The Pinterest copyright controversy

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By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman

SCOTTSDALE -- Toni Jones is on 27 different social media websites.

“Yes, I would say I'm a social media junkie," she confessed.

The most recent site she's hooked on is Pinterest, a website that allows users to take a picture and 'Pin It' to a virtual bulletin board.

“It's really caught on. I mean, now I know just about all my friends are on it,” she said.

Pictures pinned on Pinterest range from dogs to hair-dos to quotes. Users can share pictures they like by repinnig them.

Toni uses Pinterest for recipes, vacation ideas and even a little inspiration. She painted a design on her fingernails after seeing a picture of it on the website.

“I do my nails probably way to frequently. But, I do love Pinterest because they have a lot of fun and creative ideas,” she said.

Pinterest has become the third most popular social media website behind Facebook and Twitter, but with the milestone comes controversy.

Ruth Carter, a Phoenix attorney specializing in Internet law, says the majority of Pinterest users could be committing a crime.

“They're opening themselves up to the possibility that they could be sued for copyright infringement which, worst case scenario, could cost them hundreds of thousands of dollars,” Carter said.

Carter has written a blog about the controversy.

She explained, when anyone snaps a picture of something, they own it and have the right to decide where it’s seen.

But when someone else comes along and pins it without the owners’ permission, Carter says they’re creating a copy of the image, which is illegal.

“So if you don't own the picture that you pinned, or have permission from the person who owned the picture to pin it, you are committing copyright infringement on your boards,” Carter said.

But she points out, the chance of someone actually being sued for copyright infringement is slim because most people want their product pinned. After all, it is free advertising and promotion.

For those who don't, Pinterest recently changed their terms and conditions which made it easier to complain and have the picture taken down.

Jones thinks Pinterest users should get more protection.

“If they're not going to protect their fans and followers on Pinterest then it’s, to me, I'd almost not want to use it,” she said.

So what can you do to protect yourself?

Ask the owner for permission to pin their picture if you’re worried it may come back to bite you. Once you get the okay, Carter says you should be covered.