Copyrights Are No Longer About Copies

Early last month, I linked to a TechCrunch guest column by Nir Eyal, who claimed that Pinterest could be the solution to truly personalized e-commerce. Since then, the site has gained a growing amount of media attention and use.

It has also drawn closer scrutiny from groups like the Artists Bill of Rights Campaign. It recently criticized Pinterest for stripping metadata from copyrighted material, requiring web sites to opt out of the service (and “opt in” to copyright protection) and offering terms that appear to allow Pinterest to sell copyrighted work.

Even if they don’t sell the work itself, Pinterest can modify links to an ecommerce site to add their own affiliate tracking code, earning money on any transactions that place downstream. This generated some buzz last month, as well.

In its March/April issue, the Columbia Journalism Review reports Jeff Roberts’ (PaidContent) reaction to the disclosure about affiliate tracking: “Spreading some of that money around will make Pinterest popular with copyright owners.” Interestingly, CJR also notes that a bill like SOPA would have turned Pinterest into “an orgy of copyright violations”.

I appreciate the metadata concerns expressed by the Artists Bill of Rights Campaign, but the debate around Pinterest seems as much rooted in money as principal.

William Patry has pointed out that, in this digital era, “Copyrights are no longer about copies“. We might gain by shifting our focus toward a fair division of the proceeds.

About Brian O'Leary

Founder and principal of Magellan Media Consulting, Brian O’Leary helps enterprises with media and publishing components capitalize on the power of content. A veteran of more than 30 years in the publishing industry and a prolific content producer himself, Brian leverages the breadth and depth of his experience to deliver innovative content solutions.