UPDATE: I'm holding off on sharing any Photo Stack Exchange content on Pinterest since so many of you seem to have concerns about Pinterest's TOS and what it does to the licenses on your content. If Pinterest changes their TOS or there's a consensus among our community here, we'll revisit the issue.

Pinterest is an online bulletin board of sorts - users pin images, write notes about what they love, and organize them into different "boards."

Opinions among photographers seem split on whether Pinterest is the best thing to happen to photography or if it's a devilish tool that means the death of all attribution to photographers and will just lead to reproduction of images regardless of rights.

I am putting together a plan for a Stack Exchange Pinterest account, with the idea being that Stack Exchange as a brand can start participating in the broader conversations about topics we have sites for. Subjects that are popular on Pinterest and have a corresponding SE site are:

  • Photography
  • DIY/Home Improvement\
  • Gardening & Landscaping
  • Food (corresponds to Seasoned Advice)
  • Fitness & Nutrition (less popular on Pinterest than the other topics)

The goal of trying out a Stack Exchange Pinterest account is to meet potential new users in a place where they are already congregating. Pinterest has had explosive growth in the past six months, and its primary demographic is different enough from most Stack Exchange sites' current demographics for it to be worth a shot.

Each of the above topics would be its own board on the Stack Exchange Pinterest account. Content ("pins") would include content from our own sites as well as interesting content from elsewhere around the Internet.

For photography in particular, I think that pinning the winning photos of the Weekly Featured Image contest, and also some of the Blog Overflow posts and great questions or answers that have images as part of the answers, would be a great way to expose a new audience to some of our content.

My question for you all is this:

Are you in favor of, or against, having your Stack Exchange content pinned on Pinterest? How do you want your photo credited if it's posted on Pinterest? My plan is to write user names in the pin description, since that is what is attached to the image when you answer a photo of the week thread here on meta.

Everything that I would post to Pinterest would link back to the original source, and include some sort of author/photographer attribution in the description. The original source would be the meta thread for photo of the week, the actual Q&A page for any questions or answers shared, and the permanent Blog Overflow URL for any images shared from blog posts.

I'd love to hear any and all thoughts you guys have on the matter before I get started.

  • My question is, does it still retain it's CC-BY SA if the content gets posted to Pinterest? Is that a violation of CC-BY SA to reuse in a fashion that allows it to break the copyright?
    – dpollitt
    Apr 17, 2012 at 16:37
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    @dpollitt CC-BY SA says "Share Alike — If you alter, transform, or build upon this work, you may distribute the resulting work only under the same or similar license to this one."
    – rfusca
    Apr 17, 2012 at 19:43
  • @dpollitt — in short, yes.
    – mattdm
    Apr 17, 2012 at 20:12
  • @mattdm - Yes to my first question or second?
    – dpollitt
    Apr 17, 2012 at 22:38
  • 2
    @dpollitt — to both.
    – mattdm
    Apr 17, 2012 at 22:59
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    Well, it's a good thing none of my work is worth much money :) Hobby it is!
    – dpollitt
    Apr 17, 2012 at 23:14
  • Any updates on this?
    – rfusca
    Apr 23, 2012 at 15:43
  • @rfusca see my edit above.
    – Laura
    Apr 23, 2012 at 23:39

4 Answers 4


I'm in favor, but as discussed in the comments to the other question, my reading of the terms of service here indicate that user content is licensed to Stack Exchange under the Creative Commons License. I don't see anything in the ToS granting the ability to distribute user content on other networks under any other license.

Pinterest, in their terms of service, requires grant of a broader license than CC-BY-SA. Nothing gives Stack Exchange the right to grant that license, so they can't do this, not without violating both user rights and the Pinterest terms of service.

So, in order to do this, Stack Exchange needs to make sure there's an additional permission asked for and granted to distribute on Pinterest for the photos selected. I don't think that's too much of a burden on either side.

For the contests, we already have a disclaimer emphasizing the CC-BY-SA license. This could be an additional clause. We could also ask blog authors to agree — there's not so many.

For great questions and answers with images, it's a little harder, since individuals may need to be contacted. But that may be okay, since I think that's the most sensitive anyway — the contests are already about exposure, after all, whereas questions and answers are more about helping people and getting help, and the "share alike" clause may be most dear to people's heart in that case.

Personally, the fact that the content here is CC-BY-SA is one of the reasons I choose to be so active. We should be extra-respectful of that.

  • The problem is that ALL ToS agreements of sites, like pinterest, whose primary goal is to propagate user content have clauses similar to this: "Subject to any applicable account settings you select, you grant us a non-exclusive, royalty-free, transferable, sublicensable, worldwide license to use, display, reproduce, re-pin, modify (e.g., re-format), re-arrange, and distribute your User Content on Pinterest for the purposes of operating and providing the Service(s) to you and to our other Users." Apr 17, 2012 at 23:05
  • cont'd ... The complexities of this issue, from a legal standpoint, are such that the average (and even above avg) human being simply cannot parse all the pertinent details. This is not really conducive to sharing (which is the primary goal of both SE and Pinterest), and is one of the reasons that, although I openly advocate FLOSS, I can't be bothered to care about the licenses themselves. If we have to just tell people "look, when you post to SE, you have to agree to XYZ" then I vote yes for that. Apr 17, 2012 at 23:12
  • @Instantkamera: I understand the sentiment that normal people shouldn't be bothered with licensing details, but I don't think it's unfair to ask Stack Exchange to take the high ground.
    – mattdm
    Apr 17, 2012 at 23:16
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    I understand this concern - Pinterest itself is still trying to figure out TOS that allow it to provide its core service (sharing content, which requires reproducing images on their own site) while enabling people to respect the rights of the content creator. They obviously haven't figured out that balance yet. I'm going to think about whether there's a way to promote SE on Pinterest while keeping these concerns in mind; I'll update here when I either find a method I'm going to try or decide not to pursue this avenue of promotion.
    – Laura
    Apr 18, 2012 at 19:21
  • Something else to keep in mind: the "share alike" part of the CC by SA license actually refers to redistributing material that you have built on. "If you alter, transform, or build upon this work, you may distribute the resulting work only under the same or similar license to this one." So I'm not sure if simply sharing on Pinterest actually violates those terms if I'm not altering the content in any way. This is one item I'll investigate further.
    – Laura
    Apr 18, 2012 at 19:25
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    @Laura if you read the legalese of the license, it requires a similar license if you distribute, not just alter or build upon.
    – rfusca
    Apr 19, 2012 at 15:45
  • +1 to rfusca's comment: compare CC BY-SA to the CC BY and CC BY-ND alternatives: CC BY means you can redistribute the original under the CC terms, or create a derivative work and redistribute that under other terms. CC BY-ND means you can redistribute the original under the CC terms, but you're not allowed to make changes. CC BY-SA means you can make changes but derivative works inherit the original license. All require attribution and the license text, of course. In software terms, CC BY is BSD/Apache, CC BY-SA is GPL, CC BY-ND is binary-only (no source code) freeware.
    – user2910
    Apr 19, 2012 at 19:46

I'm all for it - anything that increases exposure gets a +1 from me.

In terms of photo credit, I think the name and a link back to the PotW entry is sufficient for me.

For me, if somebody wants to steal my work, its going to happen. You can only take precautions against reasonable people. If you're posting to the PotW, its already CC-BY SA, often with links to your original works here anyway. We're not posting an incredibly hi res image and if you're concerned about digital theft on your main site, odds are you've taken steps there already.

Pinterest is definitely a concern for photographers, in terms of rights violations, but I think this is an opportunity to use pins to our advantage and promote the content we want to be pinned rather than just stolen. Also, Pinterest recently tried to alleviate some of these concerns.

See matt's answer and the comment thread below for license concerns.

  • I am not against it, however I think the right to link the PotW would be up to the winning photographer, not us directly. As such, I think this might have to be done on a case-by-case basis...if the winner of PotW prefers not to have their photo linked, we should honor that. (Personally, I'm on the line about sites like Pintrest...it could become a copyright nightmare, and also give leechers a lead-in to your Flickr/500px/1x/etc. site where they could get ALL of someones photography if they wanted.)
    – jrista
    Apr 17, 2012 at 14:14
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    @jrista well, anything that gets posted by a user to an SE property becomes CC-BY SA, meaning as long as I attribute it, I can share it anywhere. However, I've read enough from photographers who don't like Pinterest to want to open up this conversation. I don't want to have to check with every user for every piece of content I want to share - that's a little ridiculous.
    – Laura
    Apr 17, 2012 at 14:53
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    That being said, if the consensus here becomes that Pinterest is not a thing this community wants to be a part of, I'll respect that. That's why I'm asking for opinions - I can see both sides of the matter, but I want to know what you all think. Pinterest could become a copyright nightmare, but it can also be an incredible tool to promote this site as well as individual users and their content (answers and photos alike).
    – Laura
    Apr 17, 2012 at 14:55
  • @jrista you may want to see some of the edits to my answer here.
    – rfusca
    Apr 17, 2012 at 15:30
  • Well, I guess I was not actually aware that our CC license state this: "to make commercial use of the work". I am not sure our membership is all that aware of it either. For me, I'll never post another photo of my own here if the license SE uses is allowing ANYONE who comes across my works posted here the right to USE IT COMMERCIALLY. Photographers are at a significant disadvantage on the net in general these days, and it is largely due to licenses like CC-BY SA or the kind of crap Getty shoves down photographers throats. I think severe disservices are done to photographers online.
    – jrista
    Apr 17, 2012 at 17:49
  • Opening up a Pinterest pipeline to our memberships posted work here is somewhat dangerous for those who wish to share here, but not actually open up their work for commercial use by anyone who drops by. I feel Pinterest could greatly increase the chances for what is otherwise copywritten work be used for commercial purposes without compensation. As it stands now, the chances of that happening are pretty low. At the very least, we should let this simmer for a while and maybe advertise it so more of our membership can voice their opinions on the matter.
    – jrista
    Apr 17, 2012 at 17:51
  • I know that art theft is somewhat a fact of life for artists who post their work on the net. That doesn't change the fact that it IS a concern, and for those who may not fully understand the licenses we are bound by here on PhotoSE, I think we need to give them a chance to fully understand it and make a fully educated decision about whether to continue uploading content here.
    – jrista
    Apr 17, 2012 at 17:55
  • @jrista If you're concerned about our member's not knowing, lets link the license in future rules of the contest.
    – rfusca
    Apr 17, 2012 at 18:14
  • Yeah, thats my real concern. I don't want any of our members to be blindsided by the fact that they posted anything here (I gather that Pinterest wouldn't only be for PotW) that could be used commercially without compensation. Sometimes our members upload samples of their own work to help demonstrate points in answers. So long as they know the facts and can make an educated decision about what content to embed here, thats all that matters. (I am a little surprised myself by the "for commercial use" clause in the license we have now, which is why I want to address it.)
    – jrista
    Apr 17, 2012 at 18:32
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    @jrista its just completely non-surprising to me - despite this being a community run site and yadada, it is funded by a company who wants profit from what we do. For the PotW, we can link the license, for bloggers I'll let the bloggers know how the content will be licensed, but for questions the burden is still on them to understand that they're posting to a commercially driven site.
    – rfusca
    Apr 17, 2012 at 18:40
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    @Laura — I'd suggest checking with the lawyers on "as long as I attribute it, I can share it anywhere", because the situation is complicated by the interaction between the CC license grant and the Pinterest terms. For example, Pinterest says nothing about attribution when further redistributing, and CC-BY-SA doesn't give you the right to waive that right for someone else's photographs.
    – mattdm
    Apr 17, 2012 at 20:12
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    I should add: the "BY-SA" clause is one of the reasons I'm willing to share my work here despite the reservations @jrista puts forward. Having Stack Exchange be cavalier about respecting their half of that deal is disappointing.
    – mattdm
    Apr 17, 2012 at 20:14
  • Also, @jrista — the question of commercial use in creative commons is a thorny one, since much quite reasonable not-really-for-profit sharing use can be broadly construed as "commercial". For example, if we were to make a community book and sell to cover the cost of making it, that probably counts as commercial. This is why, for example, the GPL and all open source / free software licenses allow commercial use. When I post my work here, I usually add the disclaimer that the photo is only licensed in the low-resolution form.
    – mattdm
    Apr 17, 2012 at 20:17
  • @mattdm I'm not being cavalier about this. I'm asking the community for input before doing anything. I want to know what concerns you have and your opinions about promoting your SE contributions on Pinterest. Pinterest's rights are based on allowing people to share on Pinterest. They might not require attribution when "further redistributing" but if the pin comes from SE, it will always be linked back to the page on this site where it came from. And Pinterest pre-populates a repin with the original text - which in this case would contain attribution.
    – Laura
    Apr 17, 2012 at 20:35
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    I'm still for it from a "I'd like to do it personally" stance but after discussing with @mattdm in chat, I understand his concerns more. It may be very possible that its simply incompatible. CC BY-SA allows for commercial use but only so long as the use retains a similar license. When its reposted to pinterest, it goes under a new, incompatible license. SE wouldnt be breaking an attribution clause, but they would be re-licensing it inappropriately under the CC BY-SA.
    – rfusca
    Apr 17, 2012 at 21:20

I'm glad that SE has shown the good-will in asking the photo.se participants for their opinion before going though with anything, but I honestly cannot see why anyone would object to this. I think it's a great idea, and if it's well-maintained, could drive more viewers (and participants) to SE.

I think we also have to understand that the content at SE is visible to non-members, and can ALWAYS be linked to, or plain stolen by the rest of the internet. Same with most photographers' online portfolios.

Why not have it shared in a controlled manner that maintains transparency to the original content (and creator)? If all credit is given, I see no reason for people to get on their legal high-horse.

That's a "yes" from me.


I asked Stack Exchange's lawyer about this issue and was told that it is perfectly legal for Stack Exchange to post content from our network to a Stack Exchange Pinterest account with attribution. Posting to Pinterest does not take away the CC-by-SA license and does not preclude the attribution requirements for anyone who shares the content further. Stack Exchange is not responsible for other people's behavior.

That being said, I am not going to share content from this site due to the number of people who have expressed concerns. If on the rare occasion I feel like there is something I really, really want to share on Pinterest, I will contact the image/post creator for permission. However, I simply don't have time to contact each user whose content I'd like to post.

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