Colleen Taylor of TechCrunch has interviewed Jonathan Klein, CEO of stock photo company Getty Images, about photo sharing on the Internet. And according to Klein, social network Pinterest could soon have a digital copyright problem on its hands. The site allows users to share, or “pin”, random photos or other artwork from the Internet, sharing them with friends and creating “pinboards”, or digital collages, about subjects that interest them.

At the moment, since it is not advertising or otherwise deriving revenue from the pictures, a number of picture sources, such as Getty Images, have been watching but not taking any action. But the moment Pinterest starts to run ads and build revenue off of these images, many of which are still under copyright and never had permission granted for their use, those sites that have been holding off will start demanding licenses or reaching for their lawyers. And Pinterest is going to have to start running ads sooner or later—all those servers cost a lot of money.

The upshot is Pinterest could start having to shell out for costly licenses, or else start removing its users’ shared content, which will not make those users happy. It could be a tricky course for Pinterest to steer.

As I said last time I covered Pinterest, new social media aggregating and sharing tools have ratcheted up the copyright tension with media providers. The digital world is providing ways to use content that its publishers could never have imagined, and the copyright system can have a hard time keeping up.


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