(Long post but important)
Just because you can do something doesn't mean you should do it. Morals and ethics is all about this, making choices to do the right thing. Humans are not just following insticts, we can think, decide, do or not do. If you can steal something, should you? If you can make money on someone else's efforts without giving them anything, should you? If you can live without caring about others, should you? Pinterest and many of its users do.
OK, I had not heard about Pinterest until a few days ago, and looked it up and fell in love. Temporarily. Very temporarily. So, I had a 20 hour love affair with Pinterest, and now we are partly separated (not totally, read on). I know, this just happened AFTER I wrote that long thing about how we are too addicted to the internet, and I fell right into the addition to Pinterest trap.
Pinterest is a great way to collect links and thumbnails to all the interesting things you find on the web so you can find them again, or to make pinboards of images for inspiration, education, or useful things. It is exploding on the internet right now. So far so good, and that is what I loved about it. So much interesting stuff!!!
But then I clicked on an image to find out more and it linked back to Google Images, or I got a 404 error, or it linked me to Tumblr's home page, and something was obviously not right. Where did the image come from?
When I signed up for Pinterest I read the rules for the site, and it says that you have to have the right to pin anything made by you or that you have the copyright for, so you can't pin things copyrighted by others. But people do, 99% of people in Pinterest do, maybe more, and very few even give credit and source for each image. A typical pinned image is a photo of a gorgeous room with the note "I love this". No facts on where that image came from.
That can't be right, I thought, obviously this image wasn't taken by whatever house wife in Florida that pinned and loved it. Then I started googling "Pinterest copyright" and found a large set of recent articles about how Pinterest is avoiding by getting into trouble by making all its users, not themselves, legally liable for any copyright infringement. (Their own blog shows how upset some people are by this. Other info here, good post here, more, )
Pinterest takes no responsibility at all, and in fact, by using it you agree to give all the images you have pinned (and thereby downloaded to Pinterest as high-resolution photos, mostly illegally in my opinion) to Pinterest for free. Pinterest then have the right to sell these photos and make money of them, even if they are copyrighted by someone that had no idea that you pinned their gorgeous photo or art or craft idea, etc.
So, say that I pin my photos which are under Creative Commons license on Flickr to my board on Pinterest, and as soon as I have done that, I have no longer any control over them. Pinterest could sell them to Target to use in their advertising and I would get zero dollars, and I would not be asked for permission. This is so wrong!!!
Similarly, if a user pins an image of a new Porsche, Pinterest now has the right to use that image, even if it is copyrighted by Porsche. Simply put, Pinterest is fooling everybody, and stealing from everybody. And they let their users get away with it, and the users let Pinterest get away with it. Just like drug addiction... They need each other, the users and the company.
Pinterest's solution is that anybody that finds their copyrighted image pinned onto Pinterest by a user can contact them and have it removed from Pinterest's website. So it is up to the owner of the image to search the internet and complain. (This is unimaginable hard...) Imagine this happening with actual items. Someone comes into your house, robs you, and goes away with some of your stuff. Now you have to look for your things wide and far, and they are not marked with your name, address or anything. And if you find your things, then you have to fill out an online form and eventually you can get the stuff back. And in the end, the stealing doesn't get punished at all.
In fact, Pinterest doesn't care that its users pin lots of copyrighted things, and if there is a problem (say, they get sued by Modern Museum of Art for some art images a user has pinned), then the user will have to pay the legal bills for both herself AND for Pinterest's lawyers. It is all in the user agreement, and very clear. How can this be right? How can this be ethical? The user could be a company too, so if McDonalds pins a photo of a burger, they could get sued.... but Pinterest wouldn't. How crazy.
Monday, February 27, 2012
(Long post but important)