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Good Question: What Can We Legally Share Online?

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- More than 12 million people have already pinned to their digital bulletin boards, but there is growing concern that Pinterest users could be breaking the law.

Pinterest is the fastest-growing social media web site ever. It lets you pin anything you find online to your personal page. Problem is: a lot of those pictures and articles may be copyrighted.

So Julie from Osceola wanted to know: What can we legally share online? Good Question.

Pinterest is still relatively new. It's only been around for a couple of years. When it comes to copyright issues, many lawyers believe it's just a matter of time until something from this site ends up in court.

Creative Kids Stuff put up a Pinterest page six months ago, and it goes well beyond what they sell in the store.

Alyssa Tucker is the assistant manager at the Lynden Hills location.

"I like it, because it's a way to bookmark all your stuff," Tucker said.

Natasha D'Schommer has a different feeling. She's a photographer and after being asked so many times to put her work up on Pinterest, she put up a photo instead that says: "You can take someone's photograph and give credit to it, but it doesn't mean the other 1,000 people are going to give credit to it. This is how people make a living."

Ryan Palmer at Monroe Moxness and Berg in Minneapolis is an attorney that specializes in trademark and copyright law.

"A lot of people are posting content onto Pinterest that probably is not legal for them to post," Palmer said.

He told us the only thing we can legally share online is our own content. That said, you can see the problem Pinterest presents and why it's in a different field than something like Facebook.

"It's sole focus is on sharing other peoples' information or taking all the beautiful things from the web and pinning them to one place. So it's business model at many points is in conflict of copyright law," Palmer said.
While, Palmer believes it has similarities to the Napster saga, which copyright infringement eventually shut down, Pinterest, unlike a music sharing site, is where people also share their own stuff.

"There's no law that is written specifically for Pinterest," Palmer said. "Copyright laws are way behind in things like YouTube -- anything social media-related -- and Pinterest really takes it to the next level."

He says until copyright laws catch up, the questions will end up in court.

"If you want to be very conservative, post only what you've created," Palmer said.

Pinterest does try to protect itself in a way with this long disclaimer under its legal section. It basically says users will protect Pinterest from anything they pin if they get in trouble.

The company says it's pretty easy to see if you're on a website that's okay with pinning.

The company sent WCCO this statement from a past memo that Ben Silbermann, the Pinterest CEO issued:

The last few months have been a whirlwind here at Pinterest. It's hard to explain how it feels to go from a small group of people working on a virtually unknown website, to a slightly bigger team of people working on a service that millions of people use every day. It's humbling, and exciting.

With all that growth, we've gotten more questions from reporters and Pinners. In the past, we've been pretty quiet, but we want to get better about answering questions openly with people who are interested in Pinterest. We decided to start today by talking about copyright.

As a company, we care about respecting the rights of copyright holders. We work hard to follow the DMCA procedure for acting quickly when we receive notices of claimed copyright infringement. We have a form for reporting claims of copyright violations on our site here. Every pin has a flag to make reporting easier. We also know that copyright is a complicated and nuanced issue and we have knowledgeable people who are providing lots of guidance.

Most publishers we speak with are excited about Pinterest. We've heard that Pinterest drives a lot of traffic to their websites. This has prompted many groups to add Pin It buttons to their websites. We've seen Pin It buttons on sites across the web, including some of our favorite retailers, marketplaces, museums, publications, and blogs.
At the same time, we understand and respect that sometimes site owners do not want any of their material pinned. For these folks, we provide a snippet of code that can be added to any website. You can find it in our help section.

Pinterest plays different roles for different people. People use Pinterest as a creative outlet, a place to connect with friends in new ways, a tool to plan important personal projects, and of course, a source of inspiration and discovery. We hope that like many technology services we've come to love on the internet - from blogs to YouTube to Facebook - we can help figure out good approaches to complex issues, and build a service that is valuable to lots of people all over the world.

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