Lots of brands and tons of people are very excited about Pinterest. But news yesterday that Pinterest has armed companies with a special code to keep their images from getting pinned shows that some businesses are worried about issues like copyright infringement.
We posed a few questions via email about brand dangers, copyright, and trademark issues to Deborah Sweeney, who is the CEO of MyCorporation and has expertise in IP law. Sweeney has also written about Pinterest for Forbes.
Click through to check it out.
PRNewser: What are the IP risks that Pinterest users are facing right now?
Deborah Sweeney: Really, Pinterest, like other Internet publishers, is the entity that is at risk of infringement. It can be argued that by pinning and re-pinning the photos of copyrightable subject matter that the users are engaging in copyright infringement, but my sense is that the entity who could be deemed in violation is really Pinterest itself.
PRNewser: Do you think Pinterest is equally risk-free for brands as individual users?
DS: I think that it is unlikely that copyright holders will go after individual users, as opposed to Pinterest. Copyright holders (and their counsel) will usually look to the “deep pockets.” That said, Pinterest introduced a way for site owners to add a snippet of code to their sites to prevent pinning. I think this may be a great step in the right direction – demonstrating that Pinterest is taking interest in protecting the copyright holders’ rights.
Furthermore, it’s a step away from the previous perspective, which was that the copyright issue was really not a big deal. It is Pinterest acknowledging the issue. The question remains though, will copyright holders add this snippet of code to prevent pinning? Will they even know about the code? Probably not. Copyright holders who have previously been infringed upon may take this action, but other less suspecting copyright holders might not even know about Pinterest and the possible code.
PRNewser: What are the branding risks that companies are facing right now?
DS: The branding risk is that the works of art that have been created by one company are being copied and re-used and re-published by others. With that, their works of art and potentially copyrightable subject matter may be infringed upon. The big question is whether or not the pinning and re-pinning is actually fair use. There are a number of fair use exceptions to the copyright laws and this may fall within the “thumbnail” exception (that it’s merely a re-printing or small/minute representation of the work). Under this exception, the use of the work in a thumbnail format would not be considered copyright infringement and would be a “fair use” of the material.
PRNewser: Pinterest is still very new to many. How can brands avoid any damage to their brand on Pinterest?
DS: Standard intellectual property protection for works of art, photos, and related copyrightable subject matter includes giving notice of the creation by placing the date of incorporation and the ownership (i.e., © 2012 MyCorporation). Also, filing the works with the copyright office is a way to establish ownership. Filing with the U.S. Copyright Office is not required to declare ownership, but is required if the owning part wants to take legal action by filing a law suit for copyright infringement.
PRNewser: So is copyright infringement the only brand danger that you foresee?
DS: There may be both issues of copyright and trademark infringement at issue. In addition to the content, the use of a slogan, logo, or trademark could occur in a way that could tarnish or infringe upon another’s trademarks. Usually trademark holders work hard to protect their brand names and the association of the trademark with their goods and services. If there is misidentification, this could create a problem.
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