By Christian Munson and Donna Berkelhammer
It’s hard for social media advocates like us not to enthusiastically support the medium’s newest fave: Pinterest.
The virtual scrapbook is a GREAT display window for consumer companies selling food, fashion or funky fixtures.
If you’re a B2B company, however, it’s probably best to keep walking.
Admittedly, Pinterest brings some incredible stats to the table:
- Meteoric growth
- Incredible online referral traffic
- SEO benefits
And, it’s really hard to argue with Google.
Search “B2B and Pinterest” and pages of posts pop up, most with compelling, reasonable ways to add Pinterest to your social media mix. Like this one.
But, in addition to requiring highly creative and visual content not easily assigned to most B2B plays, Pinterest puts two significant hurdles in the B2B path: potentially sticky legal issues and opportunity cost.
What Do You Mean I Can’t Pin That?
Copyright is a right an author of a work of art gets automatically once the work is written, typed, saved, recorded or otherwise “fixed in a tangible medium.” Works of art include blog posts, photographs, newsletters, illustrations, graphics, posters, etc.
The “copyright” is actually a bundle of rights that give the author the exclusive rights to:
- Reproduce the copyrighted work (make copies).
- Prepare derivative works (i.e., adapt the work).
- Distribute copies to the public.
- Perform certain kinds of works publicly (e.g., plays, dance routines, movies).
- Display the copyrighted work publicly (e.g., sculptures, paintings).
- Perform the copyrighted work publicly by means of a digital audio transmission (for sound recordings).
So, when you “pin” a photo or a product or artwork that you like, or use someone else’s graphic to decorate your site, you are actually copying someone else’s work, and potentially violating their copyright.
Just because you aren’t making money from your Pinterest site or the copied artwork does not mean you aren’t violating someone’s copyright, and doesn’t mean you couldn’t be liable for thousands of dollars in penalties (if a work is registered with the U.S. Copyright Office, the owner can get statutory damages as provided in the U.S. Copyright Act, currently ranging from $750 per instance of infringement to $30,000, without having to prove anything beyond impermissible copying).
So, when you “pin” something that is someone else’s work product, they may be very flattered and happy for the publicity — but you run the risk that they actively control the marketing and use of their work. You may receive a cease and desist letter under trademark or copyright law, or a take-down notice under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Bars who don’t get music licenses often have this problem. So do website owners who think any image on the web is free.
Until recently, the Pinterest terms and conditions stated that by uploading or “pinning” something to Pinterest, you gave Pinterest the rights to distribute, sublicense and sell that content. Copyright owners raised such hue and cry that the site terms now provide for a mechanism for stopping copyright infringement. If your site receives too many complaints of copyright infringement, you could lose your rights to use Pinterest.
See What I’m Talking About?
The other hurdle, of course, is time.
Using any social media channel for effective promotion and brand engagement takes valuable time and attention.
Do you have time to learn and master yet another social media channel? Could you spend the time required for Pinterest to improve the way you use your existing channels, such as Twitter, LinkedIn or your blog?
Here’s a revolutionary thought: pass on Pinterest but revisit the definition of social.
Invite your top prospects out to dinner.
They’ll see value in your business a lot more clearly over a nice meal than they ever could over at Pinterest.This post was co-authored by Christian Munson at CRT/tanaka and Donna Berkelhammer, an attorney with Sands Anderson. Follow them on Twitter @munson_711 and @DBerkelhammer. Donna also blogs at NCLawlife.