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Pinterest updates Terms of Service, drops the “sell”

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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[First, you may want to read  The Promise & Perils of Pinterest by Glendon and Pinterest Terms of Service: Word by Terrifying Word by Kalliopi. There's also a Link Round-Up on The Flying Trilobite.]

“But all sites are the same”

Since Kalliopi and I wrote about our views of Pinterest’s Terms of Service, I’ve noticed a common misconception in many blogs, tweets and comments.


“For Those Freaking Out Over Pinterest’s Terms Of Service, Have You Stopped Using Every Other Internet Site Yet?”


“…this type of provision is actually very common, and to a certain extent, is necessary for any social media site to run.”

Copyright Librarian:

“ These elements of Pinterest’s TOS are common to just about ALL USER-GENERATED-CONTENT SITES’ TOSs (though I’ll admit that Pinterest is somewhat unique (and kinda weirdly archaic in a couple of places) in their specific language and points.)”


“Can see how this is scary but sadly these days its just normal RT @kzelnio: Pinterest’s Terms of Service by @symbiartic

Symbiartic Commenter jesskupferman:

“With Pinterest, it is NO DIFFERENT. They can do what they want with the content. Not agreeing to terms like these means you don’t get to use neat stuff on the Internet.”

And on.

Some of these sites even post the Terms of Service from sites like Tumblr or discuss Facebook’s ToS with an eye that they are the same. One of the reasons I singled out the “sell” and “otherwise exploit” portions of Pinterest’s terms is because although they are small words in a long document, they are hugely different and significant.

Sites like G+, Twitter, Facebook, deviantArt and Tumblr do take broad licence to modify and otherwise re-purpose content.  Much of the reasons for that is it’s a way of keeping up with technology.  Most social media sites have a mobile version, and these provisions are a way of addressing alterations to content for a different format. As I said in The Promise and Perils of Pinterest, there’s a lot to like about Pinterest – and as with any website, content creators, whether writers, artists or podcasters have to do some risk assessment to see if putting each piece of content online is worth it. Risk assessment comes with being a creator whether you’re showing your work to an editor, a colleague, or the whole legion of intertubes.

Let me be clear: G+, Twitter, Facebook, deviantART, Flickr and Tumblr (as well as many many other social media and image-sharing sites) do not claim to right to “sell” and “otherwise exploit” your content. The idea that this was some sort of stock, boilerplate Terms of Service is wrong.

Pinterest responds…quietly

I indicated in my previous post’s comments that I had been contacted by a community manager at Pinterest; the initial answers were contradictory enough to cause me to delete the content of my own Pinterest boards. Later I was contacted by a PR representative for the company. It was indicated by the community manager and PR rep that Pinterest was looking to change the Terms of Service and remove the “sell” portion. Frustratingly, this was all to be off the record. Meanwhile, Kalliopi’s post rocketed up a few thousand Facebook ‘likes”, hundreds of tweets sharing our posts were retweeted, Nieman Journalism Lab caught sight of the issue and the Huffington Post carried Kalliopi’s analysis of the Pinterest Terms of Service.

Pinterest Changes Terms of Service

As of Friday 23rd of March 2012, Ben Silbermann and his team announced on their blog, among other changes:

“Our original Terms stated that by posting content to Pinterest you grant Pinterest the right for us to sell your content. Selling content was never our intention and we removed this from our updated Terms.”

The new Terms of Service will officially take effect April 6 2012 and Pinterest will finally actually be similar to other social media and image sharing sites.

For all the people who wrote blog posts, tweets, emails and comments about Pinterest and their over-reaching Terms, you knew it can make a difference. Speak up!

For the people who posted the “but all sites are the same” sentiments, even if that were true, does that mean you have to roll over and take it?  Most social media savvy sites like Pinterest do actually listen to their users – they understand the two-way street.

Will I restore content to my boards?  We all have several days to read over the new Terms of Service and figure that out.

And Pinterest?  Thanks for listening.

Glendon Mellow About the Author: Glendon Mellow is a fine artist, illustrator and tattoo designer working in oil and digital media based in Toronto, Canada. He tweets @FlyingTrilobite and is on Instagram. You can see Glendon's work-in-progress at The Flying Trilobite blog and portfolio at Follow on Twitter @symbiartic.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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  1. 1. DiscomBob 5:37 pm 03/24/2012


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  2. 2. 11:49 pm 03/24/2012

    Yeah, I am impressed by Pinterest’s speed in addressing our concerns as a community. I, too, would like to take time to read over their new terms of service and fully understand its implications before restoring my boards, but my initial thoughts are that this allays our concerns to the best of Pinterest’s ability. Now if only they can figure out a way to solve the problem of ensuring people link back to original sources! Then it would be a perfect service :)

    Link to this
  3. 3. adm70 8:40 am 03/25/2012

    If I may play devil’s advocate for a moment, and take a look at this from the other side. We all expect these social networks to be free, but keeping them running costs a lot of money. How do they pay for it? Usually through advertising, and/or providing some sort of info to advertisers. Then we complain.

    Do these sites HAVE to be free? Why have we developed an expectation that these things SHOULD be free? I once read an article that said if all of Facebook’s active users paid just $3 PER YEAR, they would make the same amount of money as they make from advertising. But if they tried to, there would be a huge backlash, I’m sure. So, we’re stuck with advertising and vaguely worded Terms of Service agreements instead.

    Link to this
  4. 4. Glendon Mellow 9:28 am 03/25/2012

    Discombob, was the typo the only thing you took away from the post? I wrote lots of words correctly.

    Thanks tho’. Fixed.

    Link to this
  5. 5. Glendon Mellow 9:36 am 03/25/2012

    adm70, I totally agree, that often part of the trade-off involves the very kewl new thing doing some sort of advertising or selling of user data statistics or profiles. And to some extent that’s okay.

    I never said they had to be free. I objected to Pinterest retaining the irrevocable right to sell pinned images in perpetuity. Perhaps if more odious Terms of Service continue to propagate, we’ll see paying models like you suggest.

    I’m a member of deviantART and if you pay to be a premium member, you don’t see the site adds and receive other small perks as well, like enabling custom portfolio urls.

    Link to this
  6. 6. Alex Wild 12:00 pm 03/25/2012

    Symbiartic 1, Pinterest 0


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  7. 7. EyesWideOpen 2:39 pm 03/26/2012

    Does Pinterest have the right to sell archived content put up on its site under its former terms before April 6, 2012? Just because you took it down doesn’t mean it’s not archived.

    Link to this
  8. 8. Glendon Mellow 3:37 pm 03/26/2012

    Good question, EyesWideOpen.

    It would certainly go against the spirit of what their new Terms say; which probably doesn’t matter a jot.

    Link to this

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