Pinterest improved its policies to prevent copyright violations on Saturday due to Pinterest users not attributing content to original creators.

Pinterest has come under fire recently for its users pinning copyrighted content to their Pinterest profiles. Other sites have developed and added anti-pinning code to prevent their sites content from being displayed on a Pinterest users pinboard. Another concern for website owners is if their content is properly linked (so Pinterest users do come to their site to view whatever piece of content has been pinned), the increased traffic might be too much for their servers.

To accommodate the concerns from content creators (as opposed to content pinners), Pinterest updated their Terms of Service, Acceptable Use Policy, and Privacy Policy on Saturday. However, the changes won’t take effect until April 6th. Aside from addressing the copyright issues, other changes to the documents seem to be focused on making Pinterest profiles more private, and getting more partners across the web involved with Pinterest.


One of the biggest points Pinterest is trying to highlight in its policy changes is how pinned content can be used commercially. Specifically, the terms are changing so as to make it as clear as possible that Pinterest has no right to sell content pinned from other sites. The owners of Pinterest, Cold Brew Labs, said they had truly never intended for that to happen in the first place.

Despite the company’s claims that it was never its intent, the old terms of service specifically said that any content pinned to the site could be sold by Pinterest. Regardless of the original Terms of Service language, again, the Terms of Service have changed and Pinterest cannot sell content from other sites pinned to Pinterest.

By the same token, Pinterest users can’t use the site commercially. That is, a pinboard can’t become another Etsy-type shop. The purpose of the site is only “accessing and viewing Pinterest Content, for your personal, noncommercial use to allow you to express yourself, discuss public issues, report on issues of public concern, engage in parody and as expressly permitted by the features of the Service.”

In addition to the updates Terms of Service, Pinterest said it has also improved the ease with which content owners can report copyright or trademark infringement. Again, if pinned legally, all content would include a link to the original page the content is from, and would of course have any signatures or watermarks that original creators put on their pictures, designs, or whatever else got pinned.

The growing problem (prompting Pinterest’s decision to change its policies) is that users are not linking properly back to original content sites or, users are editing content then pinning it, so it doesn’t show proper attribution back to the content creator. Concern was raised by Flickr, as people were pinning photos without paying attention to the Creative Commons licenses that Flickr users had put on their photos, and Getty Images, a stock photo website which has different watermarks and copyright rules for different content.

Currently, eighty percent of content on the site is re-pinned and not original. So despite the site’s best efforts to nip this problem in the bud as quickly as possible, there’s little doubt that copyright infringement will probably plague the company in the future as well.

Other changes in the policies hint at what may be down the road for Pinterest, including a Pinterest API and Private Pinboards. A Pinterest API might seem unnecessary since users can pin any content from any site (just about) to their Pinterest profile, but an API would probably work the opposite way. For example, a start up company called Vitrue is selling a way to take pinned content and put it on Facebook pages and on Instagram.

To read more about Pinterest and its incredible user base growth, check out our blog post about the day the site hit ten million monthly visitors faster than any other website, ever.