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Are You a Lars Ulrich or a Chuck D with Your Work on Pinterest?

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It’s been fascinating to watch the explosive enthusiasm and the subsequent fearful freakout of the photo sharing site Pinterest.  During the first five weeks of this year, the blogosphere couldn’t stop shooting out articles on how to increase your brand awareness through this site. This was the “OMG! Pinterest is AWESOME” era.

Then a few people paused and reflected: Who exactly owns the copyrights of these images that are being shared around the world (and potentially making money for other businesses)? Soon thereafter came the “OMG! Pinterest is TOTALLY SCREWING PEOPLE” age — where I write to you today.

During this latest era, journalists have begun comparing Pinterest to Napster, another platform that once allowed people to freely share artistic work. I was around (and blogging) during the Napster era so I began to tickle my memory bank. Who was the crusader then for copyright protection on Napster? And who was the evangelist for the global distribution powers of the music sharing site?

I smiled as the names came to me. It was an intellectual sparring match between Lars Ulrich of metal band Metallica and Chuck D of the rap group Public Enemy. In the year 2000, these two performers debated on the most unlikely of platforms: The Charlie Rose Show.

On the show, the Metallica drummer explained that the issue at hand was artists, like his band, want to control the use of their work. He took issue with people who thought that they had a right to someone else’s intellectual property for free simply because technology allows for that to happen.

The Public Enemy frontman, however, wasn’t bothered by copyright issues. He perceived Napster as an unparalleled distribution channel for many artists, especially those ignored by the recording industry. He felt that a digital downloading platform like Napster was the only way that many artists could get in the hands of the people.

Ulrich concluded that he hoped for a solution whereby both copyright holders and “the people” can happy with digital distribution.

Can Pinterest make Ulrich’s dream come true?

Report Pin Options on Pinterest

Will this be enough for a Lars Ulrich on Pinterest?

At present, Pinterest gives rightsholders the opportunity to report a Pinterest copyright infringement.  It also gives pinners and rightsholders a way to report any pin that seems suspect (see image to the right) — but if you click on the “Is this your intellectual property?” link, it takes you right back to the aforementioned report page.

Now, it’s not just fans that a Lars Ulrich has to look out for if he wishes to control his own work. By agreeing to the Pinterest’s Terms of Service, a Lars would allow the Webiste to “copy, adapt, modify, distribute, license, sell, transfer, publicly display, publicly perform, transmit, stream, broadcast, access, view, and otherwise exploit such Member Content.” As the TOS stands today, he is clearly not in complete control of his content.

Even a Chuck D, who is against “the man” controlling artists’ work, would shudder at the terms on this site.

To hear how prophetic their words are, I suggest you watch this interview with Lars and Chuck. Back in 2000, they foresaw a Website that could allow for peer-to-peer movie sharing.

So … are you a Lars or a Chuck when it comes to your content on Pinterest? What’s your take on digital distribution and intellectual copyright?

Creative Commons photo credits : Flickr/tsarkasim (Chuck D) and Flickr/m-a-r-k (Lars Ulrich)

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