Why I Deleted Everything on My Pinterest Account

One of the first emails I saw this morning came from a mail autobot. It told me someone had left a comment on one of my pins over at Pinterest. This never happens. I get emails all the time about people re-pinning pins I’ve pinned, but never a comment.

I opened it.

It was from another Pinterest user, telling me I need to remove her words from a comment because they belong to her.

I’m not sure you could ever believe how shocked I was when I read that. My mouth literally dropped open. How could I steal someone’s words? I love words! Not only that, I respect them. There are few out there who respect words more than me. On occasion, I’m even a word snob. Words are my life and I would never, ever steal anyone else’s.

Apparently, she claims I did.

So here’s what happened:

Over a year ago, she posted an elf picture from deviantart.com. She also wrote some words on the comment section of that photo pin. Months and months later, I’m searching for elves on Pinterest and I re-pin the ones I like to an elf board I created. The artwork she posted happened to be one of those I re-pinned. The comments came along for the ride.

I don’t dispute the words are hers (I mean, I guess they could belong to someone else, but why go through all that trouble, right?). I just had no idea this issue would come up . . . on a site whose sole purpose is to re-pin things.

I checked Pinterest’s Terms of Service and found the following:

“You grant Pinterest and its users a non-exclusive, royalty-free, transferable, sublicensable, worldwide license to use, store, display, reproduce, re-pin, modify, create derivative works, perform, and distribute your User Content on Pinterest…”

Yeah, see, there’s that word ‘re-pin’ right there.

Now, I understand people pull photos and artwork from other sites and pin it without permission. That’s a clear violation of copyright. In the same vein, if she had written these words, or concepts, on her own website and I ripped them off and attached them to a random photo, I could see that as a copyright issue.

But this woman pinned artwork herself, then wrote a comment on a site whose entire purpose is for thousands of other people to re-pin that. I didn’t steal her words, or artwork. I re-pinned what she herself put out there for others to re-pin. When I checked, over 447 other people have also re-pinned that pin. Because that’s what you do on Pinterest–you re-pin pins.

Anyway. I’m sick. I have a fever. My head is all mushy inside and this just hit me the wrong way.

I ended up deleting not only the comment, but the picture and everything else I had on Pinterest. All the boards, all the pictures of birthday ideas and sewing projects. All the inspirational artwork. Every. Single. Pin.

I might be overreacting, but it’s sooo not worth it to get into a copyright spat over the comments on an elf picture, that to be honest, I didn’t even pay attention to. I pinned it to my ‘elf board’ because of the image. I have no idea what she wrote a year ago, what she may have changed today, or what she will change two years from now. Either way, the benefits of shutting everything down, far outweigh any consequences that could arise. Am I really going to lose sleep because I don’t have a virtual board with elves pinned to it? Or all those cute rainy day crafts I saved for the kids? I don’t think so and my account is essentially still active, I just don’t have any boards or pins. If I’m suddenly gripped with an irresistible urge to look up what to do with empty paper towel rolls, I can. It’s a win-win for me.

I’ve also sent an email to Pinterest’s copyright division asking them more about it, but haven’t received a response yet.

I mean think about it, if all comments are copyrighted, you could go write ‘Smurf Butterfly!’ on a blue butterfly picture on Pinterest. Then sue everyone who re-pinned it for stealing your words. If 447 people re-pinned it, that’s a good chunk of change. Notwithstanding the legal issues surrounding your use of the word Smurf, of course ;). It’s all a big web, isn’t it?

I’m off to find some Alvedon (Tylenol).

Published by casblomberg

Cas Blomberg is a native-English speaking writer who lives in Stockholm, Sweden.

2 thoughts on “Why I Deleted Everything on My Pinterest Account

  1. That’s a great analogy! Pinterest is like a cross between a bulletin board and Twitter. The idea being, these visual images you ‘pin’ to a virtual ‘board’ take someone to the original source, much like posting a link in Twitter does. I used it mostly for the kids. My boards were filled with links to cupcake party ideas and how to create racetracks out of paperclips. I also had book boards (of course), and mythical creatures, like elves, because I write fantasy. Some people use it for weight loss ideas, or to track sailboat restorations. The possibilities are endless.

    Very versatile, but not necessary. The copyright issue can be so vague. Is her comment protected? Based on the TOS, I’d say no. And again, it’s not about me wanting her words. I have no idea what she wrote on there before, so why do I care what she wrote? I didn’t even know she had written anything. I know now because I looked at it after I read the email. I also know there are now several different versions of the comment, because I checked some of those other 447 people. Which version was the original? Who made the changes? If it’s that easy to change, how can she hold anyone accountable for re-pinning her words? Now again, my intent wasn’t to take her words without her permission. But what about those who do? This issue involved a re-pin, but what about all the pictures posted daily, are they legal? Did someone verify the copyrights for every single one? And if not, am I under an obligation to verify the source material? The whole concept is too vague and way too easy to violate someone’s rights, intentionally or unintentionally.

    I’m not stressed about removing it. I sat and thought, ‘Is there anything on this site that I actually need? Anything I can’t do without?’ Not one thing popped up in my mind. Makes it easy :).

  2. I don’t use Pinterest, and don’t really “get” it. Unless I misunderstand you – which is perfectly possible! 😉 – what you describe sounds like someone blowing a gasket over a Twitter “retweet.” Which would be silly.

    Given the site’s TOS you share, it’ll be interesting what the site itself tells you. If she had had an issue with your “re-pin,” presumably within the TOS she should have reported you to the site, not challenged you like that in a comment. Given that, if you were within the guidelines, you actually might now be able to report *her* for harassing *you*.

    But, then again, who needs this, really? As you say. Over an elf picture?

    Uhhh, not that there’s anything wrong with elf pictures of course! 😉

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