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If you’re a marketer, a business owner, or pretty much any person who knows how to use the internet, it’s hard not to get on the Pinterest bandwagon. Not only did the social network recently secure the recognition of hitting 10 million unique monthly visitors faster than any other independent site ever, but it also generates more referral traffic (read: sales) to outside sites than Google+, LinkedIn, and Youtube, combined. Throw in its whimsical and fashion-forward collection of images, and really, what’s not to like?

Unfortunately, it seems like there might be something to give Pinterest users pause, as was recently publicized. It turns out that the site’s fine print (you know, the part that you don’t read before you hit “accept”?) includes a handful of terms of use that are pretty problematic, and, at worst, could even leave its users vulnerable to lawsuits.

In a move that feels reminiscent of the Napster days of yore, Pinterest not only exposes its user base to copyright infringement and resulting lawsuits, it also absolves itself of any responsibility in legal proceedings, in effect saddling its users with the burden of even heftier legal fees.

Following its own terms, Pinterest also makes it incredibly difficult to use the site in the manner intended by its founders without violating copyright laws: unless the images that you’re pinning are of your own creation (which itself is problematic: Pinterest says that its users also release all rights to their own work when it is uploaded to the site), or unless you write to the original copyright holder and receive their stated permission to reproduce their images, your behavior is technically illegal. That Pinterest would expect its users to follow either path is absurd and also self-defeating, particularly as re-pinning posts uploaded by other Pinterest users is still copyright violation and monitoring the copyright permissions gained by other users is nigh impossible; effectively, the primary, social aspect of the site is legally very tenuous.

Is there currently a way to pin safely? Unless you want to pin your own work or receive copyright permissions, then unfortunately not really. The fact that the site’s founders claim they are investigating the matter and working to resolve the site’s pin etiquette is small consolation at this point. It will be interesting to see, as the word on Pinterest’s legal problems increases to spread, if its growth will continue at such a steady clip: if the safest way to use the site is not to pin at all, it’s clear that the social network has some pretty big issues to resolve.

(Image courtesy of

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