Does Pinterest Have a Place in Law?

Geek Factor: 1

Have you heard about the latest social media darling, image-sharing site Pinterest? For a website that only rose to popularity over the past year, it sure has gained an enormous following: Hitwise reported the site was getting 11 million visits a week in December 2011. Looking at it another way, the site must be a big deal if users are so addicted, they’re getting “Pinterest fatigue“!

The premise is simple – Pinterest is a virtual pinboard where you “pin” images from any other website, which can be organized into different boards, and “re-pinned” and commented on by others. The resulting pinboards are visual, digital treasure troves – people (primarily women) spend massive amounts of time browsing images other users have pinned. With popular image themes like home decor, crafting, fashion, food, and travel, there’s no doubt that hanging out on Pinterest is a great way to dream the hours away, but does it actually have any practical use?

At first glance, Pinterest doesn’t seem to have much relevance to the legal industry. But as with any new social media tool, folks are wondering whether there could be a way to put it to good use. Carolyn Elefant’s recent Small Firm Innovation piece explains Why Lawyers Should Take An Interest in Pinterest.  In my opinion, Carolyn’s best suggestion is to use the site for collecting and sharing interesting information; she has pinned a collection of green energy infographics, which she uses to add to newsletters or in presentations. I agree that Pinterest is a great way to present and organize images in a visually appealing way; a Pinterest board is just so much nicer to look at than a list of browser bookmarks or files in a folder.

On the SEO side of things, the pros see Pinterest’s potential, too. Rand Fishkin of SEOmoz thinks it’s great that Pinterest is the “first major social network where the gender balance heavily favors women”, and says that “long-term, Pinterest may be more than it is today. Twitter started out as a place to tell people what you were eating. Facebook was just a place college students went to hook up. I’d guess Pinterest has a real shot at disrupting e-commerce and online shopping from a social perspective.”

On Search Engine Land, Erin Everhart explores what SEO value pinned content might have, while warning that “Pinterest doesn’t allow business pages, so focus on sharing, not selling.”  A couple more interesting links: tips on how to use Pinterest for local SEO, and Pinterest demographics from Ignite Social Media.

So are we likely to start using Pinterest in our work here at Stem Legal? I’m not sure yet, to be honest. My personal experience with the site has been less than stellar — more often than not, when I try to pin something, I get a 404 or 502 error. Or I think I’ve pinned something, and it doesn’t show up on a board. Or I create a new board that never appears. And IMO, the site is cumbersome and confusing to navigate. It’s a site I want to like and want to use, but it hasn’t been useful enough to me, yet.  So only time will tell whether we’ll see Pinterest become part of legal online content strategy.

Have you seen any business or law-oriented uses of Pinterest? I’d love to hear about them in the comments!

  1. Kelly Grace said:

    I love Pinterest, but I am concerned about copyright infringement. Pinterest’s Terms of Use state that as a user I grant them a worldwide, irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, royalty-free license. . . when I contacted sxc.hu about using photos from their Free site they said it was ok as long as I wasn’t granting a royalty-free license.
    I think Pinterest, tumblr, FB, and other sites should do a better job of directing users to legal use image content sites. Our legal system hasn’t caught up to our Tech development. I’d be very interested to here what a copyright attorney thought.
    Best Regards,
    Kelly Grace

    @ 10:16 pm
  2. @Kelly – you’re right, it’s pretty crazy how quickly online images can become separated from their proper attribution. We’ll keep an eye out for any legal analysis of this issue and post it, if we see any.

    @ 8:18 am
  3. @Kelly – following up, Connie Crosby wrote an interesting post for Slaw, where she mentions others’ concerns about copyright on Pinterest: http://www.slaw.ca/2012/02/27/new-social-media-darling-pinterest-and-copyright-law/

    See also: Changes Need to Pinterest’s DMCA Policy: http://www.dmcahandbook.com/2012/02/changes-needed-to-pinterests-dmca-policy/

    @ 7:02 am

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