#Pinterest: How to Pin Without Getting Arrested

Okay, so even before the Pinterest copyright changes, it’s highly unlikely any of us would have been locked up for pinning. To my knowledge, no pinner has been jailed, fined, tarred or feathered—at least not for pinning. But there has been tremendous concern over the social media giant’s potential to infringe on copyright holders. Lucky for the millions of “pinners” worldwide, however, much of that has changed.

Effective today, Pinterest no longer asserts the right to “sublicense” or “sell” pinned images. The company has also removed the word ‘irrevocable’ from the copy right license and updated their terms in accordance with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998.

What does this mean to Pinterest users? Here are the main points:

  • We can now safely pin our own images and most images linked to original sources.
  • If someone re-pins ours images without proper citation, we can report it by filing a copyright infringement notification. If the claim is deemed valid, pins in question will be removed.
  • If we pin an image without proper linkage, we might get flagged. Pinterest can remove the image and notify us that we’ve overstepped bounds. We then have the option of contesting the claim.
  • If we collect enough warnings, we can be removed from Pinterest and, potentially, face legal repercussions. (Similar results can stem from posting images we don’t hold rights to on our blogs.)

8 Tips for Safe Pinning:

1. Pin your own images or graphics, linked to your website. This not only helps ensure that your images are credited to you, but can increase traffic to your site. If you’re not handy with a camera, create text graphics like these.

2. If you find a random image you’d like to use on the web, seek permission from the owner. If credited properly, many photographers and artists appreciate the publicity. They may also share your link with their circle of friends.

3. Don’t pin personal images you don’t want re-pinned by others. This may seem obvious, but many of us post personal photos on social media sites without much thought. If a photo contains other people, asking their permission is a good idea.

4. If you notice that someone hasn’t linked a pin properly, tell them. It may take a while for people to get a hang of proper pinning. Most of us want our links shared. So if you notice that someone hasn’t given you credit, thank them then suggest adding a link. You can also direct them to the copyright terms.

5. Use credible websites. Google Images is not a valid source for books, food, fashion or other goods. If you dig a Banana Republic top, link the image to BananaRepublic.com, not Google or your blog. Use Mac.com for Mac products, Amazon.com for books you’ve found there, CookingLight.com for Cooking Light photos and so on.

Clicking the pins on my non-fiction board brings you to each book's purchase screen on Amazon.com.

6. Install and use the “Pin It” button. This allows you to pin images from websites to your boards, and links it appropriately—assuming the site owns the image. To nab the “Pin It” button, click here or visit the Goodies section on your Pinterest homepage.

7. Include the URL in pin descriptions. Though not required, this helps ensure that the original source gains credit. URLs appear as hyperlinks, which tend to invite more ‘clicks.’

8. If you’re unsure of an image source, seek it out. Google can help you determine the original source of a photo. For a step-by-stey tutorial, check out this post by The Graphics Fairy.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Are you on Pinterest? How do you feel about the copyright changes? Any Pinterest topics you’re dying to learn more about? (I’m planning a series of Pinterest-themed posts, so feel free to make requests!)

Leave a comment


  1. mgedwards

     /  April 6, 2012

    This deserves to be pinned on Pinterest. May I pin it and credit you?

    • Absolutely. Just make sure you use my image—the screen shot of my Pinterest board. Thanks for the support!

      • mgedwards

         /  April 6, 2012

        Okay. I forgot to say…excellent blog post! Great job. 🙂

  2. Wow…. and I had no clue….

    (sneaks back into ’80s cave and cradles Motorola flip phone)

    Thanks August, *when* I get caught up…. this WILL be my Go-to post 🙂

  3. Running from Hell with El

     /  April 6, 2012

    I applaud any intelligent use or application of the copyright laws. The changes to the Pinterest copyright license make good sense. As far as using Pinterest, shoot, between my blog, Twitter, my novel and my Facebook page, I am out of personal bandwidth. Pinterest is amusing but I didn’t see any payoff in terms of increased traffic when I did use it; that said, many friends love it and I will never say never. Happy Friday!

    • I hear you, El. Part of my hesitation in joining Pinterest was the time involved.

      I’ll be posting on Pinterest and blog traffic in another installment… 😉 I think it’s an extremely useful tool, depending on how we use it. That said, it’s certainly not for everyone. Happy Friday back at you!

  4. Sharon K Owen

     /  April 6, 2012


    Thank you so much for the update on penterest. I have not yet used it because I haven’t done enough research to understand all the boundary and copyright issues. You’ve cleared a lot of them up for me.


  5. This seems better, but still not good enough for me to be on pinterest. I don’t like the agreement that people have to sign to use pinterest and the thought behind it just wrong. Putting all responsibility on the user and claiming that pinterest is not responsible is like dealing with a toddler. The responsibility should be shared. I am definitely not going to use pinterst until they make that change. I just keep remembering that 12 year old kid who was held responsible for downloading from Napster. I wouldn’t want that to be me.

    • You bring up some great points, Emma—and with such heart. Thanks! I personally don’t think the updated Pinterest varies much from other social media formats. (When we upload to YouTube, for example, we check a box stating that we have rights to the material. And WordPress isn’t responsible for what we post on our blogs.)

      I also like the fact that Pinterest is one of the top referrers to retailers, so the creators and owners of books, clothes and other products are profiting. The more publicity and funds to authors, designers, etc., I say the better. I dig the changes; however, I practice much of the habits elsewhere already. Makes adapting much easier! 😉

  6. Raani York

     /  April 6, 2012

    Thank you for this really interesting and informative blog. I bookmarked it to have it on hand if necessary!!

  7. Thanks for the tips- I’m so bad about images. If it’s on the first three pages of a google image search and isn’t labeled in anyway or look like original art then I just use it.
    How does one link back tot eh site? I’ve stopped using pintrest once the scare came about, but I did enjoy it. Is it simply pining from the site and not your computer?

    • The simplest way is to go to the actual site. If you find a photo of a book you like on Google, for example, find it on Amazon or Barnes & Noble, then link your pin there—not to Google.

      Right now, I believe you can only link pins to websites. (A new service is in the works, however, called Pinerly, which allows uploading pics from your computer to pins.) To use your own photos, post them on your blog or other websites. When you “create a pin,” paste the link of the source into the http: blank. Hope that helps!

  8. Thanks for these tips. Thankfully I have the pin button, but I will also manually link just in case. I’m glad we are now safe to link from other websites without worrying, because that’s where a lot of the good images are.

    I do think the idea of using text graphics and linking to your blog is good, too. Writer Unboxed’s April newsletter (I think?) had some great ideas about how to use Pinterest for your books. I do think it can be a valuable networking tool as long as we our truly ourselves.

  9. August, this is another blog full of valuable information. I thank you for posting it. now i can play on pinterest without worrying.

  10. lynnkelleyauthor

     /  April 6, 2012

    This is an awesome post, August. After reading your comment about my post, I decided to play around with Pinterest. Before that, I had tried to pin some things from Facebook, but it wouldn’t allow it, and I didn’t have time to go find those photos on another site, so I gave up. So thanks for the suggestion and for writing this post. It’s very helpful! 🙂

  11. I have been wanting to get back into Pinterest–thanks for this info August! I’d only been liking things and then posting my own stuff and book covers. I kind of thought book covers were more of a public thing, but am I wrong about that? Should I be linking to the source for them too?

    • The nice thing about book covers is that the author is cited on them. That said, I think linking it to an original source—a bookseller or the author/publisher’s homepage—is wise. It’s respectful and increases the chance of readers/viewers clicking that “buy now” button. 😉

  12. Thank you, August. It still sounds like a lot of work. And for someone bogged down with much on their plate and little time already, I am slow to take to willingly return to pinterest. It just sounds exhausting to me. Although I do love looking at everyone else’s boards from time to time. I must admit that. 🙂

    Wonderful post! Very informative.

  13. Thanks for the good info! I’ve been worrying over it all, and not really knowing where to go to even find out how to legally use Pinterest. Very helpful post!

  14. This is a great overview of what’s happening on pinterest, August, couldn’t have put it better myself.

    As you know, I write romance and romance/fantasy/paranormal authors have taken to pinterest like ducks to water to hunt out heroine/hero potentials/fashion/cars/exotic/scary/ethereal places/houses etc etc. They’re also developing inspirational storyboards for their novels along with collages etc. The images used are generated from publicity shots from Fashion/TV/Films/publicity shots of actors/models etc. Some model agencies do not want images used on pinterest and others are more than happy since it means over 10.5million women are feeding back likes etc. Recently I used wedding dress photos from an amazingly talented design company in Santa Barbara, credited the company and the designer and they are very happy. I did the same thing with a British construction company that converts barns to houses and credited their website and the name of the company too – they are deliriously happy that their images are posted on my inspirational storyboard.

    Same thing happened with a Spanish interior design company that designs beach weddings. Because I pinned a couple of their designs the traffic to their site has risen over 100% and by the amount of re-pins of the photos I’m alerted to – over 500 at the last count I can see it myself. And a Greek film production company got in touch because I pinned one of their ‘up and coming’ young actors as hero potential for a story – when the book’s out they want to know and they’re very interested in the storyline. So there you go!

    My daughter works in digital communications and her industry have embraced pinterest along with the fashionistas more than any other. Her company have sourced new talent from pinterest boards and use it to showcase their work too.

    In my experience I’m receiving incredible feedback from readers who see what I’m pinning, look at my boards and want to know what’s going on therefore I have a dialogue going with potential readers. For me twitter and facebook (apart from the WANA’S) have turned into huge spamming tools for writers to writers. The readers have run to Goodreads and the Kindle boards. I’m blitzed daily by ‘read my book/do a review/have a free copy/ by the hundreds that I don’t even look at them now. To find a place where I can source and pin ideas and thoughts and have others interested in them without me screaming BUY MY BOOK is simply amazing. A couple of people have asked me why I’m putting ‘ideas’ out there and might someone ‘steal’ them. Nope. Because I’m the one writing the story and even if they like an idea and write it, it still will be nothing like my story – I can guarantee it.

    The other thing is that it is very easy to unfollow a pinner if they start spamming. All their pins disappear from my stream instantly. Only people interested in what I’m pinning follow me, therefore I attract like minded people. And I’ve thousands of likes and re-pins too without them following which is totally fine.

    Like everything else we need to use our common sense and credit precisely and in words of one syllable exactly where we’ve sourced an image. Certain sites like flickr etc block pins and I believe pinterest helped them do exactly that. Certainly I would never use a professional photographer’s image without asking. Interestingly there are many professional photographers using the site to showcase their work and they’re more than happy for us to repin an image since it was up on pinterest in the first place and the credit is usually emblazoned across the picture or embedded.

    As I say I think it will be interesting to see how all of this pans out in the future.

    Great post, August.

    • Wow, CC. It’s lovely to hear how wonderfully Pinterest is working for you! You’ve hit on some key points—authenticity, connectedness with readers, giving credit where it’s due, not preaching/selling and the HUGE benefits for branding and sales. I plan to delve further into these topics soon.

      Your insight is reaffirming and inspiring—thank you! I hope you’ll keep chiming in. 🙂

  15. Excellent post that really helps me gain a better understanding of Pinterest. My sentiments are like Debra’s … just not enough time for yet another social media demand. But then, reading CC’s comments above, it’s unbelievably impressive to see the results she is achieving through her use of the site. What to do, what to do …

  16. Thanks for helping sort out the mystery of Pinterest. The whole idea behind it still confuses me. For instance, if someone is friends with me on Facebook, can they pin a photo of me or my kids so long as it’s with a link? I sure hope not!

    I guess an article on what makes something pinnable or not pinnable would also be helpful. But I had stopped using Pinterest because of the copyright issue. However, you’ve cleared that up for me now. Thanks!

  17. I signed up for it, but probably won’t ever use it. To me it is another time-suck and I can’t imagine they will be able to regulate the users. It is easy enough to get ripped off posting on a regular website.
    It is awesome eye candy!

  18. I’m glad Pinterest has changed their terms, and I really appreciate you writing this post. As a person, I love Pinterest. As a writer, I’m trying to decide if it’s the best place to find people who would be interested in my content, especially with the extra time I’d now need to create original images to use in each blog post if I want to pin them. I just don’t have the time to be on every social media site that pops up. I’m honestly considering just using Pinterest for my own personal enjoyment and inspiration rather than trying to include it in my platform. That will likely mean that I’m not on very often, but it also takes the pressure off to try to pin from my site.

  19. I have been on Pinterest for several months now. I’ve started first using the images for inspiration and not even pinning anything myself. This was a while ago, before Pinterest became such a popular site. Then I started creating my boards and having a lot of fun with it. Now I need to go through and remove the images that don’t have the original source listed and/or obtain permission from those sources. Sounds like a lot of work, doesn’t it. Recently I pinned a few images, listing in the description the original source. This is what I would like to do with all the images in my boards but I think the easiest way might be to just erase it all and start from scratch. Sigh.

  20. BoJo Photo

     /  April 6, 2012

    I thought I commented but shimber my timbers I can’t find it! 🙂

    Great post August. I just opened an account on Pinterest and appreciate the advice and tips.

    I agree with you and CC MacKenzie, used properly and with respect for others it can be a really great publicity tool and more.

  21. I guess I’m going to have to finally give in and figure out what Pinterest is. Maybe I’ll pull a Scarlet O’Hara instead. I can’t think about that right now. If I do, I’ll go crazy. I’ll think about it tomorrow.

    Great information, August! 🙂

  22. Oops. Here’s the missing ‘t.’ It was hiding under the desk. 🙂

  23. Kourtney Heintz

     /  April 6, 2012

    August, I love how on top of current trends you are! I was turned off by Pinterest’s terms and decided not to sign up. After reading this, I’m reconsidering! Looking forward to more posts on Pinterest. 🙂

  24. This is a great post August – thank you. I stayed away from Pintrest from the beginning for various reasons. Then when I joined Julie Hedlund’s 12×12 in 12 I joined, (long story for how it all goes together). I will read with rapt attention your follow up post on Pintrest.

    Your points on copyright are great. I decided when I joined I could ethically pin. It’s great to have the affirmation in your blog that I “got it right”.

    I’m fascinated by social media and Pintrest actually scares me at some level but CC MacKenzie has put most of that fear in perspective as well.

    Thank you both!

  25. As always, August, wonderful post and informative. Not a Pinterest person myself but now I have an understanding of it. Thanks so much!


  26. This is interesting, but prominent use of word ‘pin’ as main verb made me feel behind and out of loop. I regularly use own images or credit others if I use theirs in blogs, but failed to get what ‘pinning’ is and why it can be such a risky activity.

  27. I don’t even post pictures on my blog or website anymore. I even took all the pictures off Facebook, except my avatar.

    Since all this copyright stuff intensified, how can we prove a picture is actually ours? After all, I could take a picture of my tuxedo cat, and my neighbor could take a picture of her tuxedo cat. Both cats sit, lay, and walk the same, no one could tell them apart.

    Whose to say which picture belonged to who, not to mention which cat belongs to who?

    Yes, if you see them side by side you can tell. No, they aren’t related. And scenery pictures are worse – after all anyone with a camera can take a picture of a building and claim it. So, if a thousand tourists take the same picture, whose to say who that pinned picture belongs to? All it takes is one spoil sport to ruin the fun for everyone.

  28. You’re such a helpful young lady! Cool post; very informative.

  29. Reetta Raitanen

     /  April 7, 2012

    Thank you for the update on Pinterest’s copyright changes and the great tips. Pinterest is a social media that’s all fun for me and never feels like work.

  30. I’m thrilled that they changed their TOS! I had deleted my account before, with many tears, and am so glad they changed so I could get back on! It has been hard recreating my old boards, but oh so much fun. I love connecting with others there too. Thanks for outlining this, August!

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