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Pinterest reacts to copyright, monetisation worries

The fledgling network says it is still testing and refining its business model, and has taken steps to limit copyright infringement on the site.

Rising social media star Pinterest has recently had to defend itself against media reports of a lack of transparency and copyright infringement issues.

The digital pin-boarding site came under scrutiny earlier this month for not disclosing its potential monetisation efforts and reportedly generating revenue by adjusting and tracking the links attached to user-posted pins.

The issue was initially detailed by social media blog LLSocial, which stated: “If you post a pin to Pinterest, and it links to an e-commerce site that happens to have an affiliate programme, Pinterest modifies the link to add their own affiliate tracking code. If someone clicks through the picture from Pinterest and makes a purchase, Pinterest gets paid.”

LLSocial noted that the new social network did not disclose its link modification process on the site. It later emerged that the affiliate links practice was something Pinterest had been testing and using to gain user behaviour insights. Last week, Pinterest added a new section to its help page titled “How does Pinterest make money?”

In the disclosure, it is stated: “Right now, we are focused on growing Pinterest and making it more valuable. To fund these efforts, we have taken outside investment from entrepreneurs and venture capitalists. In the past, we've tested a few different approaches to making money such as affiliate links. We might also try adding advertisements, but we haven't done this yet.”

Pin-prevention

Apart from the questions surrounding its monetisation strategies, the fledgling site has also had to fend off concerns regarding copyright infringement over its capacity to “pin” any image from any Web site onto a Pinterest board using the “Pin it” browser plug-in.

Pinterest's “Pin Etiquette” appeals to users to credit the sources of their pins and to link back to original sources rather than secondary sources, but the critics' argument is a fairly strong one. They maintain that Pinterest's hosting of full-size, full-resolution images on its servers, without the permission of the rights holder and the removal of reference to the source, is exactly the type of activity the Stop Online Piracy Act was seeking to prevent.

While Pinterest has always had a means for users and copyright holders to report infringing posts, the site has now gone a step further to quell concerns by introducing a piece of code that can be used by publishers to prevent images from their site from being “pinned”.

Pinterest is also now testing a 500-character limit for captions for pins, which is thought to be a step towards limiting users' copying and pasting of blog text, and to instead encourage linking back to the original source.

The new network is still invitation-only and has been growing dramatically over the last few months with a reported 11 million unique monthly users in the US alone. Pinterest is said to be the fastest independent site in history to reach the 10 million user mark, and data has shown that the site has higher user engagement than Twitter.


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