This post is a year in the making. And yeah you can laugh because “this is all she could come up with?” after a year is a pretty valid point.
It’s a year in the making because I’ve tried other methods when dealing with stolen pins. Writing an open letter wasn’t the first thing that came to my mind when dealing with copyright issues.
I’ve e-mailed you countless times, I’ve written on your facebook wall, I’ve gotten 30+ bloggers to file a ton of DMCA complaints at the same time, and I’ve shared my displeasure in numerous facebook blogging groups and with other bloggers in detail just hoping for some sort of solution.
After a year I have nothing to show for it. Sure I’ve made a couple of other bloggers aware of the issue, but honestly it’s such a huge one at this point it’s hard to believe anyone who uses your platform isn’t aware of it.
The issue at hand is stolen pins. You may have come across one yourself if you’ve ever clicked on an interesting looking pin only to find yourself on some shady looking site/article that has nothing to do with the pin itself. And as the Talking Heads song goes you may ask yourself “well, how did I get here?” Well the answer is you got there because some douche decided that editing pins to redirect people back to their own site is a fine way to generate traffic for themselves.
Stolen pins are created when someone “hijacks” a pin by changing the original destination URL to their own site. They’re not stealing our images by putting them on their own site; the theft is happening right on Pinterest.
Now this might not sound like a big deal to you if you’re not a blogger, but let me tell you we put a lot of time, effort and pride into the images we use on our blogs, and to see thousands of them being stolen over & over again on your site is beyond frustrating. There’s a reason we copyright our stuff, and it’s to prevent douches (like the ones exploiting your site) from stealing them.
Is it so much to ask that you do us a favor and get rid of that exploit (the ability to edit pin URLs) that has allowed it to reach this point? You fancy yourself as a search engine, but imagine a search engine where users were able to redirect people from the links they think they’re going to see to links of their own choosing via a quick copy + paste job. That’s what’s happening right now on your platform, and your lack of acknowledgement that it’s a big problem is astounding.
Why am I even bothering to give you the benefit of the doubt when it comes to stolen pins though? You know it’s a problem, and you know how bad it is. Of course you’re aware of it. You’ve just chosen to do nothing about it.
The 1000+ DMCA complaints I’ve filed would have been a pretty good clue as to how big the stolen pin issue is, as well as all the accompanying e-mails I’ve sent describing the issue in detail. Not to mention the hundreds (perhaps thousands) of other bloggers who have been doing the same thing.
If you’re not familiar with filing DMCA takedown notices let me tell you first hand that they’re not very fun, and on Pinterest they’re downright tedious. Filling out all of your personal information and then having to link to every individual image of yours that has been stolen plus a link to your original image may not sound like much, but doing it hundreds of times adds up. In their defense you can cite as many stolen images as you want in each form, but the problem is when you log on the next day there’s at least 100 more. And so the cycle continues, and soon you’ll find yourself cursing out loud and wondering “I just filed 25 complaints against this particular user last week, so why the hell isn’t Pinterest stopping this?”
Now maybe you don’t care because you don’t think it’s a big deal, or maybe you just don’t care about protecting creative work. As it stands your copyright statement might as well read: “We’re not responsible for whatever shenanigans happen on our platform. People are allowed to change the URLs of anything they pin, but we don’t consider that theft. Just file a DMCA complaint if your work is stolen. That’s all we’re legally obliged to do and we’re sticking to it.”
As long as Pinterest traffic continues to climb who cares about anything else, right?
The thing is everyone cares, well everyone except for you apparently. Regular users, not just bloggers, are aware of the issue. They’re sick of landing on shitty spam sites after clicking on what looks like a nice pin.
Bloggers are pissed because our work is being stolen, and who knows how much traffic these spam sites are siphoning off of us. Not to mention the negative associations our blogs suffer when our work is used in a negative way. How many people have said “Stay away from pins from that site; she’s just selling shock collars.” I’d never sell shock collars, but you wouldn’t know that if you clicked on any of pins of mine that have been stolen.
I put my website name on every Pin I create, and I cringe when I know that my Pins are directing people to some shady site trying to sell crappy dog related stuff. I don’t want to be associated with that, but unfortunately I have no control over what people end up using my pins for. And you know what’s really sad? I didn’t want to put my damned blog name on my pins, but I did because I thought it might help with the theft. Turns out it’s not a deterrent at all. (it does at least make it easier to identify stolen pins when hovering over the URL and seeing that it doesn’t match the name on the pin, but please don’t take that as a compliment)
Do you want to be associated with being a haven for spam? People don’t like searching for “casserole recipes” and ending up on a page selling food processors. It’s happening more and more, and I hate to break it to you but it pretty much defeats the purpose of considering yourself a search engine of any kind.
You know what’s worst of all? It’s a simple fix, and yet you still won’t address it. Right now you’re allowing people to change the URL on things they’re repinned. Meaning I can go pin some super popular image and redirect it back to my own site, even if it’s something I have absolutely nothing to do with. I could go in and repin a bunch of popular cookie recipe pins and edit the URL to go to this very article if I wanted.
Because it’s so simple to do bots have taken over; you’ve made it a paradise for them. Those bots work all day long, pinning images and changing the URL to whatever they want. (I’ve e-mailed you numerous times about programs that do this, still waiting for a response). If there’s any way to get “easy” traffic you bet all those shady black hat SEO guys will be all over it, and because of your shitty copyright rules your platform has become a favorite of theirs.
When I said earlier that the stolen pin problem is out of control I meant it. I’ve been pissed for a long time about my own pins being stolen, but now I’m doubly pissed because my whole damn feed is filled with them. It’s at the point where just trying to find a couple of original pins to put on my boards is a chore. I’m not exaggerating when I say half of the things in my ‘smart feed’ are stolen. I keep track of every single spam site I come across, and although I’ve already e-mailed them to you I’d be happy to provide all of the screenshots/proof/links you want.
I’ve filed over 25 DMCA complaints against individual sites that have stolen my pins and guess what? They’re still active and thieving it up like normal. What exactly is your DMCA policy anyways when it comes to giving strikes? According to the complaint form we fill out a certain number of strikes will suspend an account, but I’ve rarely seen that happen. And let’s not talk about that embarrassing time when I accidentally removed a bunch of my most popular pins by choosing the “remove all” option on your DMCA complaint form. Turns out when you say “removes copies of the image” you mean the original as well, not just the stolen ones.
I’ve wasted countless hours filing DMCA complaints because it’s the “right” thing to do. Report theft when you see it, right? My question is what difference does it make? I get a couple stolen pins removed and 100 more pop up the next day. I’ve tried ignoring it, but my feed is a constant reminder that it’s a major issue that keeps getting bigger.
It’s not an issue that’s going to go away unless you change how easy it is to steal to begin with. And you know how to do that? Don’t let people change the URL of things they’ve pinned. (and look into the uploading images option, since if you take away the ability for bots to edit pins that’s probably what they’ll look into next)
You know why this took a year to write? Because I was afraid of retaliation. I thought that if any of those spam/fake sites got my information they could sabotage my blog. Paranoid, maybe, but my blog is important to me, so it’s a risk I didn’t want to take. But apparently I didn’t need to worry, as it turns out you’ve been giving all of those people I file DMCA complaints against my name and e-mail address anyways (per an e-mail question you actually responded to). It’s not like I’d be hard to find me if they were so inclined.
Do you have any plans to deal with the stolen pin issue? Do I need to file 1000+ more DMCA complaints and have 500 more bloggers join in and do the same in order to fix it? Or will you only address it when it starts effecting your traffic and reputation? Because if you’re waiting for that well then I hate to tell you the reputation part is already being put into question.
Your platform is all about finding and sharing tips, ideas and creative work; the very least you could do is protect those of us who add stuff to your platform to make that possible.
A blogger who loves everything about your platform except for the rampant copyright theft you’re allowing to go on right under your nose.