Friday, 28 April 2017
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A Pinteresting Problem: Spam, Copyright, and Pinterest

Dalmatian dog looking a Pinterest on an iPad with though bubble about Pinterest

Hey there furfriends!  Some of you may have recently received an email from Pinterest letting you know that a pin had been removed from your boards because of a copyright compliant from us. Don't worry! We LOVE it when you pin our content! Unfortunately, there are a few users who take images/pins and use them to create identical pins misdirecting people to unrelated websites. Here are is a quick summary along with a few tips from Oli and Humphrey on how to play safe and fair on Pinterest. 

Dalmatian dogs looking a Pinterest on an iPad with though bubbles about misleading pins on Pinterest

What happened? I got an email saying that my pin was deleted by Pinterest!  Firstly, it sucks that this happened. I could rant for hours (trust me, I could...hubby has had to hear it!) but here's the short version:
  • Pinterest has done a great job of cracking down on deception and spam over the years. I'm sure they will close the door on this trick as well, but at the moment, one ploy is to make a copy of a legitimate pin's image/wording with a link to another website. Users see a pin that looks exactly like the real thing and pin it to their boards (and so it spreads) or click through (traffic for the target site). Not cool.
  • Sometimes, these copies make it to the attention of Pinterest's internal monitors who may take action on their own, or to the attention of the legitimate copyright holder (like us). Pinterest's DMCA process is very effective, but the current toolbox offerings are a needle or a sledgehammer.  Hopefully improves with time, but currently the copyright holder can request pin-by-number removal or bulk image removal.
  • Pin-by-number is difficult after significant repinning as repins are individually numbered.  The alternative is a "Remove All" using image match removal in bulk, but unfortunately this hits the matching legitimately linked pins too.  I recently asked their copyright team for help with a specific copy pin and its numerous repins, but they seem to have unleased the sledgehammer and in doing so the casualties included thousands of legitimate matching image pins including my own. Ouch! Fortunately, they reversed the error a few days later, but by then the email damage was done. :(  Boo for that, but life goes on!
  • In relation to content from us, if you've received (or receive) an email from Pinterest about a removal, don't panic! For emails to the effect "Pin Deleted from Pinterest - Copyright Complaint", if you're a normal honest pinner, you probably just unknowingly repinned a bad pin and it's been part of a pin-by-number removal. For emails to the effect "Sorry. We had to delete one of your Pins on Pinterest." then your pin or repin has likely been part of an image match removal. 

To learn more about Pinterest policies: Pinterest's terms are available on their site as well as a summary of their Acceptable Use Policy. Pinterest has a good set of simple online help articles for all areas of site usage (very handy), and they include guidance on spam and reporting things that you feel violate Pinterest policies. 

To learn more about the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA): You can review the current version of detailed legislation online.  Most responsible web hosts and sites have implemented policies on how they will apply and enforce DMCA requirements, and have been evolving it over time for clarity and usability.  Pinterest's copyright FAQ summarises their policies in relation to copyright and DMCA activities on Pinterest.

Sorry for such a serious post today on what is usually a crazy fun place, but we felt it important to shuffle and slide this in ASAP with the recent issues and removals. Again, we can't stress enough that we LOVE LOVE LOVE when you pin or repin our posts. We love it when you Link With Love and pin things from here that you'd like to try or share our links with your friends.  It sucks that there are a few folks out there putting a damper on things, but that won't stop us from continuing to share with you. 

Oli and Humphrey's pawsonal tips for pawesome pinning:

  • If you're repinning, the safest bet is always to check that the pin is linked to the source before you repin. Of course, when your cruising for inspiration you may not always have the time or inclination to check things immediately. If you roll-over a pin on your feed or on a board, the "Tried" "Edit" and "Save" icons appear at the top and text saying "Learn more at xxxx" will appear at the bottom and if that link matches your expectation and/or is a site you know and trust, it's probably a legitimate pin.  If you've opened a pin but not yet clicked through, "Saved from xxxx" will appear below the image above the comment fields. Images with text or watermarks that don't match the pin's destination link are a strong flag, as are mismatches in image-to-link (or board) context and topic. Some, not all, websites also generate Rich Pins which have an image title in bold and this can also be used as a quick cue for matches or mismatches. If you accidentally repin something and later discover its a dud or worse yet spam, hit delete and stop the spread.
  • If you are looking at an account to follow, a few red flags might help you know when to look a little closer before deciding to follow a person or a board.  Unlike old-school spam bots accounts, many dodgy accounts will have profile images, descriptions, labelled boards, and will look fairly legitimate at a glance.  Dubious accounts often follow massive numbers of users to get follow-backs and increase both their appearance of legitimacy and likelihood of snagging traffic through their large followings. Take a peak at their boards and pins to see if everything looks normal and if the pin/link combinations (see above) seem legit. Some folks use all their own links, while others use a combination of normal and infringing or spam pins for extra masking. It's ok if a pinner pinning lots of  their own links (assuming you like what they're sharing enough to follow) as long those pins are all their own images/content. If they're not...
  • If you're creating a pin directly from a source, most sites and blogs are happy for the pins as they help bring new readers and viewers. There are exceptions, especially for some artists, photographers, etc. for whom it's particularly unappealing for copies of their work to be saved, replicated, and spread. If a website says not to pin or has a pin block, please respect them. The majority of websites (including us!) will openly invite you to share via Pinterest and other social media if you wish and even include buttons to make sharing simple.  Pin from reputable sites, where the image you are about to pin is the site's content to share.  If something looks fishy in an article or on a website, follow your gut and don't pin it. If you're sharing a round-up style post, share with care. Most round-up and inspiration style posts are a respectful sharing of ideas with prominent links back to and promoting the original sources. If the sources aren't identified, it's not cool and may be violating copyright - give it a pass!  For the good guys, it's usually best to do so with the title/header image that the site has specifically created or collaged for the round-up collection. If you want to pin only a specific item from the round-up, it's extra respectful if you head to the original source and pin their content direct.  If you're even in doubt about whether a site is cool with pinning, sharing, or whatever, you shouldn't be shy to ask. 
🧩 Oli and Humphrey are pretty pawesome pinners (join us!), but are not experts so please refer to the smart folks at  Pinterest for expert guidance as well as help with any problems that you might be having on/with their site. Check out their online help articles as a good starting point for troubleshooting and guidance.


  1. That sucks! I wondered about the email thanks for this and good luck. Your posts are awesome please don't stop sharing.

    1. Aww...thanks! :) We're so very sorry if the removal of your pin(s) and/or the associated emails caused you any worry. We do love everyone who responsibly shares/pins our posts, and we plan to keep on sharing.


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