Reading the Pinterest terms, I'm not sure if I can use Pinterest photos. Assume I've done due diligence and verified that the photographer is really the copyright owner of the photos, since the photos are on Pinterest, can I use them without permissions? From pinterest: "You grant Pinterest and our users a non-exclusive, royalty-free, transferable, sublicensable, worldwide license to use, store, display, reproduce, save, modify, create derivative works, perform, and distribute your User Content on Pinterest solely for the purposes of operating, developing, providing, and using the Pinterest Products."

Everything sounds awesome - like a Creative Commons license almost - until this part " ... solely for the purposes of operating ... and using the Pinterest Products."

  • Arguably, the TOS you quote isn't refering to the pictures, per se, since AFAIK Pinterest isn't about posting your own photos, but curating a collection of stuff you find on the web. The "User Content" in question is simply the curation of these images. So... the premises of your question itself are probably questionable. Dec 30 '17 at 18:29

You know the answer to this already: no, you can't use them. You're not developing the Pinterest Products, so you can't use them. Despite the rumours which fly round the web occasionally, you don't give up all rights to your content when you post it to social media sites; the license you've quoted is what Pinterest need in order to be able to run their site.


Yes, you can certainly use photos posted on Pinterest. The only condition is that your use must be "...solely for the purposes of operating, developing, providing, and using the Pinterest Products."¹ This means you can Pin them on Pinterest using the mechanisms provided by the Pinterest website."

You can't use those photos for any other purpose beyond the usual suspects: fair use, criticism, parody, etc.

¹ In this context, "the Pinterest Products" is a reference to the website provided by Pinterest, and not any products which might be depicted on that website.

  • Actually, I think you're being too generous. Pinterest probably doesn't actually even have the right to use most of the photos themselves, only to reference them, and therefore can't even grant that much license. (see my comment on the question) Dec 30 '17 at 18:37
  • @junkyardsparkle "Pinning" them is only creating another reference to the already existing reference, so...
    – Michael C
    Dec 30 '17 at 19:57

Most of the time, the author/copyright holder of the photograph or image on a social media website is not the person whom originally posted it to the site. In fact, there is an incentive to steal images and then share them to boost one's profile on such websites to, in turn, advertise in some way or derive some cleverly designed indirect benefit.

I know this because I do research on it.

And people continually get away with doing it because of the sheer volume of it going on. Due to the (I can't begin to explain) the enormity of this, everyone has chosen to just say "whatever" or are simply unaware someone took their picture off deviantart for example and pinned it. I've seen an uncountable amount of people or "users" claim "all rights reserved" on a photo they don't own...or some CC license.

Pinterest itself I'd assume knows this (as does Wikipedia, Flickr, Youtube, and everywhere inbetween), but since no one has done something to attempt to organize the mess, artists just continually get taken advantage of.

It's both sad and ridiculous that Pinterest even has that policy when they actually, internally, likely know about what's really going on. It's the "elephant in the room" no one ever talks about.

I view using images from pinterest as actually unethical - but that's only because I know the real truth.

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