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Pinterest - the Next Facebook or Unlawful Copyright Infringement? By David Ashplant - Corporate Partner, Lester Aldridge

If you’re not already familiar with it, Pinterest is a virtual pinboard that allows members to “pin” images and videos they like to their online board. When you click on them they should take you to the website they came from.

The big issue with all this is that reproducing an image taken from the internet is likely to be infringing someone else’s copyright in just the same way it would be if you photocopied it. In the US, there is a view that this falls within fair dealing but that is not thought to be the case in the UK, especially for those in business who might profit from what they are doing.

Those using Pinterest, or establishing their own mood boards with material taken from the web, run the risk of being sued. In many cases the risk might be small. If it is generating traffic to the owner’s website and promoting their brand, why would they want to stop it?

However, some copyright owners may take a different view and want to control use of their images and/or charge for their use. If they sue they could claim an account of profits made from use of their image – probably difficult to prove – or a licence fee for use of their image. Many websites will say what that licence fee is.

Pinterest operates a system allowing copyright owners to notify objections so that the pin they object to can be taken down – many copyright owners might be happy to stop there. Pinterest also offers a fix that website owners can attach to their website to prevent pinning from their website, although it is apparently cumbersome to use. Ultimately though, these things won’t prevent copyright owners taking legal action if they want to.

So, at the moment it’s a case of wait and see how this pans out, but be aware that Pinterest’s terms also require you to indemnify them for any liability in using other people’s material; i.e. if they get sued because of what you posted, they can give you the bill and their lawyer’s bill too.