Foundry Law Group Blog

Navigating Pinterest and Its Copyright Challenges

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In the 2 years since Pinterest launched itself as an invite-only social bookmarking service, the size of its user base and web traffic have made Pinterest into a social network heavy weight. Consequently, we need to understand how Pinterest handles third-party intellectual property. In relation to such content, in this post we discuss how is used on the website, Pinterest’s relevant policies towards such content, and what options are available to rights holders.

How It Works

Pinterest has been categorized as a virtual pinboard or image-based social bookmarking system. However, in a lot of ways Pinterest functions more similarly to the microblogging service Tumblr as opposed to a website like Users can upload or link to media content (i.e. images and videos), and then organize and tag the content based on a category of interest. Other users can follow, like, or re-link the content.

Similar to Facebook or Twitter’s newsfeed, users can follow content streams or lookup certain categories of content based on how its tagged. Clicking through the content may credit or link back to the original source, but that depends on the user to do so.

Terms of Use and User-Submitted Content

Pinterest’s terms of use and related policies are under a lot of heat of late. While Cold Brew Labs, Inc., the company that provides Pinterest, does not claims any ownership rights in user-submitted content, it does retain a broad license to use such content.

“…[Y]ou hereby grant to Cold Brew Labs a worldwide, irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, royalty-free license, with the right to sublicense, to use, copy, adapt, modify, distribute, license, sell, transfer, publicly display, publicly perform, transmit, stream, broadcast, access, view, and otherwise exploit such Member Content only on, through or by means of the Site, Application or Services.”

Claiming such licensing rights is typical of social networking services. However, problematically, Pinterest seeks to retain a license that is irrevocable and perpetual. The license will not expire once a user removes submitted content or deletes his or her account. Pinterest further explains this in the following provision:

“Following termination or deactivation of your account, or if you remove any User Content from your account or your boards, Pinterest may retain your User Content for a commercially reasonable period of time for backup, archival, or audit purposes. Furthermore, Pinterest and other Users may retain and continue to display, reproduce, re-pin, modify, re-arrange, and distribute any of your User Content that other Users have re-pinned to their own boards or which you have posted to public or semi-public areas of the Service.”

Options Available to Rights Holders

Legally, content owners and rights holders can scour Pinterest regularly and submit DMCA takedown notices to Pinterest directly or its web host, Amazon Web Services (for more information on issuing alleged infringement complaints, please see our past post here). Although time consuming, this is the legal option available to rights holders. Also, follow this link to Pinterest’s page for alleging copyright infringement and submitting DMCA takedown notices.

Another available option is for content owners and right holders to preempt any potential infringement by joining Pinterest and maintain an account. The goal is to establish some control over how the content is displayed. A rights holder can upload the content and ensure that it has proper attribution, tags, watermarks, and website links back to them or their business. That way any re-linking of the material will anchor back to the original content owner and allow other users to see the owner’s information (i.e. website, where to purchase, etc.). The added benefit is gauging trends and the popularity of one’s content through the responses of other users.

This option has its inherent risks along with the broad licensing rights issue. If rights holders go this route, they should keep in mind that Pinterest’s terms of use discourage soliciting and self-promotion. Like most social media, Pinterest is better suited to organic interactions as opposed to solely treating it as marketing vehicle. Also, rights holders should avoid re-pinning content submitted by other users where the source is unknown. It’s better to seek permission or collaborate with other content owners interest. Lastly, rights holders should regularly review Pinterest’s terms of use, which are likely to be updated again as the service continues to grow.


The content of this blog is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. This author, website, and MK Singh Law Office make no representations as to accuracy, completeness, currentness, suitability, or validity of any information on this site and will not be liable for any errors, omissions, or delays in this information or any losses, injuries, or damages arising from its display or use. All information is provided on an as-is basis.

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