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The Dangers of Pinterest: A Cautionary Tale

By cecilyk |


It was something Robin Plemmons had been expecting to happen at some point; most artists on Etsy and other websites run into knock-offs of their work eventually. So she wasn’t completely shocked when she stumbled on an imitation of one of her cards.

Congratulations for creating a human with your genitals” is also one of Robin’s funniest and best known cards. It’s a pretty unusual phrase, obviously, and not your run-of-the-mill new baby sentiment. It didn’t take her long to spot the fake. And while it wasn’t a surprise to see the phrase repeated, it WAS a surprise to see the card design so directly imitated, right down to the font (an original font that is actually Robin’s unique handwriting):

Fake on the left, original on the right


Robin was able to reach out to the artist and the artist has stopped selling the card. So how did the imitating artist find the card? A customer requested it because she found it, uncredited, on Pinterest.

Artists, designers, and mom bloggers all ADORE Pinterest and have been avid users for months. Boards on Pinterest can be an amazing diversion, or, as Robin puts it, “Pinterest is visual crack for the visually stimulated.” But there’s a problem with the simplicity of Pinterest – once you’ve installed the “pin” button in your browser toolbar, you can slap anything you see on the web onto your Pinterest boards. Unfortunately, that often does NOT include attribution.

Many artists and crafters are beginning to talk about the issues with attribution on Pinterest. As an avid Pinterest user herself, Robin had some great suggestions for using the site without hurting artists, designers, and crafters. “There are lots of amazing things going around on that site, and many are just being shared, without any credit.” Robin said. She will take a minute to ask the original pinner where it came from before pinning it. She’s often found her stuff pinned, and emails the pinner to link to her stuff, and they usually do. She says, “Always credit the artist and link to the original to be sure!”

The site Link With Love offers this great flow chart about whether or not you should post an image.

So, think twice before you pin! You never know who might get hurt down the line.

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About cecilyk



Cecily Kellogg writes all over the web, including here at Babble for Voices and Tech. She neglects her own blog, Uppercase Woman. Read bio and latest posts → Read Cecily's latest posts →

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11 thoughts on “The Dangers of Pinterest: A Cautionary Tale

  1. Andrea @ Run, Eat, Date, Sleep says:

    I always like to see both sides. Maybe instead of going to the trouble of emailing every pinner, why not just slap a copyright on your pictures if you don’t want them stolen?

  2. Dallas says:

    The problem with this is that it’s not just a pinterest problem. It’s a pinterest, weheartit, tumblr, every image sharing medium on the internet. I would say artists need to take a more active role in watermarking their images before they post them. It won’t completely solve the problem, but it would help – a lot.

  3. Robin Plemmons says:

    That’s right. Y’all better be pinning with integrity! It surprised me that she was reluctant to take it down & that she rationalized her behavior by stating that it “wasn’t copyrighted” & that “everybody does it.” I was not okay with that. Thanks so much for caring & for spreading the word, Cecily. And thanks to Emily Elling for spotting it & to Casey Mullins for alerting me. And to the SMMs for being my homegirls.

  4. emily says:

    yup. I hate a copycat. Glad to help…

  5. Connie says:

    Watermarking is a form of advertising – if they don’t see the value of it well then they’ll just keep chasing pinners. I’m ALL for attribution and I think I’m doing great with my ORIGINAL pins, it’s the repins that are iffy – you don’t know where the original came from and if it links to the owner. I believe that’s the real issue – oh and all the bloggers that are no longer creating original content, just stealing photos and not linking…..but that’s a whole ‘nother story.

  6. Neeroc says:

    Talk about timely, I’ve just left a comment when I saw someone’s work pinned from a joke site and not linked back to the original, I just included the link because I know the pinner didn’t ‘break the link’ in this case, it was the joke site. The artist’s blog rocks and she should be the one getting the attention.

  7. Rosstwinmom says:

    Thanks for giving me something to think about and be careful with. It’s important to respect the words/art of others! Even if no one else is. We do it because it’s right.

  8. Sarah Caron says:

    Thanks for this. I was under the misconception that pins always linked to the source. Definitely going to pay more attention from now on.

  9. Daddy by Default says:

    Seriously people, stop stealing stuff. I put a copyright logo with my website name on most of my pictures that I clip on pinterest (and on my website). I haven’t had any pictures “stolen” yet, but i can see how that would be a problem for artists who have a ton of pics and creative stuff up there. That might be hard to track all that stuff.

  10. Amy B. says:

    I totally thought that all my pins linked back to the source. Thanks for the info.

  11. Robin @ Farewell, Stranger says:

    This is great, Cecily. I struggle with stuff on Pinterest too, because there are so many of the same pins and often the original link gets lost. I’m big on giving credit, I just wish it was easier to track down.

    As for the knock-off of Robin’s card, one of the other offensive aspects of that is that it’s cutesy. Blech.

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