Admit it. We all abuse copyright material, especially if you’re a creative person. We might have folders of images on our personal computers that we like, but we didn’t ask the owners permission to right click and save. In our art projects in school, we didn’t ask the artist if we could be influenced by their work, and I’m pretty sure a lot of use never cited sources for the images we used in presentations and reports until we hit university. Nope, the majority of us don’t pay much attention to copyright law when it comes to personal use, and we use hundreds of images that belong to other people to inspire us and help us create ideas without permission.
Tumblr and Pinterest, are just virtual manifestations of what we normally do from the safety of our own computers; Tumblr allows us to make blogs entirely out of images we love, and allows others to “reblog” them. Pinterest is a virtual scrapbook, and allows others to “repin” images. It’s no surprise that when we start to collect images in public spaces, people start to take note of what belongs to them.
Pinterest has recently faced scrutiny over its copyright policy, which states users have to ask permission before they “pin” and image, but a very small majority actually do. Tumblr has been taken to court several times for refusing to take down copyrighted images from user’s accounts, although its policy says accounts committing copyright infringement will be removed.
But are companies just being awkward? It’s arguable that the whole world of image sharing is responsible for a lot of items becoming viral, whether they are credited or not. People have ways of finding the sources of things and products they love. The social networks that are now so heavily part of our lives are built on a culture of sharing. If we deleted every account that had not provided a source for it’s content, the internet would be a very empty place indeed.
Both Pinterest and Tumblr, if used correctly, provide links back to the content source, so even if permission isn’t given to use an image, people can generally find the owner of the work. Pinterest now generates more traffic referrals than Twitter, and it’s been around for a much shorter amount of time.
On the other hand, sometimes artists and small businesses don’t want their content shared on such huge sites, large businesses and opportunists can sometimes lie in wait on Tumblr and Pinterest, and small businesses ideas can be stolen before they have opportunity to grow themselves enough to defend it.
So what is the solution? Either those who hate image sharing sites will have to embrace them so they are in control of their content being shared, or they’re going to have to write to one of these sites by snail mail each time they want an image taking down. It seems these social innovations wait for no one.