VentureBeat Flubs Flickr/Pinterest Restrictions: It’s Not a Copyright Situation

Code RedIn the interest of publishing a sensationalist Pinterest story (it’s all the rage right now, ya know), tonight VentureBeat seriously bungled their story about a move by Flickr to restrict the pinning of some images. VentureBeat’s article is titled Flickr disables Pinterest pins on all copyrighted images. However, as they say in the voiceover in the opening credits of the Alcatraz TV show, that’s not what happened. Not at all.

The Flickr restrictions have nothing to do with whether the photos are copyrighted.

In a quick primer on US copyright law1 (which we’ll cite since Flickr is here in the US), I’ll note that all works, such as photographs, are protected by copyright at the moment they are created. Even those works that the creator has chosen to license under Creative Commons (relatively common on Flickr) are protected by copyright law. Thus, if Flickr truly were disabling pinning for any copyrighted photo, they’d be disabling sharing site-wide.

What Flickr actually said, according to the VentureBeat article, was this:

Flickr has implemented the tag and it appears on all non-public/non-safe pages, as well as when a member has disabled sharing of their Flickr content … This means only content that is ‘safe,’ ‘public’ and has the sharing button enabled can be pinned to Pinterest.

What this means:

  • You can’t pin photos marked as private
  • You can’t pin photos that are marked as being for adult audiences only
  • You can’t pin photos where the Flickr user has explicitly disabled sharing
  • Photos not in one of these three categories can be pinned.

If a photographer is allowing their content to be Tweeted, blogged, or otherwise shared, it can still be shared via Pinterest. If a photographer has chosen to lock things down so that their work can’t be shared, that restriction is now honered with respect to Pinterest. This seems like a correct decision by Flickr. A better headline might have been “Flickr Adds Pinterest Restrictions to Better Reflect Users’ Sharing Preferences” but that just doesn’t sound quite as exciting.

  1. The fact that writers for a major publication, itself protected by copyright law, don’t understand copyright law, bothers me. 

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  1. Jake says

    Well said Aaron. I contacted VentureBeat within an hour of the story going live on TechMeme, and Venture Beat still hasn’t corrected their article. Thankfully, many tech sites are getting the story right despite the flub by VentureBeat. The Verge got it wrong initially as well, but they quickly corrected their article to be accurate.

    VentureBeat got the story exclusively wrong. Good for them.


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