Pinterest Is Free – Until It Costs You REALLY Big

November 7, 2014

Pinterest is such a brilliantly-simple social media site that it shouldn’t be surprising that people manage to screw it up so badly. We’re talking about the people who post images which violate copyright law.

What Is It?

Let’s keep this discussion simple. The person who takes a photo or creates an image owns the copyright in it. You can only use the image if you have permission from that person. There are exceptions such as “fair use” that apply to this rule, but none of the exceptions apply when you are posting to Pinterest.


The risk is a big one: being sued for copyright infringement. Damages can run as high as $150,000 per image in a worst-case scenario. This number doesn’t include the money you have spend on an attorney to defend your action.

Do we have your attention?

Pinterest Images

When you post to Pinterest, you must have permission from the copyright holder to do so. If you created the image yourself, purchased it from a stock photo site or found a creative commons picture with no attribution requirements, then you should be fine. If none of these apply to your posts, you could have a major problem.

The problem doesn’t stop there; repins are also an issue. If you don’t have any idea where these images are coming from originally, it doesn’t matter that someone else pinned the image first. Everyone who posts an image without permission is facing an infringement claim.

Pinterest Responsible?

The worst part is that Pinterest has no responsibility whatsoever. The site is protected under a law known as the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which protects a site when its members are actually doing the posting. This may not be fair, but if you don’t take responsibility for your Pinterest boards, a judge may force you to – with disastrous results.

What To Do

So how the hell are you supposed to post anything besides your own small collection of photos? You might want to put on your thinking cap, because this is going to get complex.

Okay, we’re lying. There are two simple strategies that work.

First Strategy

  1. Make a list of all the main keyword phrases that apply to your site.
  2. Do a search on Pinterest for each phrase followed by the word “magazine.”
  3. Click “pinners” on the left side of the menu on the page that pops up.
  4. Look for any magazines in your niche.
  5. You can repin any of the images the magazine has already posted to its boards on Pinterest, because the magazine agrees to allow repinning when it posts the images.

Most magazines will have created several dozen boards filled with pins. This should give you enough inventory to use for months, if not years. When you do eventually run out of pins, try searching for your main keyword phrases followed by words such as “shows,” “journal,” and other entertainment phrases.

If you can’t find anything when you search for magazines or shows in your niche, go to Google and do a search for “top 10 [keyword] magazines.” You should be able to find a list of magazines in your niche which don’t have the keyword phrase in their name. Go to Pinterest and search for each of these magazines. Magazines tend to be visual in nature, so most are on Pinterest these days.

Second Strategy

 For people who aren’t quite as lazy as we are, here’s another approach you can use. If you can’t find magazines or shows in your niche on Pinterest, or you run out of pins on their boards that you can steal repin, then head back over to Google and:

  1. Do a search for your keyword phrase [just the phrase alone].
  2. Start clicking through the search results looking for sites with images.
  3. Look for “P” social buttons that give you permission to pin the image.
  4. Make sure to run your browser over the images as the pin button is sometimes hidden in the image for some idiotic reason.
  5. Pin the images you find to your boards.

Does this take longer? It sure does. Still, it beats being sued for copyright infringement.

Don’t tell your competitors about these strategies. It’s sort of fun to watch them get sued.

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