Pinterest terms worry users

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A movement is growing to put pressure on Pinterest to change its terms of service, as some users have even gone so far as to delete their pinboards on the new social sharing site.

A campaign, started by The Window Seat blog, encourages Pinterest users to re-pin a graphic that appeals to the site's creators to change its terms of service. The graphic states: “Dear Pinterest, please change your terms or I'm leaving.” According to the blog, since its initial posting last week, the pin has already been shared by over 45 000 people.

The clause in the site's terms of service that is causing the fuss concerns the indemnity of Pinterest and its creators. The clause states that Pinterest users are solely responsible for all content they post to the site, and any potentially negative implications:

“You agree to defend, indemnify, and hold Cold Brew Labs, its officers, directors, employees and agents, harmless from and against any claims, liabilities, damages, losses, and expenses, including, without limitation, reasonable legal and accounting fees, arising out of or in any way connected with (i) your access to or use of the Site, Application, Services or Site Content, (ii) your Member Content, or (iii) your violation of these Terms.”

Web and digital media lawyer Paul Jacobson says on that the clause means if “by using Pinterest to pin photos and videos, you infringe on someone's copyright (or even where your use is legitimate and Pinterest's use isn't), Pinterest can invoke its indemnity and call on you to cover its losses and costs”.

“The way the clause is worded, Pinterest's ability to invoke the indemnity isn't limited to instances where you actually infringed copyright, or did something to otherwise violate a third party's rights. It can be invoked if the losses simply flow from your use of or access to the site or your pins.”

Real risk?

Jacobson says the question remains, however, as to how real the risk of this clause actually being invoked against a user is. “It may seem implausible, but consider that a number of content creators are pretty concerned about Pinterest users sharing their content without their permission.

“It may not be too long before we begin to see the first lawsuits emerge and, at that point, users will have to wait and see if the indemnity is invoked and their lives changed because of a whimsical share,” says Jacobson.

Following lawyer/photographer Kirsten Kowalski's post about why she removed her inspiration boards on Pinterest, the site's founder Ben Silbermann reached out to her personally, and is quoted as having said he is just “a guy with a computer who had a vision" and that he is aware of the issues and is working on possible solutions.

Pinterest has seen phenomenal growth despite still being beta and invitation-only. The social pin-boarding site has already reportedly notched up higher user engagement levels than established rivals such as Twitter.

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