are what caused the problem for them the first time around, it is intentionally confusing for users to understand. At this time there is not a problem, but there is a potential problem if lawsuits end up happening and the original pinner and any other secondary pinner becomes held liable.

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8 responses »

  1. Great post, Amanda – My fellow Pinterest lover! You bring up a lot of really going points about the growing social network’s Terms of Service. I agree it was great that as a growing platform they listened to the backlash in 2012 and adjusted the terms. I think if they hadn’t, Pinterest may have fallen to the social network cemetery very fast. Adjusting and accommodating is key to keeping a fan base growing.

    I agree the Copyright terms are complicated, but that’s probably the way it has to be because of the legal liability. It will be interesting to see if any Pinterest users ever do get pulled into a lawsuit over infringement. Seems unlikely, but remember Napster! I remember thinking they’ll never prosecute anyone for downloading free music because we all were doing it (or at least it seemed that way), but they did. It could happen again, if users don’t take some responsibility for their online actions. We can point fingers at the social networks for being vague or using legal jargon, but we also have to be accountable as users who sign up for these networks.

    • Hi Laura,

      I am glad you liked the post! I do remember Napster, in fact at my college someone was taken from the school when they were sued and owed over $30,000.00. I don’t know if they ever had to pay everything, but I know that for the time they were made an example of. The school got involved since technically they had done it through the school internet. I remember never downloading music since I was always SO scared of getting caught! However, I have accidentally abused at least 3 social platforms since I didn’t know the rules, so like you said, that is my fault. I do think that they could make it easier to read though. Thanks for commenting!

  2. Hey Amanda,
    I’m not a big Pinterest user but I vaguely remember this change a few years back. I see where Pinterest was coming from in their original agreements. They probably didn’t want every website in the world coming after them for copyright infringement; however, opening Pinterest to all content makes the experience better. I believe companies still have the right to have content taken down, but they have to go through some process. I was reading Dave’s blog post and his is about LinkedIn. They have a similar setup with a simplified version of a paragraph next to the legal stuff. It’s extremely helpful and something more people should adopt.

    • Hey Sean,
      l can definitely understand why they have the copyright law, however it does seem contradictory. I do think that having a more simplified version of the same wording is helpful. I think it really does make a big difference when it comes to people understanding what they are agreeing to! Thanks for commenting!

  3. Amanda,

    I also wrote my blog on Pinterest, but only focused on their current terms and conditions. I’m fairly new to the platform – at least using it on a daily basis – and wasn’t aware of the issues they had in the past. Very interesting. I’m glad that the uproar caused them to spell (nearly) everything out so carefully now. Luckily, I’ve taken a couple of classes in copyright law and probably understand it better than the average bear, but I can see how there might be an issue with their lack of clarity regarding that subject. Copyright is a complicated and often sticky subject, especially when talking about using outside content in social media, and I can’t really blame them for leaving that to the legal jargon.

    That being said, it will also probably help when more traditional companies start to realize that Pinterest can actually be good for them. Getting pinned is, after all, free promotion! And more often than not, pins connect back to the original source and likely result in higher traffic. So many people take the defense rather than offense on this sort of thing, rather than going with the flow and seeing how it can ultimately benefit them.

    Interesting post! Thanks!

    • Hi,
      I haven’t taken any copyright law classes in years, so I am a little fuzzy on some of the details. But I do grasp the bigger picture, however with the main idea of Pinterest being to take information and repost it so you can keep track of it, I think it is a little contradictory to have so many copyright laws after the fact. I agree that the more companies and small shops that realize that being posted around Pinterest will actually help them with notoriety it will help. That is a great point! Thanks for commenting!

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