Understanding Pinterest’s terms and policies

Apr 9, 2013

Topic: Marketing, Website & SEO
Time Investment: 5 Minutes
Suggested Product:  BizRevamp®

Pinterest is now the third most popular social network in the US in terms of traffic, making it difficult for business owners to ignore.  Photographers and other artists have a great deal to benefit from using the site to market their art, especially considering the most popular boards are “home décor”, “art”, and “design”.

Pinterest seems to be a perfect match for photographers, so it is important to understand the Terms of Service, Privacy Policy, and Copyright & Trademark Policies in order to protect the images you post online.  In researching these policies for this post, I was pleasantly surprised to find that Pinterest does a great job of translating the sometimes confusing legal jargon into everyday terms in their “more simply put” column to the right of each legal paragraph.

For each of the topic areas, I will briefly cover any terms that are particularly relevant for business owners and, more specifically, photographers.


Terms of Service

Who Can Use Pinterest

According to their terms regarding the use of Pinterest, it states that if you want to use their products for commercial purposes you must create a business account and agree to their Business Terms of Service.  The Business Terms are basically the same as the non-business terms with a few additions that I will mention below.  You also have to be at least 13 years old.


Your Content

You retain all rights in, and are solely responsible for, the content you post on Pinterest (also known as “User Content”).  In other words, it still belongs to you, but they can show it to people and others can re-pin it.

The section that covers how Pinterest and others can use your content is the only area that brought up any concern for me.  It states:

You grant Pinterest and its users a non-exclusive, royalty-free, transferable, sublicensable, worldwide license to use, store, display, reproduce, re-pin, modify, create derivative works, perform, and distribute your User Content on Pinterest solely for the purposes of operating, developing, providing, and using the Pinterest Products.

Unfortunately, they do not include a “more simply put” paragraph that covers this section.  The first part of the sentence, “You grant Pinterest and its users a…license” simply means you give permission for others to re-pin your content, but you still own it.  It is the second part that may be worrisome for photographers, “…to use, store, display, reproduce, re-pin, modify, create derivative works, perform, and distribute…” means that others can change the way your content looks and can even use your content to turn it into something else.  Fortunately, the final section states that such content must be “…on Pinterest…”, meaning that even if someone takes one of your photographs and alters it, they can only do so for the purpose of posting it on Pinterest.  This may not offer much consolation to some of you, but I have not personally heard of this being a problem.

If at any time you delete a pin or decide to deactivate your account, “Pinterest may retain your User Content for a commercially reasonable period of time.  Furthermore, Pinterest and its users may retain and continue to use, store, display, reproduce, re-pin, modify, create derivative works, perform, and distribute any of your User Content that other users have stored or shared through Pinterest.”

Basically, this means that copies of content shared with others may remain even after you delete the content from your account.  I believe this is true for most things on the internet.  Once it’s out there…it’s out there.  This is something to always keep in mind and a useful lesson to pass on to our children who are growing up with a different concept of “privacy” than we grew up with.


Business Accounts

The last term of service I will mention goes on to cover businesses using Pinterest, as well as the use of a personal account for business purposes.  The “more simply put” explanation is, “If we are sued because of something your business does on Pinterest, you have to pay our costs.  Also, you should have created a business account and agreed to our commercial terms in the first place.”  Pinterest is not liable for any problems your business causes or any negative results your businesses suffers from the use of their products.


Some differences in the business terms of service

Your Content

For some reason, there is a section in the Business Terms that is not in the general terms, although it seems like it should be.  The general terms even have their paragraphs lettered such that it looks like this section has been deleted.  (It skips from c to e…what happened to d?)  There is nothing worrisome in this section, I just thought it would be useful to mention it since most of you reading this will be using Pinterest for business purposes.  It states that you are responsible for your content, you must abide by their Pin Etiquette, and comply with their policies, including their Acceptable Use Policy.

Also, as to third parties, “Pinterest respects the rights of third party creators and content owners, and expects you to do the same.  You therefore agree that any User Content that you post to Pinterest does not and will not violate any law or infringe the rights of any third party”.  So, for example, if you have a designer create something for you, Pinterest expects you to not violate their rights in any way.

The only other addition to the Business Terms has to do with the use of “Site Features”, such as the “Pin It” and “Follow” buttons you can add to your website or blog.  By using the Site Features you agree that Pinterest may collect and use information from you and your users.  You also agree that Pinterest may use automated methods to collect information from any site you use these features on.  In other words, if you add a “Pin It” button to your blog posts Pinterest may then collect information from your blog and analyze it.  And, obviously, if you use these features, you are giving Pinterest and its users permission to your content.


Privacy policy

What Information Do They Collect?

Some information, you voluntarily provide when you set up your account.  You can also choose to activate location data from your mobile device, so they would then have access to that as well.  Other ways they collect data is when you link your other accounts, such as Facebook or Twitter, to your Pinterest account.  Doing so allows them to obtain information from those accounts as well (e.g., your friends or contacts).  However, the information they can obtain from these other services depends on your settings and the other services’ privacy policies, so be sure to check what those are.

“When you use Pinterest, our servers automatically record information about your interaction with our products (“log data”), including information that your browser sends whenever you visit a website or your mobile app sends when you use it to access Pinterest”

This log data may include information about the computer you are using, your browser settings, the date and time, how you use Pinterest, and even the address of the web page you were visiting before you came to Pinterest.  I have to admit, I was not aware that many of these sites look at the web page you were reading right before going to their site.  Hmm…

How Do They Use This Information?

In the Privacy Policy it states that they collect this information to help provide their products to you and make them better, to offer you customized content including helping you discover pins or boards you might like or provide you with tailored advertising.  This targeted advertising that many online businesses do is brilliant and understandable, but it sometimes makes me pause.

They will also send you updates, newsletters, marketing materials, and other information that may be of interest to you.  You can, however, change your email preferences in your settings.  One last use of this collected information is to respond to your questions or comments.

Ways to Limit the Information Pinterest Can Collect

  • You can change your profile page at any time and choose whether it is available to search engines or not, however as a business owner this would defeat the purpose of using social media in the first place.
  • You can link or unlink your other accounts, such as Facebook and Twitter.  You can also choose whether to publish your activity on these other services.
  • You can create or be added to secret boards that are only visable to you and any participant with permission.
  • You can close your account at any time.  They will deactivate your account and remove your pins and boards from Pinterest, but may retain archived copies of your information as required by law or for legitimate business purposes.  However, as stated earlier, any copies of your content (re-pins) will remain on Pinterest.



“Pinterest respects the intellectual property rights of others and expects its users to do the same.”

As with much of Pinterest’s legal guidelines the above statement is pretty straight forward.  If you believe that someone is violating your copyright, there is a form to fill out and send to their Designated Copyright Agent.  This can be done either by mail or online.  Also, if your account receives too many copyright complaints, you may lose the ability to Pin new content on Pinterest, and your account may be disabled completely.  If you believe a Pin was removed in error, you have the option to file a counter-notice.



“Pinterest respects the trademark rights of others. Accounts with usernames, Pin Board names, or any other content that misleads others or violates another’s trademark may be updated, transferred or permanently suspended.”

Again, if you feel your trademark is being violated, there is an online complaint form to fill out or you can email them with your information.


In general, Pinterest seems to be a very user friendly and a business friendly social media network that can be quite useful for photographers and other business owners to utilize.  Obviously, with the large number of users and content being uploaded daily, Pinterest cannot “police” your User Content.  You are ultimately responsible for your own photographs and other content you choose to share.  However, if you do report a violation, Pinterest states that they will “respond expeditiously to claims of infringement”.  Therefore, like many online services they will enforce your rights if another user violates them, but you need to police your own work and bring it to their attention.

For a great description of what copyright means, how it impacts social media, and how to protect your images see Instagram:  Understanding the Terms of Service.  It includes easy to follow instructions on how to protect your images online.


Some interesting stats on Pinterest use

  • 28.1% of Pinterest users have an annual household income of at least $100,000.
  • Pins with prices get 36% more likes than those without (user tip: if you enter the price in the description box, Pinterest automatically adds a price ribbon across the upper corner!).
  • 43% of members agree that they use Pinterest to “associate with retailers or brands with which I identify”, compared to just 24% of Facebook users who agree to the same use with FB

(stats from www.econsultancy.com)


Resources for marketing your business using Pinterest

3 Easy Steps to Market Your Photography Business Using Pinterest by Stacy, guest post on The Law Tog.

For a a great, short video on Pinterest statistics and marketing see A Marketer’s Guide to Pinterest.

Now, I have to go take my own advice and begin using Pinterest a lot more to market my business and brand!  As photographers, I recommend setting up boards that include the top three keywords in their titles, such as “Photographic Art”, “Interior Design With Photography”, or “Home Décor Using Photography” and show examples of how your clients can decorate their homes and offices with images of their loved ones.  To me, that makes it feel like a home much more than anonymous art from Target.  (I’m a Target fan, so no offense intended).

How will you use Pinterest to promote your business?  Or haven’t you yet jumped in?  I admit, at first I thought “oh, not another one!”, but Pinterest is truly something special, especially for visual artists.  But be warned…it can be quite addictive!

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