Less than three weeks after I set up a Pinterest account and began happily pinning up lots of cool images, I've deleted all my boards and my account as well. I wasn't happy to do either of these things, but it was necessary.
A Hubble image - public domain!
I loved Pinterest. It was basically electronic scrapbooking, a place to pin up all the colorful images I ran across, share and pass them around among friends, sometimes with commentary, sometimes not. For a visual person like myself, it was like being in a candy store. And I loved it.
A lot of Pinterest users set up boards about jewelry, clothing, home decor and food (pins to people's food boards seem to be especially popular around dinnertime) but I chose to use Pinterest to pin up cool images from science. I had a board on fractals, a board on spirals, a board full of astronomy images, largely Hubble photos, but others too, and was thinking about adding one on beautiful microscopic things we can't see with the naked eye, like crystals. They are all gone now.
So why did I delete all my beautiful boards? (I am still sobbing about the demise of my boards, especially the spiral board, but that's another story.) Simple: the Terms of Service (TOS) for Pinterest are set up in such a way that users are in danger of being sued by copyright owners of any images they may pin to their boards. Pinterest will not protect the users from this, so you're on your own if you get sued.
I didn't immediately realize this, even though I actually read the TOS for a change. I was only initially thinking about pinning up my own photos, and I was fine with releasing them into the public domain, so at first glance the TOS looked fine to me. I'm not a professional photographer and never expect to make any money on my photos, so I don't really care if people take my photos and post them on their own webpages. I'd like to get credit, but I'm not going to hassle people who forget to do that.
However, this past weekend I read two posts, here and here, that convinced me I should reconsider. One of these posts was written by a lawyer and is full of important information that we all should pay attention to. So, read it! Seriously, for your own good, if you are using Pinterest, read these two posts and see if it still seems worth it for you to stay with Pinterest.
Despite the fact that I'd initially meant to only pin my own photos, I quickly started including public domain photos from NASA and other government entities. Before long I was also including great photos of the moon, of gorgeous landscapes, of all sorts of images that were floating around Pinterest and I soon realized that I had no idea where these images had come from.
I don't know if I violated any copyright laws by posting the things I did, and while I personally believe that if you post an image on the internet (!) you ought to expect people to help themselves to copies of it, I know that others don't see it that way.
So, I started deleting photos that I thought might be in violation and before long, very little was left on my boards -- and I decided to pull the plug on the whole thing.
I'd been planning to write a post about the changing social media landscape in general, Google+ and Facebook and Twitter included, but that will have to wait for a later post. Stay tuned!