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EXCLUSIVE POST - The potential for heathcare social media marketing to leverage Pinterest, the latest networking site to take the social media world by storm, is already evident; but what is less clear, is how the issue of copyright could come back to bite healthcare marketers if due care is not taken. 

How many users who signed up to Pinterest in large numbers over the past few months, have actually read Pinterest’s user agreement? If you read the terms, you will see that it clearly states that users must unequivocally have “exclusive, transferable, royalty-free license” to upload an image. As a healthcare marketer on Pinterest do you stick to this proviso?  

We’ve been hearing murmurings of discontent regarding copyright infringement since the start of the New Year, and these appeared to coalesce in the decision by photographer and lawyer Kirsten Kowalski to delete her inspiration boards on Pinterest, amidst fears of copyright infringement. Suddenly users woke up to the possibility of being sued for breach of copyright and while some users deleted their boards, some deleted their accounts; others decided to sit it out and see what would happen next. 

What happened next was that Pinterest took the feedback seriously and began to revise its Terms of Service. Kirsten Kowalski confirmed on her blog that Pinterest chief executive Ben Silbermann had called her to get her input on how to rework the site’s terms and conditions. In a post entitled, My Date With Ben Silberman – Following Up and Drying My Tears”, Kowalski clarified that she hadn't in fact deleted her Pinterest account, as was widely reported, but merely deleted her inspiration boards that contained work pinned from around the web. 

 "All in all, it was a great conversation and he assured me that some changes are on the way in the very near future", she wrote " I do truly believe that the concerns raised in my last blog matter to him.  A lot. And I also truly believe that he is going to work his young, brilliant little butt off to address them and remedy the quirks to the best of his and his legal team’s ability.”  

Detractors will say that Pinterest’s entire modus operandi relies on breaches of copyright material – the using of another’s work without the creator’s permission.  The charitable view, and the one I lean toward is that the meteoric rise of Pinterest took not just the social media world by surprise, but its owners too.

Here's what Pinterest have to say on their blog in advance of releasing their new Terms of Service:

“Over the last few weeks, we’ve been working on an update to our Terms. When we first launched Pinterest, we used a standard set of Terms. We think that the updated Terms of Service, Acceptable Use Policy, and Privacy Policy are easier to understand and better reflect the direction our company is headed in the future.” 

Let’s take a look at two of the most significant changes to Pinterest's Terms of Service:

(1) The most obvious and welcome change is that Pinterest no longer reserve the right to sell content on their site. 

“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.” 

(2) Pinterest have now released simpler tools for anyone to report alleged copyright or trademark infringements. At Pinterest's Copyright Infringement Notification page, users can provide URLs to where their original work is located as well as URLs that point to where that content is used improperly on Pinterest.  

Summing up these changes on their blog, Pinterest want to assure users that “these updates are a work in progress that we will continue to improve upon. We’re working hard to make Pinterest the best place for you to find inspiration from people who share your interests."

What does all this mean for healthcare marketing on Pinterest?

If it’s done one thing, the Pinterest copyright debate has shone a spotlight on the nebulous nature of Internet copyright, but it’s important to point out, that while a lot of conversation has been generated regarding copyright infringement in relation to Pinterest, the fact is that you cannot legally upload anything that you do not have exclusive rights to on ANY website.  

Pinterest’s revised Terms of Service go some way towards clarifying the issue of copyright infringement, as Rachel Boothroyd, General Counsel at eModeration makes clear in a recent article for Social Media Today,  “The new terms are a huge improvement and represent a big step in Pinterest engaging with the legal reality of its concept and listening to the concerns of its community.”

However, ultimate responsibility for images pinned rests with the user, who according to the terms of use, have to indemnify Pinterest for any copyright infringement.  (This is not exclusive to Pinterest – take a look at Flickr).

Summing up the changes, Rachel Boothroyd writes, “Overall, well done Pinterest, but could do better.We feel a lot more comfortable for us and our clients to use Pinterest but there is a need for caution about what pictures we all pin.”

In practice, many websites are happy to have their content repinned - as the image will contain a hyperlink back to their website, they will be hoping that this will generate more site traffic for them. Indeed many websites have already incorporated a Pin It button to actively encourage readers to share content

On the flip side, in an earlier response to copyright concerns, Pinterest released an opt-out code in February this year, that content owners may add to their site that prevents content from being shared on Pinterest. This reduces the possibility of copyright infringement for site owners (although as Rachel Boothroyd points out Pinterest cannot turn global copyright licensing into an opt-out regime i.e. site being deemed to have granted a licence if they do not implement the code). 

I still believe that Pinterest is a great addition to the healthcare social media marketing mix, but users should exercise caution when uploading images. When pinning, make sure you have the exclusive right to upload the images.  I recommend you build up your own bank of images to pin from (consider hiring a photographer or graphic designer to help you with this), make your own healthcare infographics and if you do decide to use content from another site,  make sure you have permission to pin it first. Healthcare marketers should read the revised terms of use and decide whether the benefits outweigh the risk.

Personally I think they do  - but caveat emptor!

photo:LessLemon/shutterstoc