I had the pleasure of being a guest on the Wy Not show on GoMileHigh.com radio Friday. Amid the chat about football for which the show is known, I discussed the controversy surrounding Pinterest and why this business model leaves something to be desired. Unlike other social media outlets (which also have certain problems) Pinterest encourages users to violate copyright by telling them to find the things they love on the web (i.e. copyrighted images) and pin them up. It also lures its unsuspecting users into dangerous waters by encouraging users to engage in illegal activity and then stating in the terms and conditions (that no one reads) that all liability should the images they post violate copyright law rests with the users.
While some creatives may feel the benefit of having their work seen may outweigh the loss of having it stolen (yes, it is theft), other may not feel quite so charitable.
The basic issue has been twisted and perverted in all manners to make it seem that those who steal the work of creatives are doing the creative a favor, but the fact remains that when the work is pirated and made available to the world free, the creative has been cheated out of his only means of earning a living… and funding the cost of producing the work.
If this is somehow difficult to see, consider this scenario. Pretend someone takes a copy of Microsoft Office and posts it on Pinterest where others can now download it free. These people take copies and place it on other web portals to be downloaded free. A buzz is created about how this is good for Microsoft as they are getting “free exposure” that will result in paying clients down the road. Microsoft falls for the misinformation campaign and does nothing to stop the abuse. Of course, now that the product is so readily available free, no one will pay for a copy and since it is one of the main products Microsoft sells, they will soon go bankrupt.
Photographers have a considerable investment in the work they create. Few of us “just push a button”. It was once considered “safe” to steal images and post them on your own blogs and social media because it was so unlikely that photographers would ever discover the copyright violations. That has changed. Several services now exist that scour the web looking for copyright violations and collecting payment when found and more and more photographers are enlisting them.
So before you pin you should ask yourself that famous line from the old John Wayne movies, “Are you feeling lucky?” This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t share the work you see and love. But the right way to do that is to say something like “I just love the new shoot by Annie Leibovitz in Vogue and you can see it at vogue.com… not by downloading and reposting the photo.
Being on the show with Wy Livingston and Rob Wagner was a real treat. I brought one of my cameras in and snapped a couple of pictures while on the show so Wy would have a better photo to replace the one that is up on her radio show page.