Pinterest: Where creativity means a conflict between copying and control.
There have been some discussions recently about Pinterest and the etiquette of pinning handmade items. It first started with a post that described How to Suck at Pinterest on the Salt City Spice blog. Katrina started with the question: “Artists, designers, & crafters are continually finding their original works tagged or categorized as “DIY” – is this wrong?” and ended with an emphatic yes:
The fact is, it’s hurtful and discouraging to find one of your items tagged or categorized as DIY and more importantly, it can negatively impact your small business. This is the internet, where information travels fast and ideas spread even faster. How many others will be influenced by the original pin to “do it themselves” instead of visiting the original source?
She also asked readers to take a pledge to not pin handmade items as DIY, and to even pin a graphic to that effect on their DIY boards.
With a couple of important yet not universally applicable exceptions1, you cannot control what others do with your work…The onus is on crafty businesspeople to make products that people will buy.
Pinterest, as we know, boils a website page down to a single picture. When you “pin” a great blog post or tutorial or roundup or anything, you choose one image from the page to represent it. These pictures, then, can be “repinned” by other Pinterest users. And thus, the pictures change hands and change hands. If the original pinner hasn’t properly credited the original creator, then the pins have a way of becoming just pretty pictures – their original context is lost.
…but also pointed out, as Kim had, that once an item is out there in the great wide internet, a creator has lost control. Some of those creators, in fact, start this ball rolling themselves by pinning their items on Pinterest, which Sister Diane points out is not the best marketing practice.
One important way craft businesses can minimize the copying of their work is to get a lot smarter about their online marketing. At the end of the day, you have to ask yourself whether any website is a place where your actual customers are hanging out (not your online buddies, and yes, there is a difference).
Finally, it was in Sister Diane’s post that I learned that Katrina had written a follow on post as a guest on Oh My! Handmade…and if her comment about sucking had bugged me in the first post, this title really raised my hackles: Ethical Pinning: The Golden Rules of Pinterest. Someone, we’d gone from talking about pinners hurting people’s feelings by being disrespectful to pinners being unethical:
To me, ethical pinning means generating responsible content that takes into account the original source along with the intent of the idea or item in question. Lately, before pinning, I’ve been following what I like to think of as The Golden Rules of Pinterest:
I believe what’s supposed to follow is the large graphic stating “I promise not to pin original works as DIY on Pinterest;” I’m not sure if the blog formatting is a bit off or my browser is rendering it incorrectly. At any rate, somehow this has morphed from a pledge to a “Golden Rule”…written by Katrina.
I am fully in agreement with Katrina and Sister Diane on one point: proper attribution of pins is important (not to mention part of Pinterest’s Pin Etiquette). Those who have created an item deserve the credit for it. And I know I’ve been guilty (and probably still am; I need to run through my boards and clean up anything I’ve repinned, which is most of what’s there) of pinning items that lack that necessary linkage back to the source. I’ve gotten better at it; I’ll often click through to make sure the pin goes to the source. In cases where it doesn’t, instead of repinning I’ll pin from the source. If I can’t find the source (i.e, the pin goes no where but to another pin, or to a front page with changing content) I’ll leave that unpinned.
But that’s where my agreement with Katrina ends. To my mind, the real failure of logic to her argument lies in this question from her original post:
How many others will be influenced by the original pin to “do it themselves” instead of visiting the original source?
I believe it’s incredibly faulty to argue that because a handmade item is pinned to a DIY board or with a DIY tag, then crafters will suddenly decide it’s something they can make themselves. Crafters are inspired by what they see all the time, whether the item was hand-crafted or mass-produced; whether it was a personal one-of-a-kind creation or one of many for sale in an etsy shop; and whether it is tagged DIY or fully attributed down to store and price.
It’s not the tags that determines whether someone is going to use a pin as a creative inspiration–or even copy it exactly–it’s the crafting spirit. It’s the spirit that looks at something that speaks to it and says, “I can make that”…or better, “I can make that mine.”
I’ve mentioned previously that I am using Pinterest to redecorate my kids’ rooms; they each have a Pinterest board dedicated to their obsessions:
Much of what I pinned to each board were finished items, many for sale. Since I was doing the original pinning, I made the effort to ensure proper attribution, down to including prices for many of the items (especially ones I thought others on Pinterest might want to buy). I did buy many of the items I pinned…but not all. Some, I used as inspiration. I combined the gauzy overbed hanging with the ribbons hanging from the embroidery hoop to create a personalized overbed hanging for Lexie (she picked out the fabrics I used). I won’t be having someone paint a wall mural; instead, I’m using that picture to inspire the placement of some of the large fairy wall stickers I bought and the name display I made. In each case, my comments make it clear that these aren’t items I’m going to buy, that they are inspiration pieces for things I will make or do.
I’m a crafter. And I see nothing unethical with being inspired. What’s your take?