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A Love-Hate View of Pinterest

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If you track the key sites linking in to your blog, you notice trends. In April 2011, page views and unique visitors to Daisy Yellow via pinterest skyrocketed. Meaning, they went from insignificant to significant. The percentages correlate - both about 4% (of total pageviews or unique visitors) in April to 26% in September. And for math geeks like me, that's while the denominator was increasing. I don't pin my own stuff (yes, some do, to generate links, sales etc.) So this is people pinning stuff like Art Journaling 101 or Kick-Start Your Art Journal etc. and others clicking the links from pinterest.

Sister Diane, the go to girl for crafty goodness posted Pinterest, Inspiration, Copying and the Whole Ethics Thing. There is a discussion over at The Magpie Knitter about Pinterest and the C Word.

Rantish, longish post ahead.

The way I use pinterest is the way I thought it was meant to be used - to develop categorized inspiration boards. I have a mandala board. I'm not going to copy any of the mandala designs, but I enjoy looking at them all together on the screen. I have a rainbow board. I love rainbows and things colored or arranged in rainbow patterns. And 50 photos of all sorts of rainbow things rocks.

To use a flickr analogy, a pinterest board is a build-your-own-flickr-group. It's a flickr gallery without the 18 photo limitation. A build-your-own pinterest board of pink stuff inspires me.

  • We choose to add our stuff to a flickr group, and photos are obviously attributed.
  • We don't choose to add our stuff to someone's pinterest board or tumblr, and stuff is not always attributed.

One of the discussions in this arena revolves around a perceived problem with people tagging handmade art/craft "diy" or do-it-yourself. On Flickr searching "diy craft" yielded 72,668 PAGES of results. So this really isn't the issue. The issue has to do with people thinking that if they find something on the web (flickr, etsy, blogged, even on Martha Stewart) it is simply A-OK to copy it. I'm pretty sure you can make one as a gift for your little niece in Omaha if that's all there is to it. But copy to blog about it, copy to sell, modify and print on fabric? Stick it on your blog without attribution or permission? Hmm. The problem is not the tag "diy." The tag itself is a symptom.

My key concern about pinterest (and tumblr) is that photographs and creative work are not consistently and accurately attributed to the source. Not to a blog that collates a bunch of pretty things from around the web. People write books, sell them in book stores, and people copy paragraphs or entire chapters or tutorials and put them in other books or blogs. That's clearly copyright infringement. Why is it perceived differently if the content is digital? Because it's easier to copy?

Ad infinitim, ad nauseum, I hear that it is OUR fault for putting stuff on the web, we don't have the right to control it, and we are scoffed at for trying to maintain the rights to our stuff. You're offering free, I'm taking.

For the past few months, I have done my best to track to the original source on the web. Sometimes it is 3-4 layers in, via 4 blog posts intersected by flickr! Finding my own stuff attributed/linked to another site, a site that absconded with my photographs, pisses me off. Pinterest didn't invent unfair practices like stealing other people's work. But it definitely makes it super easy to "pin" and run, without doing a little leg work.

Read about the concept of "free" at The Evolution of the Crafty Revolution.


Editor's Note (from me): I think I should say that this was  not meant to indicate that I've personally been wronged by folks pinning to pinterest. It's cool of you to pin my work to pinterest. It is a compliment! I called this post Love-Hate because I do love pinterest, I love looking at the boards I've put together, finding new ways to "categorize" inspirational stuff by looking at other people's array of boards. Finding new artists. Finding new blogs. My point is that there is potential for wrongdoing. We are all part of the on-line creative community and stuff that impacts the community is certainly up for debate.

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Reader Comments (17)

I feel the same way about pinterest. I love pinterest, it just SO visual which works SO good for me, but I am often annoyed about not being able to find the original source of images. My biggest frustration is finding a stunning image and not being able to locate the source! (now that I know the google image search trick, I've been having better luck).
As an artist I alternate between wanting to hoard all my art for myself and wanting to share it with the world [internet]. I feel that art is meant to be shared, even if it means others will criticize, copy, and steal your work. Truly creative people will be inspired and will take your ideas and make them their own.
People who steal art will always steal it, pinterest, flickr, and other visual sharing online will always be a "source" for them. As frustrating as it is, I try to ignore it and definitely not support it. Sister Diane is right, pinning your own stuff makes it even easier (it's not marketing, unless your hoping to have it stolen). I've noticed that most of the things pinned from my blog are tutorials, that I freely share, I may just be lucky.
BTW, I found you through pinterest, you're pinned on my journaling board, hoping to find the time to work will all the inspiration I've found here.

✭✭✭ {Tammy}: Korinne, I understand wanting to hold back and at the same time wanting to share artwork. As artists I believe we inspire each other by sharing - and I don't want the copycats and thieves to hamper us. Thank you for stopping by and saying hello.

10.11.2011 | Unregistered CommenterKorinne

I completely understand exactly what you're saying, It's why I don't generally do a lot of re-pinning. If I like something someone else has pinned, I click on it and go to the source (to ensure that it's actually the proper source). If it's not, I either do NOT pin it, or if I like it well enough, I jump the hoops to find it's original source. If I can't, then *sigh*. If I do, then I pin it, knowing it's going to credit the correct source. And since the can of worms is opened, may I just say how irritating it is when people just pin a photo from a google search, or pin a photo from a generic blog address, instead of going to the *specific* post in which the photo was included in? LOL! Anyway, I think I found your blog through a fellow quilter's blog, who's doing the zen tangle thing, which has spilled into the quilter's arena. Love your blog! :)

✭✭✭ {Tammy}: Denise, So funny I do the same thing when I repin, and I don't do that much either. The image I might see is like the tip of the iceberg, so I follow the trail back to the source and see the other artwork that person has shared on their blog and if it's good stuff I subscribe to the blog. I am hearing from more quilters in the last few months and a bunch of my doodles during the summer index-card-a-day project were from a quilting design reference. You should see how crooked my fabric pieces look when sewn together.

10.11.2011 | Unregistered CommenterDenise :)

I do my best, when I pin something, to attribute it to the artist who created it. And when I pin stuff, it's usually as inspiration for my own work, such as it is. I am definitely guilty though of just mindlessly pinning things that I like, without first checking that the source information is correct.

Have you thought of adding a watermark to your pictures? I know it's irritating but I've started doing it on my blog, just because I don't want people posting pictures of my family (even mediocre pictures) as their own. That's creepy.

Anyway, I respect what you're saying and I'm just going to tell you now that I will not pin stuff that I can't find the artist or creator for. And also, that I found your blog through Pinterest. ;)

✭✭✭ {Tammy}: Erin, It does take an extra few steps to verify the attribution, and I agree that it is the right thing to do. If you look carefully, there is a tiny watermark on my photo above, perhaps too small to matter. I figure it will at least help me show that it's really mine if I need to. Thank you for commenting, and nice to meet you!

10.11.2011 | Unregistered CommenterErin


I have recently read about this issue on art teacher blogs also. In the big history of art, right or wrong, artist have always stolen from each other. I agree it is wrong. I will tell you that if you let Pinterest know you are unhappy that something you can prove is yours is not tagged correctly they will take it down. I had a chair from a major manufacturer up and they got it taken down. Now, I have 3 of your journal pages pinned and they are credited to you, but if you prefer I will remove them, just let me know.

✭✭✭ {Tammy}: Karen, that's the idea behind that love-hate thing. I love pinterest for the visual spark, the ability to see so many things all together on one screen. It's fine to keep my stuff on pinterest as long as it's attributed; no worries. Thank you for saying hello!

10.11.2011 | Unregistered CommenterKaren E

I like looking at pinterest, and as difficult as it is to resist, I don't pin my own things. It would be nice! haha free publicity, right?

I am also annoyed by the pins whose links just link to other links to other links. If I click on a pin, it's because I want to see the blog this person "ripped" it from to see if there is MORE! I like to have a deeper insight into the work, get to know the artist and all that.

I don't understand the "social" aspect of pinterest or following boards. Or even commenting on pins... the person likely has nothing to do with the image, so why would I chat with them about it? It's like the various blogs online that look pretty, but the only content to be seen are stolen images (posting the source does not give a person permission to publish the image)... which makes me wonder how pinterest functions legally, now that I think about it.

I don't worry about the risks associated with posting imagery online. People who steal images/ideas will always be one step behind, old news. And who wants to be old news?

✭✭✭ {Tammy}: Melissa, Thank you for saying hello, nice to meet you! I don't understand the social aspect either. I agree with the idea of using a pinned item as a launching point to explore an artist or photographer's work. Can you imagine if pinterest were a book excerpt site? Copyright lawsuits would ensue. I don't know how pinterest survives; napster did not. Perhaps there will be a backlash. I just know that from my stats the influence of pinterest has exploded in the past 6 months.

10.11.2011 | Unregistered Commentermelissa

I do my best to only pin or repin what is correctly sourced. I personally really want to get back to the source. If I found the work or product or tutorial interesting enough to pin I want more than just the shiny picture.

I think having and sharing standards like these and discussions like this is a good way to make people stop and think about what they are doing. Not everyone but a lot. If we artists don't respect our work and others its really a loosing battle. I try to think about the category or comments I put on a pin too. I have a board of things I look at and I just get up from the computer to go make some art. Not that art. My art. It's just seeing others creativity that inspires me to go exercise mine. I love "referrals" from others to great things and it is sad to see the negative side of that too. I hope my pins reflect that I really admired something not that it was just something to be used.

I like the points made about "marketing" your work by pinning it. You maybe proud of it or want to get it out there but your really not doing yourself or any of us a favor.

Do you find that a watermark causes people to stop and realize its not there image to use? It's something I have considered starting to do myself.

✭✭✭ {Tammy}: Carlene, Thank you for adding your thoughts to the conversation. They say that only honest men follow laws, but perhaps there are those that are simply not in the loop that would be swayed by reading conversations like these. As for people pinning their own stuff, I think it is tacky. It's not a blog, ha! Re: the watermark... maybe if my stuff is not attributed it might still be obvious by the little name on the photo. I don't think it dissuades bad guys. I created a photoshop action to add the watermark.

YES!!!!!! I didn't think about that kind of thing that much until Pinterest existed, because it seemed like most of the blogs that rounded up images attributed them to the original source - and then I found Pinterest, and when I would click on a pin to see where it came from, I would find the layers and layers, when I just wanted to find the original blog to see what other cool stuff the artist/decorator/writer whatever had done! Sometimes I repin things just temporarily to remind myself I want to look at them, but then when I go back and do that, I try to hunt down the original thing and repin that.
(as someone I'd be likely to pin, is it enough just to have the pin go back to you, or would you want the attribution in the description?)
And the watermark is great - I'd like it if people did that so that I could FIND them if I can't do it any other way!

✭✭✭ {Tammy}: Siren, Thank you for saying hello and adding to the conversation. I do like your idea of pinning things even as just reminders of something you want to investigate even if you cannot at that moment. It's a rabbit hole into wonderland, isn't it? On the web, we go on this twisty turny path finding fun-cool-unique-neat-intriguing-colorful at every turn. Most people think the watermark is to keep away copiers, but I see it as denoting who created it. As for my stuff - if the link goes to Daisy Yellow I'm happy.

10.12.2011 | Unregistered Commentersiren

In my innocent defense, I didn't even know about Pinterest until I found the link on this blog site. I promise in the future to be more dilligent and crediting sources. Sorry.

✭✭✭ {Tammy}:Sally, How funny that this was your entree into pinterest! I do think the majority of folks that don't credit sources are well-meaning and are excited to share fun things they find. Thank you for your comment!

10.12.2011 | Unregistered Commentersally broster

I have to say I'm quite comfortable with Pinterest. It's done me no harm, in fact it's enriched my life ten fold and introduced me to more blogs and more ideas then I could ever imagine. But I can see how some could innocently or deliberately abuse it and how this worries people. I personally pin things that inspire me or I want to intentionally recreate or try myself- recipes, home decor, texture ideas, etc for personal use and enjoyment. If it wasn't for Pinterest I'd literally be cutting and pasting images or bookmarking links anyway so it makes a community out of an activity that many people do already. But I think, in a way, by giving a service to DO just that, provides a form of security to the orginal as even though there are layers of accreditation, there are still layers of accreditation, which are better then none at all. I'm less comfortable with the direct upload function as you have complete control over that image and accreditation which most people fail at terribly. Image descriptions like 'love it' or '.' are completely utterly useless. So I prefer pinning from online. And to be fair, Pinterest is just linking to whatever other bloggers have reposted themselves so its THEM that need to start verifying their images better rather then people collecting or referring to them on Pinterest. My contribution to upholding the value of Pinterest is to amend the description so it includes more info then the typical 'love it' tags which are completely useless.

✭✭✭ {Tammy}: Lianne, Your point is solid - folks will download images or print or otherwise "capture" them for inspiration or to try whatever it is. There isn't any harm in getting an idea from the web and making/creating something for yourself/gift, to practice/develop a skill, experiment, etc. It's portraying as your own idea/design, selling a variation thereof, etc. that is wrong. You are absolutely right - MORE culpable than pinterest are the bloggers that simply download images from sites and upload to their blog without permission. Even if they attribute or credit correctly. And some curating type sites are simply pulling from other curating sites - or even pinterest. It's really a quagmire and getting more intertwined every minute:)

10.12.2011 | Unregistered CommenterLianne

Thank you for explaining that...I'd seen a note about it AT pinterest, but didn't really understand. It's all too easy, just to re-pin...I will be better about original sources, now that I do.

✭✭✭ {Tammy}: Jane, Perhaps pinterest will add a meaningful explanation to the attribution etiquette. It really is easy peasy to pin, and watch your boards come alive with inspiration! Thank you for saying hello!

10.12.2011 | Unregistered CommenterJane

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