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#copyrightgreyareas Twitter Debate



'One of Masa's boards on Pinterest'

'One of Masa's boards on Pinterest'

This Thursday 22 March, between 1-3pm, @a-n_magazine will be hosting its first live Twitter Debate. The theme #copyrightgreyareas (save a search for this hashtag!) is something of a hot topic at the moment.

Emilia Telese brought this hashtag up during a conversation on Twitter with Jack Hutchinson, Gillian Nicol and myself about Web 2.0 image sharing and copyright, specifically Pinterest (see Jack's article for AIR about Pinterest here).

This new visual bookmarking site allows you to save images to boards (like mood boards) and has taken Tumblr's reblogging function to a new level with 'repinning'. However, many images are orphaned and released into the wild of the web without the artist's name or a link back, many via Tumblr. These can be endlessly reposted/blogged or pinned, or used by someone who thinks it's fair game as there is no copyright information attached. Pinterest's terms and conditions currently leave the user liable to potential legal costs regarding copyright issues in a way that Tumblr does not. Flickr has blocked Pinterest from using its copyrighted photos, and this opt-out is available for websites.

Simple attribution or a link to the original source is enough in most cases. Some Tumblr themes (blog templates) have changed their code to always show the original artist's/author's name next to the image (and above the reblogs). This is a step in the right direction, copyright laws need updating for the 21st century to protect the livelihoods of those whose work is shared on the web. It could be said that much of life is 'sampling' and that is how we learn and communicate ideas to others, but like the music industry we need to adapt and protect ourselves in the digital realm. YouTube is doing it with Content ID, for example. A Curator's Code has been written recently, with new symbols for 'via' and 'hat tip' content attribution. There is also a post by Noah Brier explaining why this may not work. Watermarks can ruin an image, and are easily removed anyway. We all know of someone who has had their work copied and sold on by larger companies, usually the original content has been found online. There is currently a campaign and e-petition running for Equal Rights for Design UK, headed by Elle Decoration's Editor Michelle Ogundehin. The UK Government has been in discussion over sweeping Intellectual Property Law reforms.

As for myself and Pinterest, I love the concept but it needs fine-tuning. I'm slowly adding brief and relevant criticism and reviews to images I've already pinned, for Fair Use, and I'm reading up on copyright law through DACS (The Design & Artists Copyright Society). I continue to only pin images for which I can find and provide attribution, even if that means clicking through an image a few times to find the artist's name so I can add it.

Join in the debate on Twitter to have your say on these issues, how they’ve affected you and your work and how best we can respond quickly to the ever-moving challenges of the digital era.

Masa Kepic

First published: March 2012

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