Preserving “Pintegrity”: Proper Attribution on Pinterest

Update: Since I first wrote and shared this post, I’ve realized that there’s a very real disconnect between: a) photographers and artists who understandably seek to protect their original paintings and photographs and be fairly compensated for their images; b) artisans who want to sell their work rather than have it simply pinned and then copied; and c) the lifestyle bloggers/magazines/news outlets/retail sites who regard Pinterest as a sort of “visual” Twitter that can drive traffic beautifully to their respective sites.

Each of these parties has different motives and concerns, obviously, as Pinterest grows. Thus, each of these groups views Pinterest differently–and I suspect even within the individual groups that a range of opinions are held.

I don’t know what to make of that realization, save to state the obvious: “proper attribution” isn’t the same as preserving someone’s copyright. Pin with caution and respect.

So many great ideas, but can you find out where they came from? And why should you care?

Right now Pinterest has a certain “Wild West” feel to it. People are jumping on in droves. Why, just this weekend the Chicago Tribune ran a piece on how to use it.

Rather than slinging guns, of course, folks (okay, mostly ladies) are slinging images. Trouble is that sharing an image without proper acknowledgement of the original source can put a twist other people’s knickers.

A lot of people feel that so doing is equatable with theft of intellectual copyright. Others feel that it’s the artist/designers responsibility to watermark the image properly before sharing it online.

Once you put it up online, after all, it’s about like leaving your purse wide open on a crowded bus. Something is bound to get swiped.

Online discussions along these lines remind me of  the ’80s, when my mom had a little craft business (“The Twisted Vine” — get it?). She and her pals didn’t like the idea of having people rip-off their designs without proper acknowledgement. Some experienced crafters wouldn’t even allow photographs in their booths at craft shows.

In more recent years, bloggers have debated what constituted “fair use” of their content. Some bloggers go so far as to regularly hunt down “scrapers” who copy and use content (both images and text) without proper attribution, let alone pay. (Honestly, nothing seems to rile up garden bloggers more than this sort of behavior–except maybe discussions about Monsanto and open-pollinated seeds.)

In my six months or so on Pinterest, I’ve seen interest in the topic of “proper attribution”–and a couple of other related ones, come and go in my feed through cheeky comments and “how to be nice on Pinterest” graphics.

Wondering what other Pinners think about this topic, I queried a few new Pinpals last week. Since for some of us this is the first time that we’ve ever encountered this issue online, I think the dialogue is worth exploring and bringing out for discussion here. After all, Pinterest is rapidly becoming the social media resource of note for gardeners, homeschoolers, foodies and all sorts of interesting people.

Karen Frantz:  I just started pinning and I [like to have images that link to proper source because] I may want to contact the person who’s idea it is and thank them personally, too. Without that information–knowing the original source–I can’t do that or give credit when I actually make something….I too am thinking of starting a blog and would love to attach sources to ideas I followed.

Theresa Loe: At first I didn’t realize that some pins were not linked back to the original work. But now, I always look for that for many reasons. One of the most important being that as a TV Producer [for Growing a Greener World], I might sometimes want to find that person or garden for our show. But also, as a garden writer/homesteader, I want people to find ME (and my brand) and therefore, I understand that others want to be found as well. What goes around, comes around. Plus…it is just good manners, right?

Gardening Jones [Proper attribution] is important to me if nothing else so that I have the opportunity to ask and answer questions about the pin. How else can I learn or teach?

Dee Nash: I try, when I repin, to make sure it goes back to the source. I actually found where someone pinned a photo of mine, and when I clicked on the photo, it took me to another woman’s blog. I’m really glad someone pinned it so I could find this person who scraped my photo from Google and then had the audacity to tell me I should be flattered. She also said I could be more courteous, and she would have “given” me a link if I asked. I said, no thanks. Just take it off of your blog. I wouldn’t have caught it if it weren’t pinned. When I pin from Google images, I always make sure and go to the place where the photo is before pinning it so that it doesn’t simply link back to Google Images.

Claire Isabel Hutchinson: Proper referencing is a big thing for me. And I guess that first came from having a mother who was a history teacher and a librarian. I personally think the sites like Tumblr are making this issue worse.

Modbury Farms: I think everyone has been guilty [of sharing pins that don’t route Pinners to original sites properly] and up until yesterday, I never gave it much thought. I’m more aware of it now, and will make sure to cite my reference point for the pin so I will not disadvantage the original source. I will reference sources also, to keep my conscience clean. It’s also nice to know that the pin has come from a reputable source, especially when dealing with plant identification.

Helen Weis:  If someone posts their own work and fails to watermark it, then it is just as free game as putting it on the Internet. All photos should link back to the original post, but the original uploader does not always do this. Feel free to pin what you like and give up trying to control credits. (We all can’t be the Pinterest Whisperers!) It is the designer’s responsibility to ensure they have done this on their blogs and webpages already. If you like something… pin it! It’s really just that simple. If you are promoting your own designs then my suggestion is to watermark your work before you post it! Happy pinning!

What do you think? Do you have some remarks to make regarding “Pintegrity” and proper attribution? Comment here or on Facebook–and be sure to include the URL for your Pinterest account!

Explore More:

• One of the best, most reliable resources about Pinterest on Pinterest is my friend, Colleen Pence. Be sure to check out her Pinterest Tips and Info board. She’s totally awesome with social media in general. She also writes for her San Antonio Mom Blogs site.


  1. I try to make certain that the image I’ve pinned goes back to either the original source or a web page discussing the original source – but I mostly do that so that if there are details or instructions I can find them.

    Any sort of formal attribution is going to have to be handled by whatever metadata Pinterest attaches to a pin. Asking pinners to do that manually is swimming way upstream – for most users, pinning seems to be the equivalent of keeping a private scrapbook of images ripped out of magazines (clothes, plants, house decor) and most of us wouldn’t keep citations for that kind of thing…

    • “… but I mostly do that so that if there are details or instructions I can find them.”

      That’s a big reason why I’m being more careful myself. I want to be able to figure out how to do it. Also, I’ve taken to “liking” more things and then going back and verifying links later and pinning. This allows me to go on and take a quick look-see, something that I really enjoy doing. It’s sort of a combo of fast liking/slow pinning.

  2. Pamela, thank you very much for sharing my Pinterest tips and info board. This is an important discussion and I’m glad you wrote about it. I try to only pin content that comes from an original source. It’s unfortunate, at times, that cool stuff I find isn’t properly linked to. But then I have to decide what’s more important: sharing the image, or sharing the image with attribution. For me, attributing is fair and important.

    • You are welcome. Your sm content streams have always rocked, but you’re really ahead of the game on Pinterest!

  3. People have become too casual about taking others images & re-posting them all over the internet without any reference to the original owner. It is actually plain right theft. Physical publications & academic essays etc must cite the original sources of images for legal purposes. So it should be no different for any images online. Tearing things out of magazines & having a personal physical scrapbook is different, as it is not seen publicly. When you collect inspiration online & re-post it, it is public for all to see & also get inspiration from. Why would I want an image on my Pinterest that has no correct link – that defeats the purpose of having a link to it there. I might not want to find out the details of a particular image’s source, but someone who repins it may & I don’t want to send them on a wild goose hunt to find out those details, when I could do the right thing in the first place. If your personal images were swiped & posted all over the internet with no reference to you being the owner, how would you feel? Many of these images are linked to people’s source of income too. Is it really that hard to do the right thing & cite the original owner of the image? Call me too rigid or whatever over this issue, but every image has come from an original creator & has a story behind it. I like to have access to the details behind every image that I like. It actually gives a purpose to the image.

      • I am too passionate about it, but I blame my Mum for that! lol. Your article was great. I am slowly getting through all my boards to check my repins, as tedious as it is. But it has actually led me to some great new finds in the process. I now have the rule to like, check source, then repin, so hopefully that will keep me from repinning dud links in future.

  4. I now check every pin before I repin- to be sure credit is given where do. It does take a little longer, and I don’t get to share some unlinked (Google mostly) pics- but I’d never want to have someone take credit for something of mine- and much worse, inadvertently do that to another. I do think it makes my Boards better- thanks to you for the help!

  5. […] We’ve turned a milk jug into a watering can, toilet paper tubes into seed-starter pots, a tin can into a shaker (to stop the dogs from barking), and a shoe-string potato can into a piggy bank. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg! We also use toilet paper tubes, brown paper bags, empty kleenex boxed, and shoe boxes as toys for the guinea pigs. We use empty marinara sauce jars and pickle jars to hold dry goods (nuts and rice and what not). We use old wine crates as dog beds or as guinea pig huts. There are so many different ideas for reusing common items from around your house, and I know there’s more we do around here. I haven’t even touched on kids’ arts and crafts projects, either! If you have something headed for the recycle bin, do a quick google search first and see how you can reuse it. You might find something brilliant you never thought of! (Also, pinterest has TONS of ideas, but please pin responsibly!) […]

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