Wednesday, February 29, 2012

How Pinterest removed all my pinned images in minutes (#1)

This two-part post is about remedies to the problem of images appearing on Pinterest without permission
  • Part 1
    • how I discovered just how many images from my websites and blogs had been pinned - without my permission - on Pinterest
    • why it's wrong to pin without permission
    • how I started to comment on the images in question
  • Part 2: [Update - see Takedown: How Pinterest moved fast to remove my pinned images (#2) ] how Pinterest removed all my images within minutes of me serving a "takedown" notice. 
  • how you too can get your all artistic creations and photographs removed from Pinterest quickly.
I kept wondering how on earth I was ever going to find out whether or not any of my images were on Pinterest. I couldn't see any way of doing it quickly and easily via the site itself.

Then an (anonymous) friend told me how - for which many thanks.

How to find images pinned from your website or blog

If you want to find which of your images have been pinned this is what you need to do
  • start with this URL
  • then add on to the end of it the URL of your site minus the http:// eg
  • put this search term into the top line of your browser and a page will be produced of all pins of images from your site
The pins identify who pinned the image and which of their boards is hosting it.

OK - so that's when I got a shock.  There were lots of images from my blog and my website belonging to me and other artists - including images where their usage on my blog had very specific conditions attached (the "jump through hoops" images!).

Why it's wrong to pin without permission

I'm delighted that people like my blogs and love some of the images that I include.  However I am very disappointed at the number of people who have obviously either not read or not understood the agreement they signed when becoming members of Pinterest.

Pinterest stipulates that you can ONLY pin images which are
  • EITHER your own - and you own the copyright (which means it's your own wholly original creation)
  • OR you have permission to use or a licence from the copyright owner
The only person who can decide whether an image can be reproduced and where that image can be published is the copyright owner.

Unless the copyright owner has made it clear (eg through use of creative commons or a "Pin away" badge) that it's OK to use their images, you simply can't decide for them.

The only exceptions are the "fair use" exemptions.  However my own view is that Pinterest is on sinking sands if it tries to argue those.  For example I had people pinning images from exhibition reviews - while my stats were not showing any visits from Pinterest to those exhibition reviews - and for my use to be "fair use" the images cannot be separated from the review.

All my blogs and websites indicate that "all rights reserved on all text and images".  That's because, in general, I don't like seeing my images decorating other people's sites.  I'm fine if people ask and it's an occasional request and I frequently give permission.

However I also post a number of copyright protected images which I get permission to use from artists/art museums/galleries.  The fact that I have permission does not mean this automatically transfers to the person who has pinned the image on their board.

I'm assuming people are genuinely ignorant of the process of asking permission that I have to go through to get some images on my blog - and that they would need to do ditto before pinning then - as per their member agreement with Pinterest.  So I'm not pointing fingers - but I have decided to make it very clear that pinning my images is not welcome.  Hence this post - and what I did next.

Then I started to comment on my images

I thought a bit about how to deal with it.  I couldn't see any way of contacting the person who had pinned the image.

I've done "take down" notices before and they are tedious to do, particularly if there are a lot of images involved.

My friend had already started to try getting her images dealt with and got this response from Pinterest.

This is what Pinterest says to the person who pinned the image
I'm Ben, the co-founder of Pinterest. I removed one (or more) of your pins today at the request of a copyright owner who preferred that their images do not appear on Pinterest. The photo is here for your own records:
[URL of disputed image re an art process]
This is a rare - we usually find that people are excited to have their photos shared with a larger audience because it can drive traffic back to their site. However, when we do get requests to remove these materials, we try to respect the wishes of the content owner efficiently. If you have any questions, please email our Community Manager, Enid (
I just wanted to give you a heads up. Thanks so much for using Pinterest. I hope you're enjoying the site! If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to get in touch.
Pinterest DMCA #ID [...]
- Ben and the Pinterest Team
Note that:
  • it assumes the copyright owner is getting traffic from the fact the image has been pinned.  I looked through the top 50 sources of traffic for my blog on Google Analytics and Statcounter - and Pinterest was nowhere to be seen.  My friend - who had c.100 images pinned without permission - commented as follows.  So much for the traffic argument!
I don't even need all my fingers to count the page views I've been getting from the site a day.
  • There is no reminder that the member should ONLY pin images they own or that they have permission to use - as per the membership agreement.
  • There is absolutely no recognition that upholding the rights of the copyright owner is not optional.  Pinterest is required by law to take down the image if ownership is proved.
So I decided to give people a chance and comment on my images on the Pinterest Boards of those people who have taken images from my blog without permission.  The idea was that I'd tell them what I had in mind and ask them to remove the image immediately.  It's what I normally do and it avoids a lot of wasted time and angst.  Mostly people do these things out of ignorance.

This is what I said - with variations on the same theme.
"You have not asked for and do not have written permission from me to use this image. Do I need to serve a DMCA notice?"
Some people got lots of them.......

Endless comments from me on the images from my portfolio website - about lack of permission
Then I began to realise how long this 'simple solution' might take to implement - even with a copy/paste operation......

Which is when I thought "Stuff This" - there has to be an easier way.........

See Part 2 for what happened next!  This contains:
  • what I said to Pinterest
  • how many minutes before they made the site revisions
  • what they said to me!
More information

See also my two posts about protecting your images:
Plus I'm logging useful links to more information and advice on Copyright - Resources for Artists | Pinterest: how to identify and tackle copyright infringement [Update: site being moved to]

[UPDATE:  Plus I've created a new website Pinterest, Copyright and Spam - for Visual Artists & Photographers which I keep updated with what's happening on Pinterest and the different perspectives of those commenting on its operation - site being moved to ]