I’ve read the blog posts. I understand the law. I’m well aware of the issues. And with all of that, I say pin away and celebrate when you are pinned. Here’s why.
Pinterest isn't a picture promotional site like Flickr. It isn’t a substitute for Facebook. Frankly, Pinterest is a new form of search engine. And one that ties the most powerful aspects of 21st century marketing together in a fun and easy to use format. When someone pins your picture to their board they are endorsing you. They’re saying, I love this work and in doing so, they’re saying they think you’re a good photographer. This is better than any of the photo specific rating sites. The only people who go to those sites are people who love photography in the first place. (Why advertise to other photographers except to stroke one’s own ego?) Being pinned is a much more effective advertisement than being liked on Facebook. (Frankly ‘likes’ have become so common and heavily promoted that they are losing their impact for everyone but Facebook - who uses them as a way to figure out what ads to serve to YOU ...).
I think there is an interesting opportunity for photographers here. Why not develop some sort of 'free to pin' policy that makes it clear to your fans that you love it when your images are pinned? Frankly any commercial photographer who doesn't see the benefit of Pinterest is effectively tilting at the proverbial windmill. It is the most sincere form of flattery and the BEST possible endorsement. I read a thing from a photographer the other day that said that if people wanted to see her work they could find it on her fan page. She didn’t want people stealing her images to pin them on pinboards. I thought - 'you're a fool' - though I didn't say that out loud (I don't think anyway). Why wouldn’t you want people to advertise for you?
Now, there are some forms of photography in which these things may not be true. Artists for instance may want more control over where their images appear. But even in these cases, when pinned properly any image carries the links back to where it came from, much like clicking on a link on a search engine. Do you want to sue Google because they list your business name under “great pictures of Cambodia?” Of course not. You’re thrilled when they do this. (provided you actually have great images of Cambodia because, let’s face it, if you don’t and they do then it’s kind of a pain, right? But I digress). Pinterest is the same thing except that it has the horse power of not just being a bunch of words in a search response. It is both the search response and the review altogether and it has the best aspects of GooglePlus built into it too since the ‘friends’ of people who Pin create defacto circles through the boards they follow.
There’s also a lot of noise about whether or not you should pin your own work. I know ... Pinterest poopoos this. Who cares? Do you think Pinterest is going to kick you off if you do? They have to be very careful of that. They can’t both say that they can’t protect a copyright and say that they watch your content. There is a legal standard that creates a clear demarcation between a conduit and an editor. They’re copyright stance makes them a conduit. So go ahead an pin your own stuff. But! Pin it in a board called “My Favorite Personal Work” so you’re making it clear to people that these are your images and that you’re pinning them because you’re proud of them.
If you’re super worried about whether someone will sue you because you pin their image send them an email and ask if it’s ok. If they say no then know they’ll eventually regret this decision. Effectively they’re blocking a very effective marketing channel. As for advertising images etc., PIN away! There is nothing an advertiser wants more than for a consumer audience to take up the standard for them.
New technologies come and go. No one knows for sure what will happen with Pinterest (though I can promise you that somewhere in their business plan you will find the phrase, ‘acquired by Google,’ either mentioned in the positive or the negative). For now though it is a rising star and an effective medium. As with all things, what’s next is what’s important. I’ll be waiting to see what that is, but in the meantime when I think about it I will be pinning stuff. It’s the best compliment I can think of for the people who’s work I think highly enough to pin.