When Does Reblogging and Pinning Things Violate Copyright?

Posted on December 28, 2011

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Reblogging

We All Like to Reblog by Andy P, WordPress.com, June 1, 2010
Have you ever come across a blog post that you enjoyed so much you wanted to easily share it with the readers of your own blog? Sure, you can copy and paste the link and perhaps even a snippet of text with your own comments, but overall it’s not a particularly enjoyable experience. We wanted to change this and make sharing other posts with your readers as easy as posting to your blog.

On December 5, 2011, I got a notice that one of my posts had been Reblogged. When I clicked the link that pointed to the site that had reblogged me, this image is what I saw:

In the case of this particular post, the reblog contained about half of what I said, plus one of my photos in its original size. The Blogger that copied my post did not add any of their own content.

I was not asked for, nor did I give permission for someone to copy and post one of my photos. Reblogging, in this case, looks an awful lot like content theft.

Content theft happens all the time on the internet, but that doesn’t make it right. Each and every one of us holds a Copyright to the content on our blogs, as long as we are the original writer of the words, photographer of our photos, or designer of our graphics. We don’t even have to post a notice of Copyright for this to be so. (But it is a good idea to do this to remind others that your content is not free for the taking. WordPress discusses how to Prevent Content Theft.)

No one else is allowed to copy this content in it’s entirety without our express permission. They can, however, take small excerpts from it for inclusion in their work, provided they give us credit. These snippets should be for the purpose of criticism, commentary or news reporting and are considered “fair use”.

In the case of a photograph or graphic, the photographer or graphic artist has the sole right to produce and reproduce the photograph or any substantial part of it. No one can use that photo or graphic without permission.

All WordPress Bloggers signed Terms of Service. We agree that we will not “download, copy and use Content that infringes the proprietary rights, including but not limited to the copyright, patent, trademark or trade secret rights, of any third party”. In turn, we as bloggers “grant Automattic a world-wide, royalty-free, and non-exclusive license to reproduce, modify, adapt and publish the Content solely for the purpose of displaying, distributing and promoting our blog.”

I contacted the owner of the blog that has violated my photo copyright. They did not approve my comment, respond to my complaint, or remove my photo. I contacted WordPress and asked them to facilitate the removal of my photo from this site. WordPress eventually responded by blocking the offending blog completely.

So, what do you think about Reblogging? Does it look like content theft to you?
Have you ever included photos or graphics in your blog that you have not obtained permission to use?

Pinterest and Copyright

Copyright law governs the use of these works on the internet, just as it does in all other forms of publication. Contrary to popular opinion, everything on the Internet is NOT in the Public Domain.

Perhaps the largest segment of the internet population who violate Copyright (and there are over 70 million of them now) are Pinterest Users.   Copyright violation (content theft) occurs every time a Pinterest User ‘pins’ a photo or an article to one of their boards – unless they get the permission of the author or the artist to do so. The reason it is content theft is simple. Pinterest pins are exact duplicates of the original content which is stripped of identifying metadata and then stored on Pinterest’s servers.

Pinterest Pins are not thumbnails (thumbnails are not copyright violation because you have to go to the original source to see the full picture.) Pinterest Pins are not embedded links (like embedded video clip links, which are also not copyright violation.) Pins are a duplication of material that was created by someone else for use on their website. If the creator of that material does not give you permission to put that material on your page or board, you are violating the author or artists copyright.

Pinterest knows that Pinterest Users violate copyright all the time, but it isn’t really a concern of this well funded company (currently valued at $3.8 billion). Pinterest won’t be the ones on the hook if the original authors of the content get fed up with content theft. Pinterest have absolved themselves of any wrongdoing by stating that they “respect the intellectual property rights of others” and that that they expect their users to respect these property rights  too. Pinterest goes on to say that the user is solely responsible for the User Content  they post to Pinterest.

Pinterest also thinks they can do an end run around Copyright. They offer the owners of the original content a code that will prevent Pinterest users from being able to pin from code protected sites. This suggests that Pinterest believes that nothing is copyright unless the owner takes the responsibility of inserting the code into their site.

The vast majority of Pinterest Users do not even realize that they are guilty of content theft. If they do understand what that is, they don’t think they will ever be caught doing it, and if they are caught, they believe it is highly unlikely they will be sued. In their minds, what they are doing is really just the digital equivalent of the scrapbooks they used to make from the pretty pictures and comics they tore out of newspapers or magazines.

The difference between paper scrapbooks and internet ones is subtle, but important. When you buy a newspaper or magazine, you are not copying and distributing the item. You simply purchased the material for your own use.  If you were to scan and post that picture or comic to a website where it is available for illegal copying and downloading, you would then be violating the copyright of the author of the work. The same applies to the photo or article that you pin to your Pinterest Board. You have taken another person’s work (which you have not paid for) and made it available to the world without the author or artist’s permission.

Why is this a big deal to the person whose work has been taken?  When a photo is pinned to a board, it becomes a competing version of that image. This often siphons image search traffic away from the source site. If that source site is trying to sell their work, that affects their business. Many Pinterest users gather their pins from other Pinterest Users. This means that Pinterest Users don’t even have to go to the original source of the image at all, and that further erodes traffic to the very people who are producing the work in the first place.

Last, but not least – Pinterest is setting themselves up to make some serious money through advertising. They have started off with Sponsored Pins – which are promotions for certain pins from a select group of businesses. These pins will be targeted to match the content the users pin to their boards.  Where does that content come from? All the creative people who take photos and create art and write the stories that get ‘appropriated’ by Pinterest users.  Will any of those creative people be financially compensated for that content? Not likely.

I’d like to end this story with a lesson as to what can happen if a person ‘borrows’ a nice picture without getting permission. This  is a post by blogger Roni Loren: (Bloggers Beware: You CAN Get Sued For Using Pics on Your Blog – My Story).  Another story about being sued comes from The Content Factory.

Related Read  Reblogging and Image Copyright

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