Seriously, Let’s Talk About Copyright for a Moment

by Heather on March 20, 2012

Don’t worry, there will be a TL / DR at the end of this post for Amy and others.

Both Paul and I are content creators, Paul, along with others, runs The Digitel Myrtle Beach and I am founder and author of Home Ec 101. Neither one of us are fans of copyright violation, but we both appreciate that the internet is an evolving medium and sometimes new tools may cause our work to be shared in ways that we didn’t necessarily expect, but that end up increasing our reach beyond our original platform. In those cases, we believe it is all about intent.

Yesterday we were contacted by a concerned Instagram user who believed we were in violation of Instagram’s TOS by allowing the “pinning” of images from within the SpinPicks Application (both the web and Android version).

This opened up quite a conversation between Paul, myself, and the concerned Instagram user and has caused us to place a link on the app for those those who wish to Opt Out of SpinPicks.

Rather than trying to paraphrase Paul’s points, I’m going to share them here, lightly edited and reordered for clarity and flow:

SpinPicks absolutely does not make content pinnable. The content is pinnable via the medium it is delivered.

Our PinIt  button is exactly the same as the bookmarklet on the toolbar. It is literally the same code. Except using ours ensures that the proper source will most likely be pinned. I suppose that we facilitate the pin creation in some way by displaying a button, but we take special care to not decouple the image from the source.

To put it another way: our code does not create new pins (Even if we wanted to– the current Pinterest API doesn’t allow it.) To create a new pin from our code, we would have to directly upload the image to Pinterest from our servers. To actually do that would mean we have copied the images or content and also accept responsibility for having distributing it. We do not do this.

The PinIt buttons causing you concern usually creates pins to the pages that they are embedded on. Somebody abusing the Instagram API would embed images pulled from Instagram API feeds on their page and then encourage people to pin that page (presumably to get traffic from the resulting pin) which would not only copy the image to Pinterest for the pin creation, but would totally disconnect the image from the source/creator.

Our goal is to credit the original source.

We ask Instagram for a list of links (the page hosted and made publicly visible on to the Most Popular photos. If a user clicks “Pin It” on our site, we send the source page URL provided by Instagram to the “Create Pin” dialog provided by Pinterest (the same dialog from the Pinmarklet). This dialog belongs to Pinterest and it currently respects sites that do not wish to not be pinned. Aside from the “no-pin code”, the source page URL has multiple options to disallow pinning.

If the Instagram pages/content are pinnable at all it is because Instagram is allowing them to be pinned from the source pages on

Instagram is fully capable of blocking pinning very easily, even without the Pinterest provided no-pin code. They have not made any effort to do so. If they chose to block their content from pinning, we’d just pull the Instagram feed from SpinPicks completely or offer other social sharing options for our users (like the Tweet and Like options Instagram provides).

To your other point: until Instagram states otherwise, we have to believe that they wouldn’t publish photos on the public Most Popular feed that they don’t have license to share in some way (remember: we do not copy photos or any data on our service). Otherwise, what would be the point in providing that particular feed at all? Or do you also believe Instagram isn’t respecting the the copyrights of its users?

I’m sorry for being verbose or overly detailed, but it’s obvious we share different perspectives and I truly believe that we aren’t doing anything outside of the API terms. We are well intentioned with no desire to infringe on the intellectual property of others and welcome the opportunity to prove that.

We only present Flickr images that have been Creative Commons licensed and we never show Pinterest Pins that have been created from Google, Yahoo, or Bing image searches.

I think providing an easy way of a photographer to ask us to not share their work is a sufficient means of addressing most of those concerns.

Okay, so now it’s time for the TL/DR:

  • SpinPicks does not make content pinnable, it is delivered to our app in a pinnable format.
  • SpinPicks attempts to share only images that can be properly attributed and pins the source of the image.
  • SpinPicks has a simple opt out policy to allow copyright holders a means to ensure we do not display their content.

If you’re interested in becoming more involved with learning or educating others about intellectual property check out:

We welcome civil discussion in the comments.


  1. […] Wednesday Daily Dot took notice of our copyright discussion from […]

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