I love Pinterest. Crazy about it. I can spend hours at a time collecting, cataloguing, and curating a world’s worth of captivating imagery. It reminds me of playing with paper dolls, something I did for hours on end as a little girl. Nothing could stop me. For me, both pastimes evoke a very special, essential feeling: Play.
In building my Pinterest boards, I’ve come alive with some much needed playtime. There, I can find and display just the right image to illustrate whatever strikes my fancy. As a curator (I was one by trade, long before “curating” became the au curant thing to be), the activities of collecting, cataloguing, and put-this-with-that to create a meaningful mash-up are critical skills. Not just any this will go with just any that.
In my heart of visual hearts, I would not have used the image above as a lead-in to this post. I might have used this, or this. I didn’t use the just right image to illustrate this post. Why not? Buzzfeed’s John Herrman says it well. In his very cleverly illustrated post “What does Pinterest looking like without copyrighted content,” he writes:
“These posts are against the rules and sort of against the law, no matter how silly that sounds. To continue existing, Pinterest is required to write terms of service that, if fully and actively enforced, would destroy the site.”
It was not my first choice of images. This was.
Wow. Against the law? But, all of those images we grab and pin are right out there on the Internet, and Pinterest pins them (most of them) just fine. Here’s the rub: Copyright. What exactly is copyright? I went right to The Source, the United States Copyright Office for the answer:
When is my work protected?
“Your work is under copyright protection the moment it is created and fixed in a tangible form that it is perceptible either directly or with the aid of a machine or device.”
But what if the image you want to use on your blog is something you casually found on John Doe’s blog out of Nowheresville, U.S.A.? John isn’t going to know. He’s in Nowheresville, man, and I didn’t see that “C” in a circle, that’s okay, then, right? Back to the Gov:
What does copyright protect?
“Copyright, a form of intellectual property law, protects original works of authorship including literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works, such as poetry, novels, movies, songs, computer software, and architecture. Copyright does not protect facts, ideas, systems, or methods of operation, although it may protect the way these things are expressed.” See Circular 1, Copyright Basics, section “What Works Are Protected.”
Yoga Modern is listening. We have a committed policy of only using images for which we have express permission from the creator, or from the copyright-safe bank of images via Creative Commons. So, while I am a visual-inclined curator who happens to be a writer and editor, I cannot always select the Goldilocks-like just right image. Close, but often the images used are by concession. Sometimes I feel constrained by the law. Like I’ve got salt on my tail. Damn those copyrights, they are stifling my creativity. What’s up with their restrictions?
Maria Pallante from the Copyright Office:
We in the Copyright Office are proud to be part of a long tradition of promoting progress of the arts and protection for the works of authors.
Promoting progress of the arts and protecting authors? Sounds like the horns of a dilemma to me. (Hence the horns up there. I want to used this to suggest it’s a true Catch-22.) I really want to have the freedom to use any image I would like to. Plenty of other blogs do. I want to get a lot of attention for my posts, and a stop-you-in-your-tracks, maybe even salacious, image would help me toward that satisfying end. What’s a picky curator to do?
Pick her side. Ultimately, I feel my creative whims are not as important as non-stealing. Yoga’s got a word for that, and it does count here:Asteya. At first the restrictions set by Yoga Modern’s founders felt like a damper on my muse. But when I came to sit on it, when I stopped to think about my actions, I realized, I wouldn’t want anyone to re-print by photo without permission. Nor would I like it if I found a work by one of my visual artist friends on a website that I know would chafe their hide.
“To be realistic one must always admit the influence of those who have gone before.” Charles Eames, as seen on the Curator’s Code page.
So, I abide by these standards set by Yoga Modern. I respect them. It is good to be beyond reproach. And I want to give a shout-out to The Curator’s Code, which is “a suggested system for honoring the creative and intellectual labor of information discovery by making attribution consistent and codified, celebrating authors and creators, and also respecting those who discover and amplify their work.”
Don’t get me wrong. I will still curate my way through just about everything I do (down to the inside of my refrigerator, for real). I have to, because (I’m making it public) “to share by creative expression” is my dharma, my purpose.
One of the most magical things about the Internet is that it’s a whimsical rabbit hole of discovery – we start somewhere familiar and click our way to a wonderland of curiosity and fascination we never knew existed…Wait a minute. Those are not my words. I wish I composed them, they are my sentiment writ large, but they are not my creation, another tip of my hat to Curator’s Code for that.
This is what I really wanted to use.
I wonder how much any of this matters to you, the reader. Do you care if this, or any blogsite honors copyright in their use of imagery?
Comment, please, let me know. Right now, I gotta go play Pinterest.